What's next for Earthstar?

Earthstar is well into its second year of funded development, thanks to the generous support of NLnet.

This year we've already added automatic peer discovery and sync over LAN. We're aiming to have the following done for the beginning of 2024:


Earthstar currently only has two levels of access restriction: read or write. These privileges are granted by knowledge of a share's public and secret key, respectively. Such knowledge is obviously non-revocable, meaning that leakage of either of these keys means a share is permanently compromised. Not good.

Enter capabilities. These are unforgeable tokens which bestow either read or write access to the owner of a public key, restricted to a certain path ranges, time ranges, and more.

These capabilities will make Earthstar's shares far more resilient to misbehaviour and key leakage, and allow universally moderated p2p spaces.

Improved deletion

Earthstar allows documents to be overwritten with empty contents, effectively deleting them. However the metadata of this document remains, including a timestamp, author, path, and cryptographic signatures. That these details remain can be undesirable in many contexts.

The next version of Earthstar will introduce prefix deletion. If you have documents secrets/mayo_and_peas and secrets/not_really_a_black_belt, writing a later document at sec (a prefix of both) will delete both of them in their entirety, leaving only a single document behind at sec.

This not only preserves privacy, but space, too!

Partial sync

Right now when peers sync, they sync everything within a share. The next version of Earthstar will be able to perform a partial sync, syncing only the specific region(s) of a share a a peer is interested in.

Super efficient sync

Last year we added a new form of efficient synchronisation based on range-based set reconciliation. This year we will adopt a new protocol which builds upon this technique and introduces further efficiencies, to the point where peers can communicate resource budgets. Long story short, it will be theoretically possible for Earthstar to run on microcontrollers and other devices with very limited resources.

Willow protocol

All of these above features are enabled by the new Willow General Purpose Sync Protocol we've been working on. It's a new protocol inspired by Earthstar, refining and building upon its concepts. We will be publishing a new website with complete specifications for this protocol.