The Object Network is a "freedom space" for people who don't like being told what to do
by global, faceless corporations or unaccountable governments. It's also an empowering
place to be, because we can easily create complex dynamic functionality in collaboration
with each other, rather than having to put up with what techies give us.
Big Tech prisons
Big Tech apps and online services like Facebook and Twitter take control over our
data. This allows them and their programmers to control what we can do within their
"walled garden" worlds, in ways that suit them, not us - they control everything about
our interaction and can change it on a marketing whim:
It also allows them to prevent us doing anything useful with our data across those apps
or services. You are allowed access to clumsy, inconsistent and unreliable snapshots of
your stuff via sharing, copy-paste and the export-and-import of inert files. Of course,
what most people often end up doing is taking screenshots!
We have to have an account on each app or service which means they also own and fragment
our identities. We often can't share our data in a service if the recipient doesn't
already have (yet another) account there.
Finally, apps and online services enable mass surveillance and arbitrary censorship,
both by them and by their governments. They can sell our data to advertisers and drop
adverts or propaganda in our path. On top of that, a hack can reveal everyone's
data, all in one go.
We could switch to alternative services that promise to behave, such as Telegram,
Substack, etc., but we only have trust to protect us and the bigger they get, the harder
it will be for them to keep their promises. And we're still stuck with their user
interfaces and set of capabilities their techies give us access to. They're still
multiple walled gardens, preventing our content working together and scattering us and
our stuff around the internet.
App and service walls
Consider what you typically go to your smartphone for:
You'd check for messages, read the news and check the weather, do a search and read some
pages, take a photo, find a contact then send a message and have a chat, listen to some
music or a video, make a todo list, create a calendar event, work out a route on a map,
use a calculator, turn on your living room light and set its colour, set the alarm for
the next day. You may run up a game or 3D virtual world for a while. You may even
actually phone someone on your phone, either on a traditional line, or over the internet.
But you had to go to 18 separate apps to access all of those things, all of that data,
many of these apps with equally separate accounts or logins. All these apps and services
work in different ways and none really work together, except by inter-corporate fiat out
of your control.
Think of all the data that are trapped in these apps and services:
Contacts, friends, social network, lists of people; short messages with links and media,
in lists; long articles or pages with more links, more embedded media; media and lists
of media (galleries, playlists); todos, lists of todos; events, and lists of events in
calendars; search queries; weather forecast for a day, and lists of them for weeks
ahead; map tiles, map locations, routes; calculator; alarms, and lists of them; IoT
devices, lists of them for each room, etc; 3D objects and scenes.
Now, there's no fundamental reason for all these pieces of your life to be split up and
locked away, unconnected to one another. It's your life, not theirs!
But, we're all used to this model, so you may be wondering if it's really so bad. As long
as you can share, copy-paste and export snapshots of your stuff (or take screenshots of
it!), and as long as you keep logged in to everything...
Escaping the prison: self-hosting our stuff
The only way to escape these Big Tech prisons is to move our stuff - our identities,
posts and replies, media, documents, etc. - to machines that we control, or that are run
by people we trust (as long as it's easy to switch if they turn against us!) We each
need to host our own data, so that it's scattered across machines around the globe, out
Now, if you're not a techie, that could be a daunting prospect. It's not easy to run
your own servers, let alone create social networks as complex as Facebook and Twitter.
The Object Network and Onex
That's where the Object Network, and its app and server, Onex, comes in. Onex makes it
easy to self-host and share your content.
Note that the app, Onex, referred to below is not complete yet.
All that follows is in the form of a proposal for future functionality...
You can start simply by creating and publishing from an Onex app running on your mobile
device. Then you can move up to running Onex on your PC, or a home NAS if you have one.
Finally, you could publish from a server running Onex, hosted somewhere, either as a
shared Onex utility service, or as your own Onex server, if you do in fact have some
If you're both on the same home network, everything goes directly between you, not via a
server far away, but if you are far apart, things go the shortest route, possibly via an
Onex makes it easy to create and publish short texts or longer documents, with images.
You can manage them in lists.
The Onex app (the mobile or PC one) is meant for both creating and accessing each
other's work. So you can view the lists of messages, documents and images published by
You can set various levels of permission over reading or writing to your content.
Now, if you create a tweet-like message on your mobile, how can I reply to it from my
PC, without giving that reply data to you to manage, thus undermining the point of
Of course, the Object Network makes this easy for you. Your message stays on your
mobile, my reply stays on my PC. And they're joined up with a link! Easy.
A post links to its replies, and the replies know the post they're replying to because
they have a link back.
In the Object Network, our data is divided into small chunks called "objects" - each
with its own ID which is used as its link. Everything we create - text, images, lists -
is an object with a link - a unique ID. Whether inside our own Onex app or between apps,
links work the same:
A link would be used by me, to fetch your message, by you, to fetch my reply, and by
anyone else's Onex app to fetch both items to show them.
In fact, every list object is simply a sequence of links to its members. This gives you
endless flexibility in how you manage your stuff. You can grab a link to any object and
put it in any other. You can even grab the link of a todo and drop it into your notes
list, or drop that todo directly into a single calendar event that needs a list of jobs.
Make your own work list of a todo item, a note, an event and a relevant message. Put
that at the top of your home list for quick access. You can even have a message pointing
to a note that points back to the message, why not? Try doing that between a chat app
and a notes app!
Objects are live
If I updated or deleted the reply, you would want to know that. And I would want to know
if the message I'm replying to were updated or deleted. Anyone watching the show would
want to be updated on both.
Onex takes care of all this two-way network activity without you doing a thing. The
Object Network makes objects "live" without techie-style programming.
Even we, people in the Object Network, are live objects that can be linked to - as
personas, profiles or avatars with "presence". This live object is always hosted and
animated in our local client app, even if we push out everything else - the publishing
of our stuff - onto servers on the wider internet.
Freeing data empowers everyone!
The fact is, we're constantly being tripped up by the app and service model; it takes
away our freedom and power to do what we want on a daily basis. Here are examples
describing what you experience in the app trap, and what the Object Network will offer
to fix it:
You want to publish a Facebook post on Twitter. If you make it through the "share" menus
and get to the Twitter app, all you end up with is a tweet with just a link back to your
Facebook post! Well, to be fair, if you share a post with a video, you get the actual
video embedded. But not the attached text in the original post. Maybe with an upgrade
and some corporate agreement in the future these issues may be solved... What you
actually want to happen is for the original post to be fully reproduced, with the text
and all media. But of course Twitter has decided to impose an arbitrary limit on text
length to their concept of a "post"...
In the Object Network, there are no separate "Facebook" or "Twitter" apps or services,
with their own random constraints and corporate imperatives. If you want to post
something somewhere else, it will still look and behave exactly the same as anywhere
else. You just need to drop in a link to the post in any other context and it will be
appropriately embedded there in its entirety. You could even drop a link to your post
into a document or calendar event or whatever, and everyone reading that document or
seeing that event in their calendars will see the post fully and properly rendered, with
You want to publish a Twitter post on Facebook. Once you've made it through the "share"
menus you find that, unlike the other direction, this works quite well at the moment,
keeping both text and media. You never know, though: if Facebook changes their policy
they could stop this working at any time. Also, you can't be sure that Twitter won't
censor the original post. Further, viewing the post requires waiting for all the bits
(media, likes, etc) to be loaded in from the Facebook and/or Twitter servers. The only
quick and reliable way to be sure people see what you see, directly in the context of a
feed or thread is to freeze it in a screenshot! Of course, this loses any link to the
original, plus any text can't be copied out and the media can't be linked to separately.
You also need to take several shots of longer posts.
In the Object Network, you can be confident that cross-posting an item will always work,
and that nothing will be deleted unless you want it to be. But say you still want to
freeze the state of the post, perhaps in case it's edited or deleted by another owner.
You can just create your own clone of the post and share that. This is easily done and
replicates all the text, media, author, reply, etc., links and has a link back to the
original; if the original is updated this is indicated in the render. It is now hosted
and owned by you. Being hosted locally means anyone you share it with gets the full post
loaded quickly, directly from you - maybe even over the house WiFi. (Of course, the same
copyright issues exist doing this as with taking that screenshot!). This copy will be
shown in full, embedded in the feed or thread, just like the screenshot did, only will
be fully interactable with usable links and text.
You have accounts on Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Gmail, Instagram, WhatsApp, LinkedIn,
etc., and in each you curate lists of friends or contacts. But even when the same people
appear in several of those lists, there's no connection between them; you can't send a
message on WhatsApp to lists taken from your LinkedIn contacts or Instagram friends. And
if the service decides you're a bad person, they can instantly cut you off from maybe
hundreds or thousands of people in your painstakingly-acquired social network. Everyone
needs an account everywhere, but again, the account is owned and controlled by them, not
you, and can be revoked at any time.
In the Object Network, you only have one identity to deal with per person. Your identity
is yours to host and control. You can create any number of personas or profiles for
different purposes, and everyone's profile can be simply grabbed in the form of a link
and used in any context. Lists of friends, contacts or any other category of people are
just lists of links to their self-hosted personas.
You have a group in Facebook for discussing country walks. Now you want to organise a
series of meetups at various locations. So you decide to go with Gmail and Google
calendars. Now you have to get an email address for every member in Facebook to send the
invites. On the day, you decide to set up a WhatsApp chat group to co-ordinate the
meeting. Once again, you need the phone numbers of each of the attendees. Someone in
Facebook decides the activities aren't for her and leaves the group. You have to
laboriously delete her from the mailing list and calendar invite, and remove her from
the WhatsApp group.
In the Object Network, you only have one identity to deal with per person. And if you
have a list of people, that list can be used everywhere, because of course, it also has
its own link. So you simply grab the list of discussion group members to add to the
calendar events and the chat group. When a member leaves, they are automatically removed
from the event and the chat group, because they all use the same lists of the same people.
You are looking for a flat and there's an app with a map for that (Zoopla or Rightmove
perhaps). You want to find your way to the viewing, and there's another app with a map
for that (Google maps). You're meeting a friend at the viewing and there's a third app
with a map, for you both to see where the other is, converging on the flat (Snapchat).
Or maybe they don't have that app so send a snapshot of their location as a message.
Each app needs a login, of course. You arranged the viewing through a trendy online
estate agency who gave you another login to their nice website where there's a calendar
to see the appointment. But you want to put the appointment into Google calendar, so
you download the event and upload it there. After the viewing, you and your friend are
going to a climbing club meetup arranged on Meetup.com. Another login, another calendar.
The flat viewing appointment is then changed, so you have to download another snapshot
of it for Google calendar.
In the Object Network, there's no need for more than one map and multiple calendars, or
accounts on several apps. Because you have direct access to any live events and
locations through links, you can throw any events onto a single calendar, any locations
onto a single map. You can see the location of the flat and the location of your friend
converging on the same map. When an event changes or a location moves, you see the
change immediately. No more repeated manual snapshots or manual download/upload; you
never have to manually sync things up through export and import. All with one identity
for you and your friends.
In order to organise your flat hunt, you need a to-do list. That's another app and
online service, which requires another account to be created. You want to put a link to
the to-do list into a chat message and a calendar event, assuming the service even
assigns URLs to to-do lists. But to share it with your friend, she needs an account, too.
And when seen in the calendar event or in the chat group, the to-do list is just an
opaque link which could be to anything.
In the Object Network, you're able to link anything to anything - events to to-dos to
chat messages and back again - all live, no snapshots, all embedded and interactive, no
apps or services with separate accounts. So the todo is rendered right inside the
calendar event or chat message that links to it. Your friend can even check off
finished tasks right there, if you gave her permission. If you create an email-length
message to her, including a link to the appointment, it renders fully embedded in it,
allowing her to accept the invite. Then she can open up the embedded to-do list and
check off items, making the to-do list full-screen if she wants.
You want to share a document, image, message or post to someone standing next to you.
They have an iPhone, you an Android. You either have to research an app that allows this
for both of you to download, sign up to, and see how easy it is to use, or else you just
give up and send it by email. Maybe you had to manually copy-paste a paragraph, or
laboriously download an image ready to send, perhaps because they'd only have access to
the item if they also had an account. Then the item goes via servers all over the world
and eventually arrives back in the same room again! Plus it's just a snapshot, so you
need to send it all over again if it updates.
In the Object Network, everything has a link, so you simply share that link with them.
Maybe it's a link to a message or post, or even a single paragraph in a document. Maybe
it's some embedded media. When they access your link, the item is transferred directly,
quickly and reliably between your devices, over the house or office WiFi - even if the
original item came from the broader internet. Further, if the original item changes in
any way, they see the latest version immediately - it's not a snapshot. If it's an item
you want restricted, you may have to give permission to them to see it, but they don't
need to create a whole new account anywhere, because their identity works everywhere.
Everything being split up into competing - rather than co-operating - apps and services
means that similar interactions are done slightly differently in each. You have to learn
each one from the start. You have to live with the limitations each one puts on the
shape of the data you create. And within a service, they can add or remove functionality
whenever they like. If any of these services goes down or goes bust, that slice of your
life just disappears, reminding you that they control your data, not you. You only have
access to your data via an inert export, if you're lucky, usually in some arbitrary,
incompatible proprietary format.
In the Object Network, everybody's data looks and interacts the same everywhere. For
example, you can collect events created and hosted by people all over the world and drop
them into your own calendar and they all look and interact the same. All messages and
threads, all people profiles, all galleries, all work the same way. There are no
limitations on data over here compared to over there. The interactivity over, and the
behaviour of, data is determined by open source code, so no functionality can be lost.
If a host goes down or someone's device becomes disconnected or unreachable, its data
simply freezes for everyone that had a copy, it doesn't vanish. You don't need exports
of data that are already owned by us and out in the open for everyone (permitted) to
see! There are no arbitrary data formats, only shared, common, open standards.
How that looks in practice
You download the Object Network app, Onex, and run it up. It says "Home" at the top.
There's a text prompt asking you to enter your name, so you enter "Sam". The title
changes to "Sam's Home".
There are some buttons - you recognise the one showing a capital "T" - which must be for
adding text, so you press it. Sure enough, up comes a text entry box, so you type "Hello
World". When done, a small panel appears, showing that text.
Another button looks like it's for images. Pressing it, you get to choose some photos
from your device. Soon your Home page is decorated with a handful of excellent photos.
In the process, you've worked out how to place things where you want them on the "canvas".
Now, your friend Charlie sees what you're up to and, intrigued, also downloads and runs
Onex. Soon she also has a Home page with text and photos.
Since you're both on the same wifi, each Onex discovers the other and another button
appears. Pressing it, you see "Charlie's Home", so you select that. Charlie gets a
prompt asking if she'll permit you to drop in, so she approves that. Now you can
see Charlie's Home page and all of its items, exactly as she sees it herself.
You can also see an item representing Charlie, and Charlie sees one for you. This seems
to be to enable you to know who you've given permission to collaborate on your stuff,
and are currently present there.
Seeing a great photo you'd like in your own Home, you try tapping at it. Up comes a
chooser with buttons, and one of them looks promising - it has one of those chain links -
so you hit that. A mini version of the photo appears along the bottom of the screen -
that seems to be an inventory of links to things that you can carry with you.
Hitting the back button, you end up back in your own Home, and find you can drag the
photo you've carried right onto it. With your approval, Charlie arrives in your Home to
see the effect.
She says "if only we could just go directly between our Home pages!" You have an
inspiration that links may help, so try tapping the background, and the panel comes up.
You grab a link to your Home page into your inventory, then go to Charlie's Home via the
menus. You try placing your Home from its little inventory picture on her Home, and it
appears right there, as a smaller representation!
You grab a link to Charlie's Home and go back to your own Home to tell Charlie. You put
the link to her Home onto yours. As you hoped, you can now go in both directions. You
share a few more photos and text messages.
In summary: we've created a shared space within which to share items including text and
photos between our devices, directly and instantly updating. There are no registrations
or log-ins, no adverts or anything else stopping us simply doing what we want with
our stuff. We get to decide exactly what we want to create, how it looks and
how to arrange it.
Object Network: freedom and empowerment
The Object Network builds freedom and empowerment for ordinary people right into its
The Object Network frees our live data from apps and services. Now, we are in complete
control of our own stuff, including our identity and profiles or personas. Everything is
hosted by us or by a choice of hosting services. We alone decide who can see, change and
delete our data. Data and their updates go the shortest route between our own mobiles or
servers, avoiding surveillance and censorship. Things update without constantly reloading.
The Object Network gives us "handles" on our data in the form of IDs or links to objects
that allow us to grasp them. We can share any objects we see using their links. We get
to decide ourselves how objects are organised and linked together. We can easily wire
together or make random lists of objects of quite different types that would once have
been locked away in multiple apps. Anything linked renders and interacts the same
regardless of the context in which it was placed; everything that is the same looks the
same and everything always works together as you'd expect. Objects we link to are live,
so we don't have to be programmers to make things interactive. We control of the shape
and behaviour of our live data. Objects are small and simple, and their behaviour can be
easily configured to suit us.
We can use links to wire all our data together in a global network. The Object Network
can thereby form a seamless cyberspace of all our interactive, interlinked data, private
and shared, including us. A space owned by no-one and by everyone, spanning the globe.
Find out more
As mentioned above, Onex is still under development. If you want to get involved as
an early adopter and tester, get in touch!
Duncan Cragg, 2023. Contact me