Introduction

Freenet is a distributed, decentralized alternative to the centralized World Wide Web, designed to unleash a new era of innovation and competition, while protecting freedom of speech and privacy.

At the core of Freenet is the Freenet kernel, which runs on users' computers, smartphones, or other devices. The kernel is tiny, less than 5 MB, allowing it to be installed in a matter of seconds and is compatible with a wide range of hardware.

Freenet in Context

Freenet is a peer-to-peer network, which means that computers that are part of the network self-organize into a global network without any central authority, and the work of hosting services is distributed among the users.

Components of Decentralized Software

Delegates, contracts, and user interfaces (UIs) each serve distinct roles in the Freenet ecosystem. Contracts control public data, or "shared state". Delegates act as the user's agent and can store private data on the user's behalf, while User Interfaces provide an interface between these and the user through a web browser. UIs are distributed through the P2P network via contracts.

Architectural Primitives Diagram

Freenet Kernel

The Freenet Kernel is the software that enables a user's computer to connect to the Freenet network. Its primary functions are:

  • Providing a user-friendly interface to access Freenet via a web browser
  • Host the user's delegates and the private data they store
  • Host contracts and their associated data on behalf of the network
  • Manage communication between contracts, delegates, and UI components

Built with Rust, the kernel is designed to be compact (ideally under 5 MB), efficient, and capable of running on a variety of devices such as smartphones, desktop computers, and embedded devices.

Contracts

Freenet is essentially a global decentralized key-value store where keys are WebAssembly code called Contracts. Contracts are stored in the network along with their data or "state". The contract controls what state is permitted and how it can be modified.

Network users can read a contract's state, and subscribe to receive immediate updates if the state is modified.

Contracts play a similar role in Freenet to databases and realtime publish-subscribe mechanisms in traditional online services, while being entirely decentralized, secure, and scalable.

Contract Operation

State synchronization and merging

Fundamental Concepts

Contracts need to provide a mechanism to merge any two valid states, creating a new state that integrates both. This process ensures the eventual consistency of contract states in Freenet, a concept similar to Conflict-free Replicated Data Types.

In the language of mathematics, the contract defines a commutative monoid on the contract's state. For example, if the contract's state is a single number, then the contract could define the merging of two states as the sum of the two numbers. However, these basic operations are too simple on their own but can be combined with others to support the merging of more complex states.

Efficient State Synchronization

A naive approach to state synchronization would be to transfer the entire state between peers, but this approach is very inefficient for large states. Instead, Freenet contracts utilize a much more efficient and flexible approach to state synchronization by providing an implementation of three functions:

  • summarize_state - Returns a concise summary of the contract's state.

  • get_state_delta - Compares the contract's state against the summary of another state and returns the difference between the two, the "delta".

  • update_state - Applies a delta to the contract's state, updating it to bring it in sync with the other state.

Contracts can implement these functions however they wish depending on the type of data being synchronized.

Step-by-step

PeerA and PeerB need to synchronize their states. The algorithm for efficient state synchronization comprises the following steps:

  1. Summarize State by Initiator: PeerA compiles a concise summary of its current state using the summarize_state function.

    • This summary is transmitted to PeerB
  2. Compare State at Receiver: PeerB uses get_state_delta to compare the summary against its own state.

    • If they are different, proceed to the next step; if not, synchronization is complete.
  3. Send Delta: If the states are different, PeerB calculates the delta and sends it to PeerA.

  4. Apply Delta: PeerA applies this received delta to its state using update_state.

  5. Reverse Synchronization: This process is repeated in the opposite.

This approach allows peers to synchronize state over the network while minimizing data transfer.

Blog Use Case

Consider a public blog contract. The state of this contract would be the blog's content, including a list of blog posts. The contract's code requires that new posts can only be added if they are signed by the blog's owner, the owner's public key is part of the contract's parameters.

The contract would summarize its state by returning a list of post identifiers, and the state delta would be a list of new posts. The contract would apply the delta by appending the new posts to its list of posts. The contract may have a limit on the number of posts it can store, in which case it would remove old posts to make room for new ones.

Writing a Contract in Rust

Freenet Contracts can be written in any programming language that compiles to WebAssembly, but as Freenet is written in Rust it is currently the best supported language for writing contracts.

The ContractInterface Trait

Rust contracts implement the ContractInterface trait, which defines the functions that the kernel calls to interact with the contract. This trait is defined in the freenet-stdlib.

/// # ContractInterface
///
/// This trait defines the core functionality for managing and updating a contract's state.
/// Implementations must ensure that state delta updates are *commutative*. In other words,
/// when applying multiple delta updates to a state, the order in which these updates are
/// applied should not affect the final state. Once all deltas are applied, the resulting
/// state should be the same, regardless of the order in which the deltas were applied.
///
/// Noncompliant behavior, such as failing to obey the commutativity rule, may result
/// in the contract being deprioritized or removed from the p2p network.
pub trait ContractInterface {
    /// Verify that the state is valid, given the parameters.
    fn validate_state(
        parameters: Parameters<'static>,
        state: State<'static>,
        related: RelatedContracts<'static>,
    ) -> Result<ValidateResult, ContractError>;

    /// Verify that a delta is valid if possible, returns false if and only delta is
    /// definitely invalid, true otherwise.
    fn validate_delta(
        parameters: Parameters<'static>,
        delta: StateDelta<'static>,
    ) -> Result<bool, ContractError>;

    /// Update the state to account for the new data
    fn update_state(
        parameters: Parameters<'static>,
        state: State<'static>,
        data: Vec<UpdateData<'static>>,
    ) -> Result<UpdateModification<'static>, ContractError>;

    /// Generate a concise summary of a state that can be used to create deltas
    /// relative to this state.
    fn summarize_state(
        parameters: Parameters<'static>,
        state: State<'static>,
    ) -> Result<StateSummary<'static>, ContractError>;

    /// Generate a state delta using a summary from the current state.
    /// This along with [`Self::summarize_state`] allows flexible and efficient
    /// state synchronization between peers.
    fn get_state_delta(
        parameters: Parameters<'static>,
        state: State<'static>,
        summary: StateSummary<'static>,
    ) -> Result<StateDelta<'static>, ContractError>;
}

Flexibility versus Convenience

The ContractInterface trait is a low-level "Layer 0" API that provides direct access to the contract's state and parameters. This API is useful for contracts that require fine-grained control over their state, but can be cumbersome.

We will provide higher-level APIs on top of Layer 0 that will sacrafice some flexibility for ease of contract implementation.

Delegates

In Freenet, Delegates act like advanced representatives, similar to a human delegate, performing actions on Freenet on your behalf. Think of them as a more sophisticated version of a web browser's local storage, with similarities to Unix "Daemons". Operating within the Freenet kernel on your device, Delegates are a secure and flexible mechanism for managing private data, such as cryptographic keys, tokens, and passwords, and executing complex tasks.

Delegates interact with various components within Freenet, including Contracts, User Interfaces, and other Delegates. They can also communicate directly with the user, such as to request user permissions or notify the user of events.

Implemented in WebAssembly and adhering to the DelegateInterface trait, Delegates seamlessly integrate within the Freenet network, operating securely on your devices.

Actor Model and Message Passing

Delegates utilize a message passing system similar to the actor model to interact with Contracts, other Delegates, and Applications.

The Freenet kernel makes sure that for any incoming message, whether it's from another Delegate, a User Interface, or a Contract update, the receiver knows who the sender is. This allows delegates to verify the behavior of any component they interact with, and decide if they can be trusted.

Delegate Use Cases

Delegates have a wide variety of uses:

  • A key manager delegate manages a user's private keys. Other components can request that this Delegate sign messages or other data on their behalf.

  • An inbox delegate maintains an inbox of messages sent to the user in an email-like system. It retrieves messages from an inbox Contract, decrypts them, and stores them locally where they can be accessed by other components like a user interface.

  • A contacts delegate manages a user's contacts. It can store and retrieve contact information, and can be used by other components to send messages to contacts.

  • An alerts delegate watches for events on the network, such as a mention of the user's name in a discussion, and notifies the user of these events via an alert.

Moreover, Delegates can securely synchronize with identical Delegate instances running on other devices controlled by the user, such as a laptop, phone, or desktop PC. This synchronization, facilitated through a shared secret private key provided by the user, allows the Delegates to communicate securely, acting as both backups and replicas of each other through Freenet's peer-to-peer network.

Similarity to Service Workers

Delegates have much in common with Service Workers in the web browser ecosystem. Both are self-contained software modules, running independently of the user interface and performing complex tasks on behalf of the user.

However, Delegates are even more powerful. While Service Workers can store data and interact with components within the scope of the web browser and its pages, Delegates can talk to other Delegates in the same device, or with other Delegates running elsewhere via Freenet's peer-to-peer network.

User Interface

On the normal web, a user might visit https://gmail.com/, their browser will download the Gmail user interface which then runs in their browser and connects back to the Gmail servers.

On Freenet the user interface is downloaded from a Freenet contract, and it interacts with contracts and delegates by sending messages through the Freenet kernel.

Delegate, Contrat, and UI Diagram

These UIs are built using web technologies such as HTML, CSS, and JavaScript, and are distributed over Freenet and run in a web browser. UIs can create, retrieve, and update contracts through a WebSocket connection to the local Freenet peer, as well as communicate with delegates.

Because UIs run in a web browser, they can be built using any web framework, such as React, Angular, Vue.js, Bootstrap, and so on.

Freenet Network Topology

Small-World Network

Freenet operates as a decentralized peer-to-peer network based on the principles of a small-world network. This network topology allows Freenet to be resilient against denial-of-service attacks, automatically scale to accommodate demand, and provide observable data stores. Users can subscribe to specific keys to receive notifications of updates as they occur.

Small World Network

Understanding Freenet Peers

A Freenet peer refers to a computer that runs the Freenet kernel software and participates in the network. The organization of peers follows a ring structure, where each position on the ring represents a numerical value ranging from 0.0 to 1.0. This value signifies the peer's location within the network.

Establishing Neighbor Connections

Each Freenet peer, or kernel, establishes bi-directional connections with a group of other peers known as its "neighbors." These connections rely on the User Datagram Protocol (UDP) and may involve techniques to traverse firewalls when required.

To optimize resource utilization, peers monitor the resources they use while responding to neighbor requests, including bandwidth, memory, CPU usage, and storage. Peers also track the services offered by their neighbors, measured by the number of requests directed to those neighbors.

To ensure network efficiency, a peer may sever its connection with a neighbor that consumes excessive resources relative to the number of requests it receives.

Implementing Adaptive Routing for Efficient Data Retrieval

When a peer intends to read, create, or modify a contract, it sends a request to the peers hosting the contract. The request is directed to the neighbor most likely to retrieve the contract quickly. Ideally, this neighbor is the one closest to the contract's location, a concept known as "greedy routing." However, other factors, such as connection speed, may influence the selection.

Freenet addresses this challenge by monitoring the past performance of peers and selecting the one most likely to respond quickly and successfully. This selection considers both past performance and proximity to the desired contract. The process, known as adaptive routing, employs an algorithm called isotonic regression.

Intelligent Routing

Freenet's request routing mechanism plays a crucial role in the efficiency of the network.

It is responsible for deciding which peer to route a request to when attempting to read, create, or modify a contract's state. The mechanism is designed to select the peer that can complete the request the fastest, which may not always be the peer closest to the contract's location - the traditional approach for routing in a small-world network, known as greedy routing.

Isotonic Regression

Freenet uses isotonic regression, a method for estimating a monotonically increasing or decreasing function given a set of data, to predict the response time from a peer based on its ring distance from the target location of the request.

This estimation is then adjusted by the average difference between the isotonic regression estimate and the actual response time from previous interactions with the peer. This process enables a form of adaptive routing that selects the peer with the lowest estimated response time.

Router Initialization and Event Handling

When a new Router is created, it's initialized with a history of routing events. These events are processed to generate the initial state of the isotonic estimators. For example, failure outcomes and success durations are computed for each event in the history and used to initialize the respective estimators. The average transfer size is also computed from the history.

The Router can add new events to its history, updating its estimators in the process. When a successful routing event occurs, the Router updates its response start time estimator, failure estimator, and transfer rate estimator based on the details of the event. If a failure occurs, only the failure estimator is updated.

Peer Selection

To select a peer for routing a request, the Router first checks whether it has sufficient historical data. If not, it selects the peer with the minimum distance to the contract location. If it does have sufficient data, it predicts the outcome of routing the request to each available peer and selects the one with the best predicted outcome.

Outcome Prediction

To predict the outcome of routing a request to a specific peer, the Router uses its isotonic estimators to predict the time to the start of the response, the chance of failure, and the transfer rate. These predictions are used to compute an expected total time for the request, with the cost of a failure being assumed as a multiple of the cost of success. The peer with the lowest expected total time is selected for routing the request.

Getting Started

This tutorial will show you how to build decentralized software on Freenet. For a similar working and up to date example check the freenet-email app (located in under the apps/freenet-email-app directory in the freenet-core repository).

Prerequisites

Rust and Cargo

This will install a Rust development environment including cargo on Linux or a Mac (for Windows see here):

curl https://sh.rustup.rs -sSf | sh

Note for MacOS install

Do not have the brew version of rust installed as it will cause compications with fdev.

Freenet development tool (fdev)

Once you have a working installation of Cargo you can install the Freenet dev tools:

cargo install freenet fdev

This command will install fdev (Freenet development tool) and a working Freenet peer that can be used for local development.

Add WebAssembly target

rustup target add wasm32-unknown-unknown

Node.js and TypeScript

To build user interfaces in JavaScript or TypeScript, you need to have Node.js and npm installed. For example on Ubuntu Linux:

sudo apt update
sudo apt install nodejs npm

For Mac or Windows, you can download Node.js and npm from here.

Once Node.js and npm are installed, you can install TypeScript globally on your system, which includes the tsc command:

sudo npm install -g typescript

You can verify the installation by checking the version of tsc:

tsc --version

This command should output the version of TypeScript that you installed.

Creating a new contract

You can create a new contract skeleton by executing the new command with fdev. Two contract types are supported currently by the tool, regular contracts, and web application container contracts. Currently, the following technological stacks are supported (more to be added in the future):

  • Regular contracts:
    • Rust (default)
  • Web applications:
    • Container development:
      • Rust (default)
    • Web/state development:
      • Typescript. (default: using npm and webpack)
      • JavaScript.
      • Rust (WIP).

We will need to create a directory that will hold our web app and initialize it:

mkdir -p my-app/web
mkdir -p my-app/backend
cd my-app/web
fdev new web-app

will create the skeleton for a web application and its container contract for Freenet ready for development at the my-app/web directory.

Making a container contract

The first thing that we need is to write the code for our container contract. This contract's role is to contain the web application code itself, allowing it to be distributed over Freenet.

The new command has created the source ready to be modified for us, in your favorite editor open the following file:

./container/src/lib.rs

In this case, and for simplicity's sake, the contract won't be performing any functions, but in a realistic scenario, this contract would include some basic security functionality like verifying that whoever is trying to update the contract has the required credentials.

To make our contract unique so it doesn't collide with an existing contract, we can generate a random signature that will be embedded with the contract.

For example in the lib.rs file we will write the following:

use freenet_stdlib::prelude::*;

pub const RANDOM_SIGNATURE: &[u8] = &[6, 8, 2, 5, 6, 9, 9, 10];

struct Contract;

#[contract]
impl ContractInterface for Contract {
    fn validate_state(
        _parameters: Parameters<'static>,
        _state: State<'static>,
        _related: RelatedContracts<'static>,
    ) -> Result<ValidateResult, ContractError> {
        unimplemented!()
    }

    fn validate_delta(
        _parameters: Parameters<'static>,
        _delta: StateDelta<'static>,
    ) -> Result<bool, ContractError> {
        unimplemented!()
    }

    fn update_state(
        _parameters: Parameters<'static>,
        _state: State<'static>,
        _data: Vec<UpdateData<'static>>,
    ) -> Result<UpdateModification<'static>, ContractError> {
        unimplemented!()
    }

    fn summarize_state(
        _parameters: Parameters<'static>,
        _state: State<'static>,
    ) -> Result<StateSummary<'static>, ContractError> {
        unimplemented!()
    }

    fn get_state_delta(
        _parameters: Parameters<'static>,
        _state: State<'static>,
        _summary: StateSummary<'static>,
    ) -> Result<StateDelta<'static>, ContractError> {
        unimplemented!()
    }
}

That's a lot of information, let's unpack it:

use freenet_stdlib::prelude::*;

Here we are importing the necessary types and traits to write a Freenet contract successfully using Rust.

pub const RANDOM_SIGNATURE: &[u8] = &[6, 8, 2, 5, 6, 9, 9, 10];

This will make our contract unique, notice the pub qualifier so the compiler doesn't remove this constant because is unused and is included in the output of the compiler.

struct Contract;

#[contract]
impl ContractInterface for Contract {
  ...
}

Here we create a new type, Contract for which we will be implementing the ContractInterface trait. To know more details about the functionality of a contract, delve into the details of the contract interface.

Notice the #[contract] macro call, this will generate the necessary code for the WASM runtime to interact with your contract ergonomically and safely. Trying to use this macro more than once in the same module will result in a compiler error, and only the code generated at the top-level module will be used by the runtime.

As a rule of thumb, one contract will require implementing the `ContractInterface`` exactly once.

Creating a web application

Now we have a working example of a contract, but our contract is an empty shell, which does not do anything yet. To change this, we will start developing our web application.

To do that, we can go and modify the code of the contract state, which in this case is the web application. Freenet offers a standard library (stdlib) that can be used with Typescript/JavaScript to facilitate the development of web applications and interfacing with your local node, so we will make our package.json contains the dependency:

{
  "dependencies": {
    "@freenetorg/freenet-stdlib": "0.0.6"
  }
}

Open the file src/index.ts in a code editor and you can start developing the web application.

An important thing to notice is that our application will need to interface with our local node, the entry point for our machine to communicate with other nodes in the network. The stdlib offers a series of facilities in which you will be able to communicate with the network ergonomically.

Here is an example of how you could write your application to interact with the node:

import {
  GetResponse,
  HostError,
  Key,
  FreenetWsApi,
  PutResponse,
  UpdateNotification,
  UpdateResponse,
  DelegateResponse,
} from "@freenetorg/freenet-stdlib/websocket-interface";

const handler = {
  onContractPut: (_response: PutResponse) => {},
  onContractGet: (_response: GetResponse) => {},
  onContractUpdate: (_up: UpdateResponse) => {},
  onContractUpdateNotification: (_notif: UpdateNotification) => {},
  onDelegateResponse: (_response: DelegateResponse) => {},
  onErr: (err: HostError) => {},
  onOpen: () => {},
};

const API_URL = new URL(`ws://${location.host}/contract/command/`);
const freenetApi = new FreenetWsApi(API_URL, handler);

const CONTRACT = "DCBi7HNZC3QUZRiZLFZDiEduv5KHgZfgBk8WwTiheGq1";

async function loadState() {
  let getRequest = {
    key: Key.fromSpec(CONTRACT),
    fetch_contract: false,
  };
  await freenetApi.get(getRequest);
}

Let's unpack this code:

const handler = {
  onPut: (_response: PutResponse) => {},
  onGet: (_response: GetResponse) => {},
  onUpdate: (_up: UpdateResponse) => {},
  onUpdateNotification: (_notif: UpdateNotification) => {},
  onErr: (err: HostError) => {},
  onOpen: () => {},
};

const API_URL = new URL(`ws://${location.host}/contract/command/`);
const freenetApi = new FreenetWsApi(API_URL, handler);

This type provides a convenient interface to the WebSocket API. It receives an object which handles the different responses from the node via callbacks. Here you would be able to interact with DOM objects or other parts of your code.

const CONTRACT = "DCBi7HNZC3QUZRiZLFZDiEduv5KHgZfgBk8WwTiheGq1";

async function loadState() {
  let getRequest = {
    key: Key.fromSpec(CONTRACT),
    fetch_contract: false,
  };
  await freenetApi.get(getRequest);
}

Here we use the API wrapper to make a get request (which requires a key and specifies if we require fetching the contract code or not) to get the state for a contract with the given address. The response from the node will be directed to the onGet callback. You can use any other methods available in the API to interact with the node.

Writing the backend for our web application

In the creating a new contract section we described the contract interface, but we were using it to write a simple container contract that won't be doing anything in practice, just carrying around the front end of your application. The core logic of the application, and a back end where we will be storing all the information, requires another contract. So we will create a new contract in a different directory for it:

cd ../backend
fdev new contract

This will create a regular contract, and we will need to implement the interface on a type that will handle our contract code. For example:

use freenet_stdlib::prelude::*;

pub const RANDOM_SIGNATURE: &[u8] = &[6, 8, 2, 5, 6, 9, 9, 10];

struct Contract;

struct Posts(...)

impl Posts {
  fn add_post(&mut self, post: Post) { ... }
}

struct Post(...)

#[contract]
impl ContractInterface for Contract {
    fn update_state(
        _parameters: Parameters<'static>,
        state: State<'static>,
        data: Vec<UpdateData<'static>>,
    ) -> Result<UpdateModification<'static>, ContractError> {
        let mut posts: Posts = serde_json::from_slice(&state).map_err(|_| ContractError::InvalidState)?;
        if let Some(UpdateData::Delta(delta)) = data.pop() {
          let new_post: Posts = serde_json::from_slice(&delta).map_err(|_| ContractError::InvalidState);
          posts.add_post(new_post)?;
        } else {
            Err(ContractError::InvalidUpdate)
        }
        Ok(UpdateModification::valid(posts.into()))
    }

    ...
}

In this simple example, we convert a new incoming delta to a post and the state to a list of posts we maintain, and we append the post to the list of posts. After that, we convert back the posts list to an state and return that.

If we subscribe to the contract changes or our web app, we will receive a notification with the updates after they are successful, and we will be able to render them in our browser. We can do that, for example, using the API:

function getUpdateNotification(notification: UpdateNotification) {
  let decoder = new TextDecoder("utf8");
  let updatesBox = DOCUMENT.getElementById("updates") as HTMLPreElement;
  let delta = notification.update?.updateData as DeltaUpdate;
  let newUpdate = decoder.decode(Uint8Array.from(delta.delta));
  let newUpdateJson = JSON.parse(newUpdate.replace("\x00", ""));
  updatesBox.textContent = updatesBox.textContent + newUpdateJson;
}

Building and packaging a contract

Now that we have the front end and the back end of our web app, we can package the contracts and run them in the node to test them out.

In order to do that, we can again use the development tool to help us out with the process. But before doing that, let's take a look at the manifesto format and understand the different parameters that allow us to specify how this contract should be compiled (check the manifest details for more information). In the web app directory, we have a freenet.toml file which contains something similar to:

[contract]
type = "webapp"
lang = "rust"

...

[webapp.state-sources]
source_dirs = ["dist"]

This means that the dist directory will be packaged as the initial state for the webapp (that is the code the browser will be interpreting and in the end, rendering).

If we add the following keys to the manifesto:

[webapp.dependencies]
posts = { path = "../backend" }

The WASM code from the backend contract will be embedded in our web application state, so it will be accessible as a resource just via the local HTTP gateway access and then we can re-use it for publishing additional contracts.

Currently, wep applications follow a standarized build procedure in case you use fdev and assumptions about your system. For example, in the case of a type = "webapp" contract, if nothing is specified, it will assume you have npm and the tsc compiler available at the directory level, as well as webpack installed.

This means that you have installed either globally or at the directory level, e.g. globally:

npm install -g typescript webpack webpack-cli

or locally (make sure your package.json file has the required dependencies):

npm install --save-dev typescript webpack webpack-cli

If, however, you prefer to follow a different workflow, you can write your own by enabling/disabling certain parameters or using a blank template. For example:

[contract]
lang = "rust"

[state]
files = ["my_packaged_web.tar.xz"]

Would just delegate the work of building the packaged tar to the developer. Or:

[contract]
type = "webapp"
lang = "rust"

[webapp]
lang = "typescript"

[webapp.typescript]
webpack =  false

would disable using webpack at all.

Now that we understand the details, and after making any necessary changes, in each contract directory we run the following commands:

fdev build

This command will read your contract manifest file (freenet.toml) and take care of building the contract and packaging it, ready for the node and the network to consume it.

Under the ./build/freenet directory, you will see both a *.wasm file, which is the contract file, and contract-state, in case it applies, which is the initial state that will be uploaded when initially putting the contract.

Web applications can access the code of backend contracts directly in their applications and put new contracts (that is, assigning a new location for the code, plus any parameters that may be generated dynamically by the web app, and the initial state for that combination of contract code + parameters) dynamically.

Let's take a look at the manifest for our web app container contract:

Testing out contracts in the local node

Once we have all our contracts sorted and ready for testing, we can do this in local mode in our node. For this the node must be running, we can make sure that is running by running the following command as a background process or in another terminal; since we have installed it:

freenet

You should see some logs printed via the stdout of the process indicating that the node HTTP gateway is running.

Once the HTTP gateway is running, we are ready to publish the contracts to our local Freenet node:

cd ../backend && fdev publish --code="./build/freenet/backend.wasm" --state="./build/freenet/contract-state"
cd ../web && fdev publish --code="./build/freenet/web.wasm" --state="./build/freenet/contract-state"

In this case, we're not passing any parameters (so our parameters will be an empty byte array), and we are passing an initial state without the current backend contract. In typical use, both the parameters would have meaningful data, and the backend contract may be dynamically generated from the app and published from there.

Once this is done, you can start your app just by pointing to it in the browser: http://127.0.0.1:50509/contract/web/<CONTRACT KEY>

For example http://127.0.0.1:50509/contract/web/CYXGxQGSmcd5xHRJNQygPwmUJsWS2njh3pdVjfVz9EV/

Iteratively you can repeat this process of modifying, and publishing locally until you are confident with the results and ready to publish your application.

Since the web is part of your state, you are always able to update it, pointing to new contracts, and evolving it over time.

Limitations

  • Publishing to the Freenet network is not yet supported.

  • Only Rust is currently supported for contract development, but we'll support more languages like AssemblyScript in the future.

  • Binaries for all the required tools are not yet available, they must be compiled from source

Contract Interface

Terms

  • Contract State - data associated with a contract that can be retrieved by Applications and Delegates.
  • Delta - Represents a modification to some state - similar to a diff in source code
  • Parameters - Data that forms part of a contract along with the WebAssembly code
  • State Summary - A compact summary of a contract's state that can be used to create a delta

Interface

Freenet contracts must implement the contract interface from stdlib/rust/src/contract_interface.rs:

/// # ContractInterface
///
/// This trait defines the core functionality for managing and updating a contract's state.
/// Implementations must ensure that state delta updates are *commutative*. In other words,
/// when applying multiple delta updates to a state, the order in which these updates are
/// applied should not affect the final state. Once all deltas are applied, the resulting
/// state should be the same, regardless of the order in which the deltas were applied.
///
/// Noncompliant behavior, such as failing to obey the commutativity rule, may result
/// in the contract being deprioritized or removed from the p2p network.
pub trait ContractInterface {
    /// Verify that the state is valid, given the parameters.
    fn validate_state(
        parameters: Parameters<'static>,
        state: State<'static>,
        related: RelatedContracts<'static>,
    ) -> Result<ValidateResult, ContractError>;

    /// Verify that a delta is valid if possible, returns false if and only delta is
    /// definitely invalid, true otherwise.
    fn validate_delta(
        parameters: Parameters<'static>,
        delta: StateDelta<'static>,
    ) -> Result<bool, ContractError>;

    /// Update the state to account for the new data
    fn update_state(
        parameters: Parameters<'static>,
        state: State<'static>,
        data: Vec<UpdateData<'static>>,
    ) -> Result<UpdateModification<'static>, ContractError>;

    /// Generate a concise summary of a state that can be used to create deltas
    /// relative to this state.
    fn summarize_state(
        parameters: Parameters<'static>,
        state: State<'static>,
    ) -> Result<StateSummary<'static>, ContractError>;

    /// Generate a state delta using a summary from the current state.
    /// This along with [`Self::summarize_state`] allows flexible and efficient
    /// state synchronization between peers.
    fn get_state_delta(
        parameters: Parameters<'static>,
        state: State<'static>,
        summary: StateSummary<'static>,
    ) -> Result<StateDelta<'static>, ContractError>;
}

Parameters, State, and StateDelta are all wrappers around simple [u8] byte arrays for maximum efficiency and flexibility.

Contract Interaction

In the (hopefully) near future we'll be adding the ability for contracts to read each other's state while validating and updating their own, see issue #167 for the latest on this.

The Manifest Format

The freenet.toml file for each UI component/contract is called its manifest. It is written in the TOML format. Manifest files consist of the following sections:

  • [contract] — Defines a contract.
    • type — Contract type.
    • lang — Contract source language.
    • output_dir — Output path for build artifacts.
  • [webapp] — Configuration for UI component containers.
  • [state] — Optionally seed a state.

The [contract] section

The type field

[contract]
...
type = "webapp"

The type of the contract being packaged. Currently the following types are supported:

  • standard, the default type, it can be ellided. This is just a standard contract.
  • webapp, a web app container contract. Additionally to the container contract the UI component source will be compiled and packaged as the state of the contract.

The lang field

[contract]
...
lang = "rust"

The programming language in which the contract is written. If specified the build tool will compile the contract. Currently only Rust is supported.

The output_dir field

[contract]
...
output_dir = "./other/output/dir/"

An optional path to the output directory for the build artifacts. If not set the output will be written to the relative directory ./build/freenet from the manifest file directory.

The [webapp] section

An optional section, only specified in case of webapp contracts.

The lang field

[webapp]
...
lang =  "typescript"

The programming language in which the web application is written. Currently the following languages are supported:

  • typescript, requires npm installed.
  • javascript, requires npm installed.

The metadata field

[webapp]
...
metadata =  "/path/to/metadata/file"

An optional path to the metadata for the webapp, if not set the metadata will be empty.

The [webapp.typescript] options section

Optional section specified in case of the the typescript lang.

The following fields are supported:

[webapp.typescript]
webpack =  true
  • webpack — if set webpack will be used when packaging the contract state.

The [webapp.javascript] options section

Optional section specified in case of the the javascript lang.

The following fields are supported:

[webapp.javascript]
webpack =  true
  • webpack — if set webpack will be used when packaging the contract state.

The [webapp.state-sources] options section

[webapp.state-sources]
source_dirs =  ["path/to/sources"]
files = ["*/src/**.js"]

Specifies the sources for the state of the contract, this will be later on unpacked and accessible at the HTTP gateway from the Locutus node. Includes any web sources (like .html or .js files). The source_dirs field is a comma separated array of directories that should be appended to the root of the state, the files field is a comma separated array of glob compatible patterns to files that will be appendeded to the state.

At least one of source_dirsor files fields are required.

The [webapp.dependencies] section

[webapp.dependencies]
...
posts = { path = "../contracts/posts" }

An optional list of contract dependencies that will be embedded and available in the state of the contract. Each entry under this entry represents an alias to the contract code, it must include a path field that specifies the relative location of the dependency from this manifesto directory.

If dependencies are specified they will be compiled and appended to the contract state, under the contracts directory, and as such, become available from the HTTP gateway. A dependencies.json file will be automatically generated and placed under such directory that maps the aliases to the file and hash of the code generated for the dependencies.

In this way the "parent" container contract can use those contracts code to put/update new values through the websocket API in an ergonomic manner.

The [state] section

[state]
files = ["*/src/**.js"]

An optional section for standard contracts in case they want to seed an state initially, it will take a single file and make it available at the build directory.

Example: Antiflood Token System

Purpose

The Antiflood Token System (AFT) is a decentralized system aimed to provide a simple, but general purpose solution to flooding, denial-of-service attacks, and spam.

AFT allows users to generate tokens through a "token generator", which is created by completing a "hard" task, such as making a donation to Freenet. Tokens are generated at a fixed rate and can be utilized to perform activities, such as sending messages.

The recipient can specify the required token "tier," with each tier being generated at different intervals (e.g. 1 minute, 1 hour). This way, if a recipient experiences a high volume of messages, they can increase the token tier to make it more challenging to generate, thus reducing the flood.

AFT Delegate

The AFT relies on a TokenDelegate that implements this DelegateInterface.

Token Generator

The TokenAllocContract keeps track of token assignments to ensure that tokens are not double spent. New tokens are generated at a fixed rate that depends on the tier required by the recipient.

Recepient Inbox

The recipient inbox contract keeps track of inbound messages sent to a recipient, verifying that each is accompanied by a valid token of the required tier.

Sequence Diagram

sequenceDiagram
  participant User
  participant Application
  participant Delegate
  participant TokenGeneratorContract
  participant RecipientInboxContract

  User->>Application: 1. RequestToken
  Application->>Delegate: 2. RequestToken
  Delegate->>User: 3. Allocate?
  User->>Delegate: 4. approved
  Delegate->>TokenGeneratorContract: 5. TokenAllocation
  Delegate->>RecipientInboxContract: 6. Message+TokenAllocation
  RecipientInboxContract->>TokenGeneratorContract: 7. verify
  TokenGeneratorContract->>RecipientInboxContract: 8. verified
  1. User requests a token from the application, perhaps by composing a message and clicking "send" in the UI

  2. The application requests a token from the delegate via its websocket connection to the Freenet node

  3. The delegate requests permission from the user to allocate a token, this occurs independently of the application, perhaps via an OS-specific notification mechanism

  4. The user approves the allocation

  5. The delegate allocates a token to the token generator contract

  6. The delegate sends the message and token allocation to the recipient inbox contract

  7. The recipient inbox contract verifies that the token allocation is valid before appending the inbound message to its state

  8. The token generator contract verifies that the token allocation is valid and adds it to its list of allocations

Blind Attestations

Overview

A mechanism to attest the owner of a "target" contract performed some action, while preserving the owner's anonymity using a blind signature.

A typical use would be for the Freenet non-profit to attest that the owner of a particular contract made a donation to project. The owner can then use this attestation to prove they made a donation, without revealing their identity to Freenet or anyone else.

This contract could then be thought to have a value of the donation amount, this could then serve as collateral to secure a transaction with a counterparty, such as a purchase or a loan.

To do this, the contract would allow the contract owner to temporarily give the counterparty the ability to "disable" the contract for a mutually agreed period of time. The parties then conduct their transaction. If the counterparty is dissatisfied with the transaction then they can disable the contract as punishment, during which time it cannot be used.

Attestation

#![allow(unused)]
fn main() {
let contract_key = // The contract which we want Freenet to attest to
let (blinded_attestation_request, blind_key) = BlindAttestationRequest::blind(
    &mut rng,
    &contract_key,
);
}

The contract owner then sends the blinded attestation request to Freenet:

#![allow(unused)]
fn main() {
// URL is https://freenet.org/attestation?blinded_contract_key=4F6oPq...
open_in_browser(&blinded_attestation_request.to_url());
}

The user then follows the instructions on freenet.org to complete the donation. Once the donation is complete, freenet.org signs the blinded_contract_key and sends the attestation response through a response contract in Freenet. This may also be sent via a browser redirect to the application.

The attestation consists of:

#![allow(unused)]
fn main() {
struct Attestation {
    pub signature : Signature,
    pub authorization : Authorization,
    pub authorization_sig : Signature,

    /// 
    fn is_valid(&self) -> Result<Authorization, String> {
        if (!signature.verify(&authorization.pubkey, &self.target)) {
            return Err("The target's signature is invalid");
        }

        if (!authorization_sig.verify(&freenet_public_key, &self.authorization)) {
            return Err("The authorization's signature is invalid");
        }

        Ok(self.authorization)
    }
}

enum Authorization {
    FreenetDonation(pubkey : PublicKey, amount_range : (Money, Money), time_range : (Timestamp, Timestamp)),
}

enum Target {
    Contract(ContractKey),
}
}

Community

Glossary

Application

Software that uses Freenet as a back-end. This includes native software distributed independenly of Freenet but which uses Freenet as a back-end (perhaps bundling Freenet), and web applications that are distributed over Freenet and run in a web browser.

Contract

A contract is WebAssembly code with associated data like the contract state. The role of the contract is to determine:

  • Is the state valid for this contract?
  • Under what circumstances can the state be modified or updated? (see Delta)
  • How can two valid states be merged to produce a third valid state?

Container Contract

A contract that contains an application or component as state, accessed through the web proxy.

For example, if the contract id is 6C2KyVMtqw8D5wWa8Y7e14VmDNXXXv9CQ3m44PC9YbD2 then visiting http://localhost:PORT/contract/web/6C2KyVMtqw8D5wWa8Y7e14VmDNXXXv9CQ3m44PC9YbD2 will cause the application/component to be retrieved from Freenet, decompressed, and sent to the browser where it can execute.

Contract State

Data associated with a contract that can be retrieved by Applications and Components. For efficiency and flexibility, contract state is represented as a simple [u8] byte array.

Delegate

A delegate is a piece of software that runs on the user's computer and acts on the user's behalf. Similar to local storage in a web browser, delegates can store private data on the user's computer and control how it is used. Delegates can also interact with contracts, applications, and other delegates.

Delta

Represents a modification to some state - similar to a diff in source code. The exact format of a delta is determined by the contract. A contract will determine whether a delta is valid - perhaps by verifying it is signed by someone authorized to modify the contract state. A delta may be created in response to a State Summary as part of the State Synchronization mechanism.

Parameters

Data that forms part of a contract along with the WebAssembly code. This is supplied to the contract as a parameter to the contract's functions. Parameters are typically be used to configure a contract, much like the parameters of a constructor function.

For example, the parameters could contain a hash of the state itself. The contract would then use it to verify that the state hashes to that value. This would create a contract that is guaranteed to contain the same state. In the original Freenet, this was known as a content hash key.

State Summary

Given a contract state, this is a small piece of data that can be used to determine a delta between two contracts as part of the state synchronization mechanism. The format of a state summary is determined by the state's contract.

State Synchronization

Given two valid states for a contract, the state synchronization mechanism allows the states to be efficiently merged over the network to ensure eventual consistency.

Web Application

Software built on Freenet and distributed through Freenet.

Applications run in the browser and can be built with tools like React, TypeScript, and Vue.js. An application may use multiple components and contracts.

Applications are compressed and distributed via a container contract.