What is Zot?
Zot is the protocol that powers Hubzilla, providing three core capabilities: Communications, Identity, and Access Control.
The functionality it provides can also be described as follows:
- a relationship online is just a bunch of permissions
- the internet is just another folder
Zot is a revolutionary protocol which provides decentralised communications and identity management across the grid. The resulting platform can provide web services comparable to those offered by large corporate providers, but without the large corporate provider and their associated privacy issues, insatiable profit drive, and walled-garden mentality.
Communications and social networking are an integral part of the grid. Any channel (and any services provided by that channel) can make full use of feature-rich social communications on a global scale. These communications may be public or private - and private communications comprise not only fully encrypted transport, but also encrypted storage to help protect against accidental snooping and disclosure by rogue system administrators and internet service providers.
Zot allows a wide array of background services in the grid, from offering friend suggestions, to directory services. You can also perform other things which would typically only be possibly on a centralized provider - such as "Wall to Wall" posts. Private/multiple profiles can be easily created, and web content can be tailored to the viewer via the Affinity Slider.
You won't find these features at all on other decentralized communication services. In addition to providing hub (server) decentralization, perhaps the most innovative and interesting Zot feature is its provision of decentralized identity services.
Zot's identity layer is unique. It provides invisible single sign-on across all sites in the grid.
It also provides nomadic identity, so that your communications with friends, family, and or anyone else you're communicating with won't be affected by the loss of your primary communication node - either temporarily or permanently.
The important bits of your identity and relationships can be backed up to a thumb drive, or your laptop, and may appear at any node in the grid at any time - with all your friends and preferences intact.
Crucially, these nomadic instances are kept in sync so any instance can take over if another one is compromised or damaged. This protects you against not only major system failure, but also temporary site overloads and governmental manipulation or censorship.
Nomadic identity, single sign-on, and Hubzilla's decentralization of hubs, we believe, introduce a high degree of degree of resiliency and persistence in internet communications, that are sorely needed amidst global trends towards corporate centralization, as well as mass and indiscriminate government surveillance and censorship.
As you browse the grid, viewing channels and their unique content, you are seamlessly authenticated as you go, even across completely different server hubs. No passwords to enter. Nothing to type. You're just greeted by name on every new site you visit.
How does Zot do that? We call it magic-auth, because Hubzilla hides the details of the complexities that go into single sign-on logins, and nomadic identities, from the experience of browsing on the grid. This is one of the design goals of Hubzilla: to increase privacy, and freedom on the web, while reducing the complexity and tedium brought by the need to enter new passwords and user names for every different sight that someone might visit online.
You login only once on your home hub (or any nomadic backup hub you have chosen). This allows you to access any authenticated services provided anywhere in the grid - such as shopping, blogs, forums, and access to private information. This is just like the services offered by large corporate providers with huge user databases; however you can be a member of this community, as well as a server on this network using a $35 Rasberry Pi. Your password isn't stored on a thousand different sites, or even worse, only on a few sites like Google and Facebook, beyond your direct control.
You cannot be silenced. You cannot be removed from the grid, unless you yourself choose to exit it.
Zot's identity layer allows you to provide fine-grained permissions to any content you wish to publish - and these permissions extend across Hubzilla. This is like having one super huge website made up of an army of small individual websites - and where each channel in the grid can completely control their privacy and sharing preferences for any web resources they create.
Currently, the grid supports communications, photo albums, events, and files. This will be extended in the future to provide content management services (web pages) and cloud storage facilities, such as WebDAV and multi-media libraries. Every object and how it is shared and with whom is completely under your control.
This type of control is available on large corporate providers such as Facebook and Google, because they own the user database. Within the grid, there is no need for a huge user databaseon your machine - because the grid is your user database. It has what is essentially infinite capacity (limited by the total number of hubs online across the internet), and is spread amongst hundreds, and potentially millions of computers.
Access can be granted or denied for any resource, to any channel, or any group of channels; anywhere within the grid. Others can access your content if you permit them to do so, and they do not even need to have an account on your hub. Your private photos cannot be viewed, because permission really work; they are not an addon that was added as an afterthought. If you aren't on the list of allowed viewers for a particular photo, you aren't going to look at it.
Additional Resources and Links
For more detailed, technical information about Zot, check out the following links:
- A high level overview
- Zot development specification
- Zot reference implementation in PHP
Return to the Main documentation page