Network Architecture

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Mass Mesh is building a distributed, peer-to-peer network. All of our mesh nodes contribute to the health of their neighborhood network by relaying traffic and/or providing public access to the network.

Networks -- The Basics

LAN vs. WAN (In a traditional Internet infrastructure.)

Everything we use on the Internet exists in a network. In fact, everything connected to the Internet probably exists in 'many' networks simultaneously. In general, a networked computer is connected to at least two networks: LAN and WAN. For instance, when you connect to a Chromecast in your living room, you connect your phone to the Chromecast over LAN. The Chromecast in turn streams content by accessing a content provider's servers (like Netflix) over WAN. A network can be a LAN and a WAN at the same time for different machines. If this is a little confusing, don't worry! It will start to make sense if you come talk about networks with us at our weekly meetups!

A mesh network is a special kind of computer network called a peer-to-peer (P2P) network. Among other features, P2P networks are robust. If one attached device goes down, the network continues. This means that as long as your (the neighborhood captain’s) node doesn’t go down, the neighborhood will remain connected to the Internet. Larger neighborhood networks may want to obtain multiple connections to the Internet in order to have an even more resilient connection.

Neighborhood Networks

All the traffic on a Neighborhood Network is encrypted.

The organizing unit of Mass Mesh is the neighborhood network. Each neighborhood network is a wireless mesh network of homes, and is free to use their network however they see fit. The most common use-case for a neighborhood network is to purchase Internet bandwidth collectively (for significant cost-savings.)

Note: Members of a 5-home neighborhood network can expect to pay less than $30 per month for 200Mbps or more bandwidth.

Neighborhood networks are owned locally by the participants – that’s you! Each home in a neighborhood network is responsible for obtaining and running hardware available through Mass Mesh in order to participate in the network. Mass Mesh’s install and support team is also available to provide ongoing support for the network.

By starting a neighborhood network, you take control of a small part of the communications infrastructure you use every day, and become part of the grass-roots alternative to corporate Internet access. Over the last two decades, giant corporations like Comcast, Verizon, and AT&T have wrested control over the vast majority of our communications infrastructure. Because their sole aim is to extract a huge profit from their subscribers, they haven't invested in expanding access for all or maintaining a competitive level of service – nor have they upheld the ethical mandates of respecting their customers’ privacy and upholding net neutrality. Mass Mesh is a response to this massive inequity and the design practices that created it. In addition to laying the groundwork for democratic network control, neighborhood networks are a great way to save money. A neighborhood network shares one “up-link” to the Internet, which means you can buy your bandwidth in bulk. When you start a neighborhood network, you could save yourself and your neighbors hundreds of dollars a year. That’s money that stays in your community – instead of being siphoned away by the cable giants.

To join your neighborhood network, or to start a neighborhood network by becoming the first mesh node host in your area, please attend one of our meetups or visit the Node Setup page.

Connecting To The Internet Through Yggdrasil

Generic VPN diagram. When you access the Internet through Yggdrasil, this is the same architecture that we use.

When you join a Neighborhood Network, all of your out-bound (non-mesh) traffic is tunneled through a VPN by default. While this doesn't necessarily mean that you will enjoy immunity from DMCA, (i.e. still use protection when torrenting!) it does mean that your identity will be slightly more obscured to advertisers, etc. The "VPN Provider" in the diagram on the left is known as a "Gateway Operator" on our network.

Your neighborhood network is a mesh network, which basically means that it is a totally seperate network from the Internet. In order to securely access familiar Internet websites from within your neighborhood mesh network, you must connect to a secure Internet gateway. The Internet gatway is simply a high-performance computer in a data-center somewhere that is connected to your mesh network and the rest of the Internet. By accessing the Internet through a gateway, you maintain a higher level of privacy through encryption and enjoy some of the benefits of using a VPN.

There are several active gateway operators on our network. You can get in contact with them in the Mass Mesh Gateway Hosts chat channel. The gateway operator has a lot of power. They can turn off Internet access for any/all of their clients. If you have a dispute with a neighbor, like a neighbor that refuses to pay, or is using the network unfairly, you can report them to your gateway operator for removal. Please use great care when doing this, as it’s a pretty extreme measure.

The Global Yggdrasil Network

Generic VPN diagram. When you access the Internet through Yggdrasil, this is the same architecture that we use.

Yggdrasil has many unique properties. One is that Yggdrasil nodes can mesh with one another 'over traditional Internet infrastructure.' This means that if you plug your mesh node into a cable modem that has service, you can mesh with anyone else connected in a similar fashion. The importance of this cannot be over-stated. Firstly, this means that all your communication with those nodes is encrypted. Secondly, this means that you can access or host in-mesh services that are accessible to people all over the world before our physical network grows to cover it.

For a list of public services on the Yggdrasil network, please visit their website.(If you are not running Yggdrasil on your computer or accessing the Internet through an Yggdrasil node, you will not be able to access any of these services.)