The Object Network
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: 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.

You can't trust alternative services

We could switch to alternative services that promise to behave, such as Telegram, Gab, Gettr, 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.

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 of reach.
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 technical ability.
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 intermediary.

Publishing and interacting in the Object Network with Onex

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 others.
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 self-hosting?
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.

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.

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 design.
Now, we are in complete control of our own stuff, including our identity and profiles or personas. 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.
Links allow us to grasp our objects, embed them and share them. We can share any object we see using those IDs as links. We can use these links to wire all our shared objects together. We get to decide ourselves how they are organised and linked together.
And things update without constantly reloading: objects we link to are live, so we don't have to be programmers to make things interactive. Also, objects are small and simple, and their behaviour can be easily configured to suit us; we are in complete control of the shape and behaviour of our live data.
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!
Discover how you would use the Object Network in your daily life.
Go here for a list of many more broader and deeper articles and presentations.

Duncan Cragg, 2021. Contact me