back to article Student's brilliant idea: A peer-to-peer social network

Benjamin Birt, a CompSci student at the University of St Andrews, has announced a new type of social network, which he calls PeerBook. We note that there are some folks in Hamburg who might want to chat to him about the name and an international academic working group who might like a quiet word about this being a whole new …


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  1. MarkOne

    Instant Fail....

    1. Jerome 0

      Re: Instant Fail...

      Aw c'mon, Unite isn't that bad.

  2. Anonymous Coward


    He should have called it FriendFace.

    1. frank ly

      Season 4 starts tonight

      Season 4 of the IT crowd starts tonight on Channel 4. For some reason, probably pre-release publicity effort, episode 1 has been available (not in perfect quality) out there on the torrents for a few days.

      I watched it earlier this week, it's hilarious :)

      1. Ol'Peculier
        Thumb Up


        It's been available on the C4 website all this week

      2. Steve John


        It's been available on 4OD for the past week.

    2. someone up north
      Happy should be Fat face

      i suggest fat face

  3. Stevie


    Of course, none of the peers involved will be owned by malicious people with an agenda uncomplicated by a desire to see the baby's pictures or read that thrilling account of "our trip".

    Yes, I can see that this system is immune to Nigerian beggers, Russian credit card collectors and Chechnyan ladies with reds bottoms (sic) and a webcam to prove it.

    I yearn to pour investment cash into this soonest.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I imagined it years ago, but so did you.

    What I also imagined at the same time would be the end of ISPs where you're sitting on an external (monitor-able) node, but you can hop over local wirelesses to your P2P destination.

    Would make censoring pretty hard.

    But that's as likely as someone putting garlic into bread.

  5. notmenotmenotme

    or you know, the one that's had the most press attention recently


    $200,000 + 4 students VS 1 from St. Andrews


  6. Anonymous Coward

    Not exactly new stuff

    What? No mention of Diaspora? (

    1. Lou Gosselin

      I was thinking it sounded simular to freenet.

      Freenet was designed to block censorship, but it behaves very much like a peer to peer internet with web pages, newsgroups, etc. It's actually more secure than the regular www. Far from user friendly, but it does what it advertises.

      Coincidentally, the daemon also runs in java, which serves up web pages for the browser.

      Reg, I hope you continue the search for independent projects like these! There's been too much attention on the big guys.

  7. Havin_it

    (Different) Bah!

    I was pondering something like this, for just the reasons he cites, just a couple of weeks ago. If only I could write software...

    It makes a lot of sense, as the only thing I don't like about Facebook is, well, Facebook - the people are fine, as long as you restrict your contacts to those you actually want, but the provider is a massive douche. It's rather like if you and your friends all decide pubs have become such hateful places that you're better off getting together at each other's houses for a drink.

    I look forward to seeing what he comes up with, and how he addresses some of the issues I perceived. And who from the above list will be first to sue him, of course ;)

    1. Anonymous Coward

      Right on

      I had this new concept too. You call up or sms the friend you wish to meet, then ask him/her what time and at which pub/restaurant/park/house/whereever to meet and you go there and talk. to eachother.

      You could also bring your camera/laptop/pictures and show the contents directly.

      The good thing of this scheme is that it's practically free bar the call and travel to said place.

      Think this concept will ever will work?

      I think I will call the project "The Alan Parsons project" har har har.

  8. Anonymous Coward

    No more Mark Zuckerberg types thanks.

    There are enough "social Networks" on the net.

    No thanks.

    FAIL. because it has been done, and they are all the same.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The title is required, and must contain letters and/or digits.

    "just websites and no client software is required" *cough* javascript?

  10. Anonymous Coward


    Brilliant; my ASS.

  11. ponder

    Slow news day?

    Do you really have nothing better to do than pick apart someone's honours thesis project

  12. Anonymous Coward

    It will work.

    The P.T. Barnum Constant (1 DF, sorry, Sucker Born Per Minute) means you have to squeeze them for $1901 per year. But if you are willing to wait a few iPhone Cycles before you know it, and hopefully before the mothers' of certain under-age girls know it, you will be a Billionaire.

    As my friend Steve J. says, "If you have to have a virtue, Patience is low maintenance".

    Mark Z. (anonymous for obvious reasons)

  13. serviceWithASmile

    apache tomcat anyone?

    "but also that it's written in Java, which will rule out access from several types of modern Internet client"

    From the concerned students brilliant idea (tm) page:

    "A user downloads a small (Java) program, runs it, and then has access via their web browser to a local web server acting as a gateway onto the PeerBook network"

    Let me quote that for you again:

    "access via their web browser"

    just in case you didn't read it the first time.

    sounds like apache tomcat ( a java web server ) with his application loaded, installed on the user's local machine and accessed via a web browser.

    how compatible.

    i wish writertards wouldn't misrepresent what java is....

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Some replies to your comments

    Hi all - I am Ben Birt, the developer of PeerBook. I'm amazed this story made it onto The Reg! I'd just like to reply to a few of the above comments:

    Firstly, I do love the IT crowd - especially the FriendFace episode!

    Stevie: Of course the assumption that malicious users exist is built into the design of PeerBook. Every piece of data is encrypted with keys that can be changed at will. So while a user does not really have any control over where exactly on the p2p network their data is placed, it doesn't matter - if you don't have access to the data, even if your computer is being used as the temporary store for that data, you can never read the data. I'd also like to point out that at no point have I asked for any donations whatsoever.

    notmenotmenotme: Yes, I have been following the Diaspora story. The key difference between our two projects that I can discern is that Diaspora requires you to host your own data 24/7 - meaning that you must either keep your server on permanently or pay for some hosting somewhere. This certainly makes the whole problem of remote data storage + complex access control policies go away, but I do not believe it is a good enough solution to replace existing social networks which. I have actually emailed the Diaspora team, but they did not reply.

    serviceWithASmile: Thank you for your post, you are quite correct - the software runs almost exactly as you say, but uses a more lightweight web server than Tomcat (because I didn't want potential users to have to do anything complex upon installation).

    Thanks. If anyone has any more questions, please ask away. And feel free to read some of the stuff on the PeerBook website/blog that I am (slowly) adding to:


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