Today, Skiff launches a new, decentralized architecture - realizing our vision to build the application layer for Web3 - private, decentralized, and end-to-end encrypted.
Decentralization and privacy defy major trends in the last decade of the internet: Centralization and abstraction. Websites, services, and collaboration platforms serve content, aggregate user data, and run computations via massive data centers and cloud providers. Decades of new algorithms grew around these anti-privacy computation models, from operational transformations (which aggregate and compose user input in real-time collaborative applications) to MapReduce (which permitted massive clusters to sequence and process inflows of user data). Today, when using most cloud services, individuals’ personal information is constantly sequenced and analyzed to support new features - such as predictive typing - and better advertisements.
Today, the world is different. Decentralized finance, storage, and identity upend these traditional models and offer a brighter, more private, and more personal future for computing. Decentralized data structures (such as CRDTs), algorithms, and storage platforms (more below!) present a new model wherein computation can be distributed among users of an application, and data stored without levels of abstraction or control by cloud providers.
Decentralization and privacy go hand-in-hand. While privacy demands that users know exactly how and when their personal data is shared, decentralization keeps users’ information outside of anti-private, centralized databases. End-to-end encryption and decentralization together truly deliver complete control over personal data to Skiff users. Technically and organizationally, decentralization helps us deliver on our core promise to users.
In this world, we see:
In this technical model, Skiff empower users with more control over their work, creativity, and personal information.
Your identity is your keypair: Skiff’s products keep your personal information private to you. Our whitepaper details this approach to provisioning users with keypairs (for encryption and attestation). Like a password manager or a crypto wallet, this technical design represents the foundation of decentralized collaboration.
Decentralized real-time collaboration via CRDTs: As detailed in our pre-launch blog post on decentralized collaboration from March 2021, decentralization allows us to realize numerous technical and user-friendly advantages. In particular, CRDTs enable us to, in real time, synchronize data structures across multiple Skiff users around the world. Users communicate end-to-end encrypted document changes to each other and arrive at fully synchronized, independent copies of working documents.
Decentralized storage via IPFS: We are incredibly excited to announce our collaboration with Protocol Labs and IPFS to build fully decentralized storage into Skiff. In IPFS, Filecoin, and libp2p (for direct peer-to-peer communication), Protocol Labs is building foundational infrastructure to enable decentralized, privacy-first applications like Skiff.
Now, Skiff users can store files, static content, and more via the Interplanetary Filesystem (IPFS). Inside the settings page, users can enable or disable IPFS storage:
In this model, all user data - still completely end-to-end encrypted - is viewable and accessible on a transparent ledger, instead inside a big-tech-owned database where it may be analyzed for advertisements and invasive analytics. Collaborating with IPFS is an incredibly exciting opportunity for us to work with many of the best teams in Web3 and deliver a modern, private, and decentralized experience.
Decentralized indexing: Unlike other collaboration products, Skiff efficiently, effectively, and privately indexes and searches through your documents on-device. All other cloud-based collaboration products rely on centralized access to the full text and content of everything you write and share.
Decentralized work: Even more critically, decentralized organizations (from DAOs to remote-first companies) have grown to an unprecedented degree and are now fully ingrained in corporate culture. In this vein, Skiff was started in April 2020 during a period where fully remote work was our only option. We see the future of work as global, cross-time-zone collaboration among distributed teams, and maintaining privacy, security, and ownership over your work is essential in this world.
This update lays a foundation for a world of communication and collaboration built to be truly privacy-first, end-to-end encrypted, and decentralized. For all communication and collaboration, we picture a future where providers don’t need unconstrained access to user data. We’re excited to share so much more about what Skiff has in store over the coming months!