Paper Airplane and Web Operating Systems

I've got a few posts in the works, but reading Brad Neuberg's blog post this morning on HyperScope has got me itchy to mention one of my pleas to the folks creating web operating systems. It was Brad's reference to Paper Airplane that has made me lose my patience. Paper Airplane is a JXTA-based project to allow anyone to serve up web content without a web server.

Paper Airplane is a Mozilla plugin that empowers people to easily create collaborative P2P web sites, without setting up servers or spending money. It does this by integrating a web server into the browser itself, including tools to create collaborative online communities that are stored on the machine. Paper Airplane Groups are stored locally on a user's machine. A peer-to-peer network is created between all of the Paper Airplane nodes that are running in order to resolve group names and reach normally unreachable peers due to firewalls or NAT devices.

Parts of Paper Airplane have been modularized into the P2P Sockets project, a reimplementation of standard Java sockets on top of Jxta and ports of standard web servers, servlet engines, etc. to run on top of a peer-to-peer network. P2P Sockets is at a 1.0 beta level, while Paper Airplane development is just beginning. Paper Airplane code will be posted to this site as it is developed.

See the demo screencast of Paper Airplane in action to get a quick overview.

Well, the Paper Airplane demo is starting to look pretty good. The bee in my bonnet is telling me to try to reach those Web OS folks, namely YouOS and Parakey, and make sure they aren't leaving this great research on the side of their efforts.

It must be among the key objectives of a Web OS to provide a programming layer, core set of services, and guided user interface paradigms. Decentralized hosting is fundamental among that set of services as it is completely necessary for privacy, reliability, and ease-of-use. To require centralized hosting, that is, to fail to provide for all users to be service and content providers, would be an devastating sin.

Expect more on this topic from me soon.


  1. Hi there Jadon; Paper Airplane was a research project from 2001 through 2004, and isn't ongoing anymore. The goal was to explore an alternative version of the web through thought experiments and prototypes. It produced the final research report you saw on the web (perhaps sucked through HyperScope as well), as well as a prototype of the P2P network itself, with the P2P Sockets project at http://p2psockets.jxta.org (now run by someone else), and the Firefox plugin prototype at http://paperairplane.us


  2. By the way, all the code and ideas I produced in the project are open source, so you are free to adopt and use them.

  3. Thanks Brad, I didn't realize it had been completed so long ago. I've played a bit with P2P Sockets, though not Paper Airplane (yet), but I was very impressed with the demo. Hopefully new browser and "WebOS" efforts can leverage this work to eliminate the need for dedicated web servers. I've got a tiny JavaScript-based experiment on top of P2P Sockets and Rhino that I hope will produce some results I can share here soon.

  4. Hey Jadon, can't wait to see the results of your P2P Sockets + JavaScript experiment.

    About the Paper Airplane prototype plugin, I'm not sure if it runs anymore; it used an older version of the Mozilla XPI installer manifest, which needs to be brought up to date. P2P Sockets has aged a bit too. It might be fun to see how well it all works today, about 2 years from when it was released.