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Understanding Urbit

A New Computing Platform


Few software projects today share either the contemporary relevance or fringe mystique of the Urbit Operating and Identity System. As a highly secure personal server, Urbit aims to deliver on many of the ideas pioneered by the Cypherpunks, and, after nearly 20 years in development the platform has begun a phased launch. Urbit gives us persistent digital identity, a new benchmark for secure computing, and maybe even an open source response to more modern social computing platforms like WeChat and Kakaotalk.

In February of this year, Tlon, the main company developing Urbit, invited me to their San Francisco office to interview the team for a podcast series. During the three weeks I was there we recorded many hours of discussion.

This series is a collage of excerpts from those discussions. The episodes aim to introduce the philosophy of Urbit, establish the problems it is designed to address, explain the way the platform works, and relate it to the world through the lens of Bitcoin, Software as a Service, and the growth model of Silicon Valley startups.

We begin our journey with Urbit veteran Galen Wolfe-Pauley who introduces the project and its design principles while reflecting on the collective Stockholm syndrome we suffer in the grasp of existing computing models.