The long road to freedom.

8th November, 2014 — Aral Balkan Phone: current iteration of the industrial design

A little under a year ago, a conference in Cardiff was interrupted by a message from Eric Schmidt, Executive Chairman of Google. Looming before the audience of several thousand web designers and developers, Eric told the audience: “if you have something you don’t want anyone to know, maybe you shouldn’t be doing it in the first place”.

An uncomfortable silence and the sound of crickets followed, only to be shattered by the loud, defiant drumbeat of a familiar Twisted Sister song.

That’s how, at Handheld 2013, we launched

And declared independence.

That day, we told the spyware companies of Google, Facebook, and their ilk that we weren’t going to take it anymore. Their business of treating human beings as quarries to be mined, lab rats to be studied, and as products to be sold erodes our human rights and the very fabric of our democracies. It’s simply not acceptable.

We also announced our antidote: making independent alternatives that don’t spy on you, starting with an independent phone, operating system, and cloud. These would rival their spyware counterparts in convenience and experience while giving you, the individual, ownership of your technology and control over what you share and what you want to keep to yourself.

A lot has happened since.

Understanding the problem

The intervening eleven or so months gave us time to study and understand the problem in depth and to form a plan of action and draft a roadmap.

While I initially called what we wanted to build “an independent cloud”, I came to realise that that is an irreconcilable contradiction of terms.

Clouds are a symptom of the Web. They are the reason we have grey skies above today. Clouds have a client/server architecture; they’re merely decentralised. Decentralised systems do not lack centres, they merely have many centres and are prone to centralisation.

The Web is a prime example of how a decentralised system can coalesce into a centralised one. Monopolies arise in a decentralised system when there are economies of scale to be had from vertically scaling the centres. It was always clear to me that what we need are distributed alternatives; topologies without centres that can grow and become monopolies.

What became clearer in the past few months is that, just as we have to move beyond the clouds in topology, we also have to move beyond the clouds in our vernacular and broaden the bounds of our thinkable thought.

It’s time to move beyond the clouds

Stratosphere is our ongoing mission to move beyond the clouds. We are creating an independent platform where you (and your friends) are the network. Your network.

This network of networks is what we call the Indienet.

When the phone is ready, it will simply be the most beautiful way to experience and participate in this independent platform.

Independent means independent

When we say independent, we mean independent. We don’t mean “we get 90% of our revenue from Google” independent. We mean “we will not be sponsored by spyware” independent. We don’t mean “we just took venture capital” independent. We mean “we reject venture capital and we’ve set up a company limited by guarantee where there are no shares and we couldn’t take venture capital even if we wanted to” independent.

When we say independent, we mean independent.

The road ahead

So, in 2015, we will focus on building the Indienet with Pulse, Heartbeat, and Waystone

This doesn’t mean that our ultimate goal has changed. It just means that we now have a viable roadmap for how to get there.

If we want to compete in the long-term with the likes of a Google Nexus phone, we must eventually, like Google and Apple, have control over the hardware, software, and services that comprise the experience. Without that control, we simply cannot hope to complete just as a company that makes engines cannot hope to compete with a company that makes cars. One’s making a component, the other, a consumer product.

But we have to start somewhere.

And this is where we are starting.

We have a long road ahead and we are prepared to walk it.

And I hope that we can count on you to walk alongside us and to give us your support as we launch our crowdfunding later today.