Small team aims high

$7 million sought by crowdfunding campaign for native JVM in browsers

Elliot Bentley

Client-side implementation is highest stretch goal in ambitious project to create new, free internet.

A crowdfunded project is promising to build a native JVM in the browser for $7 million. It is the highest stretch goal in an ambitious project to create a new, decentralized internet, where every household’s router acts as an Internet Service Provider.

Upliink, the group behind the project, say its ultimate goal is to “make internet acquisition a one-time hardware cost for end users in medium and high population density urban areas”. If the Indiegogo project reaches a minimum of $500,000 in pledges, they plan to produce a hardware device called the Upliink Aero. This is a wireless router that can daisy-chain with nearby devices to create a new, free internet where every device acts as an ISP. It’s also able to connect to regular pay-for internet, should no Aero boxes be nearby. The project’s ultimate aim is to provide cost-free internet access to the developing world, and a text-heavy ‘about’ page is decorated with images of a futuristic society and a generic smiling child. In addition to two hardware devices (the Aero and Aero Mini), Upliink are promising an iOS browser, with an Android implementation already submitted to Google Play for approval. If they raise over $2m, the team promise to update the Aero with “the next gen geo routing protocol that we have been working on”, while at $5m they will “publish an implementation of open cryptographic protocols so that anyone can participate in an anonymous and auditable market for computation”. With $7m – the highest stretch goal – Upliink will fork Chromium to add a native, client-side JVM. “Developers will be able to make web apps so fast and responsive, they will be nearly indistinguishable from native apps,” reads the promo text, promising that any code produced will be released under an unspecified open source license so it can be adopted by any browser. Specific details of how this will be achieved, however, are thin on the ground. The team claim that an initial implementation with the Netscape Plugin Application Programming Interface (NPAPI) has already been worked on. Unfortunately, NPAPI will be removed from Chrome in January 2014, with other browsers following shortly. Alternatives being considered include a port to (P)NaCL, a direct contribution to the Chromium project or a fork of Chromium itself. At the time of writing – 24 hours into the 52-day campaign – the Upliink Aero has raised a total of $36 from three individual backers. Considering that only one Indiegogo project has ever raised over $2m (the Ubuntu Edge), it seems likely that native Java in the browser will remain a pipe dream.
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