Nightweb is Discontinued

By Zach Oakes on March 31st, 2014

Exactly one year ago, I released Nightweb, an anonymous social network. Today, I am officially halting development. I haven't been actively working on it for months, other than minor updates, but I always held out hope that I would get the motivation to continue. I didn't completely decide to stop until a few weeks ago.

I had a great launch on HN, topping the front page all day long, so I can only blame myself for the lack of interest afterwards. It's notable that I never received any pull requests other than for translations (which I am very grateful for). If I can't even interest other programmers, how can I expect to interest normal people?

Of course, it's an esoteric kind of project (anonymous networking) written in an esoteric language (Clojure), so perhaps that shouldn't be a surprise. It was also frustratingly slow, and sometimes wouldn't retrieve new posts at all. BitTorrent over I2P is a tad bit more fragile and high latency than HTTP over a direct connection.

Ultimately, though, it may have still succeeded if there was interesting content. One weakness in the design is that there was no discoverability; you only saw content from users you favorited, who you must find elsewhere out-of-band. To make matters worse, I made no effort to seed the client with interesting content by default.

One final issue is that it really didn't do much. All it supported was writing posts and attaching photos. I eventually wanted to add support for attaching any files, no matter the type or size. I was already using BitTorrent to retrieve posts, so it was a logical next step. Maybe turning it into a full-fledged anonymous file-sharing network would've given people a reason to use it.

I have adored cryptography and steganography since high school, and they are the original reason I became a programmer. My first publicly released software was a Firefox extension for steganography called FireSteg. Three years later I released a JavaScript equivalent called PixelJihad. A year after that, I released Nightweb.

I'm proud of Nightweb and I don't regret the time I put into it, but for now, I'm too burnt out to continue. However, I'll still be working on Nightcode, my Clojure IDE, and play-clj, my Clojure game library. I encourage everyone to use I2P and contribute to the people behind it, whose work made Nightweb possible.