Irdest is a decentralised networking project aiming to create tools for the next internet. An Irdest network is created via the "Ratman" router, and other Irdest applications. Different devices can be connected together locally (via WiFi, ethernet, or long-range radio) or over the internet as a VPN-like network.
An Irdest network is independent of traditional computer networking. Irdest traffic can be routed via the existing internet, but creates its own address space and routing rules. An Irdest network does not use IP addresses!
Instead an address is a cryptographic key. This allows all network traffic to be encrypted and verified by default!
Because of the cryptographic nature of an address, a computer can also have many addresses registered at the same time. Different addresses can either be used for different applications or for different identities via the same application. There is no central authority for handing out addresses. Every computer self-generates new addresses as they are needed.
The Ratman router daemon is a program running on your computer that connects with other router instances and facilitates the exchange of messages by applications via direct links and intermediary routes. Importantly Ratman is not part of the kernel, which allows it to support a wider range of operating systems.
Connecting different Ratman instances together is done via
connection-specific "drivers". Each driver allows Ratman to connect
(or "peer") with other instances of Ratman. For example
allows Ratman to connect via the internet,
netmod-lora via a LoRa
wireless modem, etc.
Because Ratman is not part of your operating system specific
applications are needed to interact with the Irdest network. For this
Ratman provides a "client API" for registering addresses and sending/
receiving messages. A simple utility program called
included in every Ratman installation. Additionally there is a proxy
irdest-proxy which can be used to tunnel IP network
traffic through an Irdest network.
Irdest is a mesh network, which means that anyone on the network can communicate with anyone else by passing messages to participants in between you and your recipient. This also means that there is no central authority on how data is transported.
(While there are a lot of technical specifics to how this works, it can be useful to understand the basic principle of how data is routed through an Irdest network to understand what Irdest can and can't do.)
When registering an address Ratman starts announcing this address to other Ratman instances it is peered to. That set of routers can then send messages to the address, via the link the announcement was received on.
Any incoming announcement is forwarded (or "replicated") to any other Ratman instance (i.e. every connection except the one that the announcement was initially provided by).
This mechanism allows an address to (sooner or later) be known by the entire network without any centralised look-up authorities.
When sending a message to a particular address a router checks which connection the address was announced through, and then sends data in that direction. This is repeated by any intermediary router until the message reaches its destination!
This means that no single network participant can know the layout (or "topology") of the network!