Several people from CommerceNet attended CodeCon last weekend for varying amounts of time. The Wheat project, which we’ve contributed to, presented on Sunday and got a very good audience reception; Walter Landry of ArX, a variant of the GNU arch revision control system, presented a fascinating table of comparisons between the different free-software decentralized revision-control systems.

Decentralized source-code revision-control systems are at an interesting intersection; they allow any person to modify a piece of software with total independence, while facilitating their cooperation with others as much as possible. Historically, distributed systems have often achieved cooperation at the expense of independence, and this has limited their size or resulted in unfortunate social problems. Rohit Khare, the Director of CommerceNet zLab, wrote his doctoral thesis on architectural styles that support this intersection of cooperation and independence, and that area has been the focus of zLab.

ArX, along with several other projects presented at CodeCon, are at the forefront of real-world advances in this area: ApacheCA, a CA that makes trust decisions based on the GnuPG/PGP web of trust; OTR, an extension for instant messaging clients that provides cryptographic privacy for conversations without depending on third-party privacy infrastructure; and i-brokers, an Identity Commons/2idi project to develop a decentralized naming system for people on the internet.

I really appreciated the opportunity to spend a weekend with the people who are already doing the things that CommerceNet, so far, only dreams about.