Early thoughts on Urbit

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Alex Atallah

How does the Urbit paradigm differ from blockchain-based decentralized apps (dapps)? Some initial thoughts after 2 days of Urbiting:

  1. Urbit is much more liberal about local filesystem access, going fully-permissive at the start. (Browsers, along with macOS in general, require users to specify which folders to give an app access.)

  2. Identity is tied not to your fund-holding wallet, but instead to your filesystem. This means that my private stuff is automatically tied to my identity, while dapps require special configuration for that (Merkelizing content hashes, etc.).

  3. Urbit is private by default, but allows users to opt-in to paid hosting, to improve UX. Dapps are public by default, but are often centralized to improve UX, with partial ability to opt-out.

  4. It seems like the developer interfaces for the 3 points above are all dependent on approval from Urbit (please comment if I'm wrong!). The dapps of today are dependent on collaboration between wallets like Metamask, browser companies like Google & Mozilla, blockchains, and off-chain storage systems.

One of the most pleasant experiences I had was setting up a simple, local-only blog using Studio, by Tirrel. The blog is powered by a Notebook on my Urbit (created by a different developer, Tlon), which allows me to easily port content to another blogging platform if I wish to in the future.

This freedom to exit (easy portability for user data) will be a huge principle to get right for web3, Urbit or not.

Comments and pushback welcome! (This post is also my test-drive of Paragraph.)

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