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Urbit Back Again?

Long time no see: Urbit, an ambitious project of “fixing” the internet that started in 2013 - a decade ago! - could be coming back to the spotlight.

Urbit Assembly in Miami. Source: Twitter
Urbit Assembly in Miami

Long time no see: Urbit, an ambitious project of “fixing” the internet that started in 2013 - a decade ago! - could be coming back to the spotlight.

According to the project description, “Urbit is a new kind of computer that you can own completely in ways that matter: networking, identity, and data”. The team wants “to fix the internet”, because “the way things are going, MEGACORP will always control our apps and services because we can no longer run them ourselves”.

Urbit wants to bring everything together in one place: apps, services, communication and development, DAOs etc and at the same time make this environment completely customisable and decentralised.

Urbit Ecosystem
Urbit Ecosystem. Source: Urbit website

Technically, Urbit consists of two open source components: Urbit OS and Urbit ID.

Urbit “overlay” OS is a software stack: a VM, programming language and kernel designed to run software for an individual. It can work on almost any cloud server, most laptops and many phones and is completely protected from the system it runs on and is entirely under your control. You can connect with any other Urbit directly without using a centralised service. When you log in to Urbit OS, you use your Urbit ID.

Urbit ID (Planet) is an identity and authentication system. It is at the same time a username registered in a blockchain, plus a network address and crypto wallet.

Right now the most crucial problem of the project is the lack of proper UX. Simply put: it is inconvenient to use the system. Two years ago Tlon (the company that was developing the Urbit kernel for years) released Urbit OS 1 (“Landscape”) - its first complete interface. Yes, it was a huge step, and yes, it looks cute, but in our opinion Landscape cannot replace commonly used OSs we all use. The next version of Landscape was supposed to be released at Assembly, which took place last weekend. It “will be much easier to use, with a front-end interface comparable to a centralized experience,” said Marisa Rowland, Tlon’s head of product.

Urbit OS Landscape
Urbit OS Landscape. Source: Urbit website

The Urbit Assembly took place 22-25 Sep. This year Urbit was going to showcase not only their new OS, but an entire ecosystem of New World Energy. So far there is no comprehensive report on the event as nothing was livestreamed. According to the conference website recordings, the discussions will be released at following the event. Some tweets confirm that the event was at least interesting, but lets wait to get some more info:

We do not know yet if this project will be at the forefront of a future internet or will stay forever this “weirdo” everyone has heard of, but nobody ever uses. Still it is always interesting to observe the development of such ambitious and unusual ideas.

Here you can launch your own “Moon”, a temporary Urbit ID, and give it a try!