Ian Clarke: The designer of Freenet outlines his plans for the controversial software

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TO SAY THAT Ian Clarke, 23-year-old Irish designer of the hotly debated Freenet software package, has raised some political tumult across the Internet landscape the last few weeks is an understatement. Freenet, appropriately named, makes it possible to anonymously access and swap any form of information from music and video to application code and its data. The idea boldly challenges almost any copyright law one can think of. Clarke spoke with InfoWorld Editor at Large Ed Scannell about his intentions for the software, its capabilities, and similar products now in the marketplace, such as Gnutella.

InfoWorld: What are you hoping to accomplish with Freenet?

Clarke: I am trying to create a situation on the Internet where people have total freedom of speech with no form of censorship whatsoever. The way Freenet achieves that is by providing anonymity to both producers and consumers of information and also those storing the information on their servers.

InfoWorld: You must be expecting the mother of all battles with this, given that you are flying in the face of every copyright law known to man.

Clarke: I am expecting to win. There is no way for them to attack us. The system has been designed from the ground up, so it has no central kind of administration or government which can be attacked. Even I do not control the system. The system is a collection of computers all running the Freenet software, which cooperates to create the Freenet network.

InfoWorld: How is the program architected? Where does it reside?

Clarke: The software resides on the PCs of users. Initially you get the software from our site or a friend and download it to your PC. Your PC then becomes part of the network, an equal part of the network provided that you have a permanent Internet connection.

InfoWorld: You designed this yourself?

Clarke: I designed it myself, but quite a few people have helped me write the software. There are about 24 developers in total. Two other main guys involved [are] Arthur Sandberg and Brandon Wiley, who have done a lot of development particularly recently as I have been doing a lot of interviews. I designed it myself, but it was written in a distributed way on the Internet, much like Linux.

InfoWorld: How might this help the open-source code movement being spearheaded by Linux, or vice versa?

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