Onex is a radical new kind of mobile, desktop and embedded device operating system that
has no apps, instead giving us direct access to our digital property in a shared
cyberspace (or 2D and 3D virtual world) called the Object Network.
Having no apps means our data is no longer at the mercy of Big Tech, Technocrats, or
techies generally. They can no longer snoop at it, seize control over it or manipulate
us through it. Our data and our identities are no longer split into pools that are
isolated from each other in jealously-guarded walled gardens or "app traps", with only
inert export-import or copy-paste to link them together.
The Object Network is a "freedom space" - a space where we can all co-create, share and
link up our digital property. Our digital property on our own devices can be linked up
with the digital property on the devices of our friends and family.
In the Object Network, all of our digital stuff can exist seamlessly together and
we get to decide how our stuff interacts and interconnects, and who can see and
change the things we create on our own devices.
Note that Onex is not complete yet. All that follows is in the form of a proposal for
The Big Tech app trap
Big Tech apps 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.
We are allowed access to clumsy, inconsistent and unreliable snapshots of our 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 which means they also own and fragment our
identities. We often can't share our data in an app if the recipient doesn't already
have (yet another) account there.
Apps 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, subtly manipulating us. 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 and not censor, surveil
and control us, such as Telegram, Gab, Gettr, Brave, Presearch, 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. Further, much of their growth and user base has been driven by
left-right politics, which is a particular rollercoaster ride you may not want to take.
Maybe you've looked into "de-Googled" or independent, open mobiles and operating
systems, or even at dumbphones, in order to escape the apps of Big Tech.
No matter how open or trustworthy these all are they're still app traps: we still hand
over control because we're still stuck with the set of capabilities their techies give
us to access our data. They still operate as walled gardens, preventing our content
working together and scattering us and our stuff around the internet in separate pools.
Maybe you've got as far as investigating solutions that use blockchains, peer-to-peer or
decentralised approaches: apps based on Etherium or Tim Berners-Lee's SOLID, or social
networks like Mastodon and Briar. These aim to return sovereignty over your own digital
property and are heading in the right direction, but they still have an app-oriented
Digital property they've trapped
Think of all the app traps you have on your mobile. You have apps for: chat, social
networks, various article readers, weather, notes, photo gallery, contacts list and
todos, a calendar, a map, games, home automation, etc..
Our live digital property trapped in those apps includes: messages, posts,
conversations, replies, news, feeds, weather, notes, images, documents, presentations,
people and contacts, todos, events and calendars, locations, 3D items and IoT or home
automation device status.
Each of these only works with other data in the same app, unless we do inert snapshots,
sharing or copy-paste. Each one needs another account. Every app does many things the
same as every other app: you can create things, delete and update them, put them in
lists and re-order them. You can search. Maybe they have a map.
But all apps look and behave in subtly different ways, when doing these same things. And
of course one app's lists or links between items are completely isolated and
incompatible with another's. You can't plot multiple locations from more than one app
onto a single map: think how useful that would be!
Even within an app, you don't get to decide how things are listed or linked together.
You can't re-use a single todo in your todo app within another list in the same app
(e.g. "todos I'm doing today"), let alone across or between apps (e.g. a calendar event
in the calendar app with the todo items you'll attend to on that date).
The Object Network and Onex
The solution is to rebuild the tech stack - from the ground up! This means a new
operating system and technologies that build a new internet space.
Onex is a new open, peer-to-peer operating system and the Object Network is the new open
internet space it manifests.
The Onex operating system frees our digital property from app traps! But not as
snapshots or in an inert, exported form - it's the real live stuff: chunks of our
digital life, of all those types listed above.
These chunks are called "objects" in Onex and the Object Network. So a social posting is
an object, for example.
Any data or type of data, trapped in any app, can be a free object in the shared space
of the Object Network.
Onex makes it easy to create, share or publish objects of any of these types from right
on our own devices into the Object Network. You can either create whole new stuff, or,
if an existing app service has an open data port and is widely used, we can plug in to
that to allow you to interact with your trapped stuff right in the Object Network!
Onex lets you access both your objects on your own devices, as well as other's objects
on theirs. You can of course set various levels of permission over reading or writing to
your own objects. If we're both on the same home network, objects are shared directly
between us, not via a server far away, but if we are far apart, they travel the shortest
route, possibly via an Onex intermediary.
Your objects look and behave the same as mine, so everything works well together, unlike
in apps, where everything is custom and proprietary.
The Object Network space where all our stuff is shared is actually a tangible cyberspace
or "Metaverse"; a 3D space or virtual world. It is populated mostly by 2D social objects
such as those listed above. Rendering our freed objects in the Object Network with the
extra dimension brings that sense of "a shared space without app boundaries" intuitively
alive. Our daily interaction in this space is one of exploration as well as building
on each other's work.
But the Object Network is not a soup of objects floating around. It has structure. The
whole global 3D shared space of the Object Network is built from our objects "clicked"
together with links.
Each object we create has its own unique ID which is used as its link or handle to grab
it by and click it together with other objects. You can link any object to any other,
yours or your friends' and family's. Whether inside our own Onex or between Onexes,
links work the same:
Any object on any device can be linked up with any other. You can manage objects in
lists, which are also objects of course; they are lists of links to their contents. You
can create as many lists as you like of whatever objects you like, including other people's.
So a document links to a list of its paragraphs, a message links to its replies, a 3D
wall links to the next wall and the floor and ceiling, a chat conversation links to its
individual chat messages, a gallery to a list of its images, etc.
Say you create a message on your mobile shared with me and others. I now want to create
a reply; in Onex, this lives on my laptop, so I fully own and control it. To tie
these two objects together, we just need a link in each direction: a post links to its
replies, and the replies know the post they're replying to because they have a link back.
A link would be used by me, to fetch your message, by you, to fetch my reply, and by
anyone else's Onex to fetch both items to show them.
Links give you unprecedented control over what you can build along with others:
If you find a gallery owned by someone, you can grab a link to a picture you like and
embed it in a document you're writing. Then if you publish a social media post, you can
link to that same image and one of the paragraphs in that document, or to a single chat
message or a small list of related messages, posts or media. Blog posts link to their
author, to their images, to their comments, but can link to a forum thread right in the
middle. That forum may have posts in it that link to entire galleries. Short-form
posts can embed long-form articles and vice-versa. A list of blog articles is just a
news feed, but you can make your own lists, or interleave lists how you like. Everything
linked to is viewed embedded initially, then can be expanded.
The Object Network is like the Web, only significantly better. The Web's links point to
large, complex sites and pages, with highly technical code to animate them, hosted on
dedicated servers. The Object Network's links point to small, live objects hosted on our
own devices. Implementing chat in the Web is a huge task. Implementing chat in the
Object Network just entails creating live lists of post objects that comprise text and
media. The Object Network has built-in presence. All types of social media are native in
the Object Network, from large posts and private social networks, to very small public
posts. The Onex operating system still comes with a separate browser, however, so
you're never left completely without access to the old world.
Objects are live
In Onex, changes to objects are also shared directly and immediately with anyone
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 are resident in the Object Network space, as live objects with "presence". We
can be encountered as 2D personas or profiles, or as 3D avatars and can communicate
directly with others we meet.
Each object not only renders differently in the Object Network space, according to its
type, but also behaves differently. This is most apparent for how lists interact. A
chat list is quite a dynamic object for registering and notifying new messages on the
end only, but a document or gallery allows paragraphs and other embedded objects to be
moved around. We can configure the behaviour of any object by simply setting property
values on it.
In the Object Network, via the Onex operating system, we can easily create whatever
complex, dynamic functionality suits us, in collaboration with each other. We no longer
need to put up with what techies give us each year, to suit themselves not us.
How that looks in practice
Sam opens up his new Onex mobile device, holding it in landscape orientation, and is
presented with a bright white empty room, with faint gridlines on walls, ceiling and
floor. Sam instinctively swipes, and as expected, finds he can look around. Not much
It says "Home" at the top. There's a text prompt asking Sam to enter his name, so he
enters "Sam". The title changes to "Sam's Home".
There are some buttons on the left - Sam recognises the one showing a capital "T" - which
must be for adding text, so he presses it with his thumb. A small panel appears in front
of him on the wall ahead, with a text entry box, so he types "Hello World" and Enter. Now
Sam has his first text object, pinned to the room's wall.
Another button looks like it's a camera. Pressing it, he can take some photos, so he
grabs shots of the nearest plants and pets. Soon his Home walls are decorated with a
handful of excellent photos. In the process, he's worked out how to place things where
he wants them: just tap an object to bring up a floating choice panel, then select the
"move" icon and drag it into place.
Now, Sam's friend Charlie is also an Onex user, on a laptop. She also has a Home room
with text and photos.
Since they're both on the same wifi, each Onex discovers the other and another button
appears labelled "peers". Pressing it, Sam sees "Charlie's Home", so he selects that.
Charlie gets a prompt asking if she'll permit Sam to drop in, so she approves that. Now
Sam can see and explore Charlie's Home room and all of its items.
Sam can also see an object like a very simplistic avatar which represents Charlie, and
Charlie sees one for Sam.
Seeing a great photo he'd like in his own Home, Sam tries tapping at it. Up comes the
chooser with buttons, and one of them looks promising - it has one of those chain links -
so he hits that. A mini version of the photo appears in a region to the right of the
screen - that seems to be an inventory of links to things that he can carry with him.
Hitting the back button, Sam ends up back in his own Home, and finds he can drag the
photo he's carried right onto it. Charlie arrives into Sam's Home to see the effect,
with his approval of course.
She says "I wonder if we can put a link like that to our whole Home rooms, not just a
single photo? Then perhaps we could go directly between our Homes!" Sam tries tapping
the floor, and sure enough, the panel comes up. He grabs a link to his Home room
into his inventory, then goes back to Charlie's Home again, via the peers button. Sam
places his Home from its little inventory picture onto a blank wall in her Home, and
a simple entrance appears, through which Sam can see his own home!
Sam then grabs a link to Charlie's Home and goes through the entrance to his own Home.
Looking back, there's no entrance, which surprised him briefly, but then again, why did
he pick up the link to Charlie's Home if not to put it where the entrance should be?
It's up to Charlie whether to link to Sam's stuff, and up to Sam whether to link back.
As they both hoped, they can now go in either direction between each other's home
rooms - one on a mobile, the other on a laptop! They share a few more photos and text
In summary: they've created a shared space on their devices within which to share items
including text and photos between them, directly and instantly updating. There are no
registrations or log-ins, no adverts or anything else stopping them simply doing what
they want with their stuff. They get to decide exactly what they want to create,
how it looks and how to arrange it. Photos and text are shared directly and seamlessly
between them over their wifi, not via another country.
Yes, it can be a Metaverse and an Internet of Things, but...
Yes, the Object Network is a "Metaverse", but it's a Free Metaverse to Facebook's
controlling, closed, proprietary, walled-garden, silo'd, surveillance, censorship
and manipulation Metaverse! You don't need a VR headset or AR glasses, just a mobile
device or PC.
Yes, the Object Network can help you build an Internet of Things, but it's a free
internet of your things that only you can see and control, unless you choose to
You could send a link to your home thermostat object in your student house to your
parents and they could paste that into a 3D room they built so it appears on the wall
and they can check you're warm enough. No one is watching any of this apart from you -
the temperature information is sent directly between your houses encrypted.
There'd be only one identity or profile to manage for each of you, not an account each
for a virtual world and another each for the home automation system. Indeed, can you
imagine it ever being possible in the current approach to be able to view a thermostat
controlled by Google in a virtual world controlled by Facebook?
Object Network: freedom and empowerment
The Object Network builds freedom and empowerment for ordinary people right into its
Now, we are in complete control of our own stuff on our own devices, including our
identity and profiles or personas. We alone decide who can see, change and delete our
digital property, avoiding surveillance, censorship and manipulation. Data and their
updates go the shortest route between our own devices.
Object IDs or links allow us to grasp our objects, embed them and share them. We can
use these links to wire or click all our shared objects together into global structures.
And 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 objects.
The Object Network can thereby form a seamless cyberspace of all our interactive,
interlinked objects, 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, 2021. Contact me