Urbit - a clean-slate OS and network for the 21st century

I’m wondering if anyone in the lines community has been involved with the Urbit project. Getting into this platform has been like rediscovering the internet for me and it aligns heavily with my view of the future of computing and social networks. I’m currently setting up an Urbit group for creative-coding and digital art practice if anyone is interested.

If you’re on Urbit, please DM me. I’d love to connect.

For those who don’t know about it: https://urbit.org/understanding-urbit/

I will say that its political origins are… complicated… but the developers and community have moved far past this blip in their history. On this note, I’m all for any discussion regarding ideology and computing, though this category is perhaps not the best place for this.

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I think there’s plenty you can do to not use MEGACORP software. Run OSS everything and self host what you need.

What really interests my about Urbit from skimming is the ID implementation. I mean, my bank still asks me for 3 random characters from a secret phrase as if thats security, 2FA not even offered. I want to be able to have something even more streamlined than the YubiKey to identify myself to anyone or anything in a secure way. Right now my self hosted bitwarden instance is up to 300 keys which is obscene just to remain secure - it’s a massive brain drain.

Two things stand out: written in C and blockchain. Using C in 2020 is not a good choice given its history and the availability of Rust. Blockchain … well I am still looking for a good use-case which can not be solved by a database. Also @jamesbradbury93 raised some good points. I do like the idea of encapsulating each application into a VM, but then we have a hypervisor, a guest OS, and finally urbit as the “overlay OS” which means a lot of complexity.


The idea here, however, is the unification of various systems to achieve a minimal computing experience (and eventually one accessible to those who aren’t technically inclined). This is achieved through their module system, which they also imagine can stand in as interfaces for various external platforms. As a practice in UX design, it’s a nice system.

I’m in 100% agreement.

Know that Urbit was created by Curtis Yarvin, also known as “Mencius Moldbug”. He is an extreme right-wing libertarian and very fond of writing things as offensively possible. He has had no reservation about including politics in Urbit - Creating an profile in the system demands your political affiliation be declared (or at least did originally - it was a while back that I explored it.)

I don’t believe that Urbit has actually moved beyond his political stances, only realized it is better to not make them prominent.

Full disclosure: Long ago I worked professionally with Curtis and one of the principal investors in Urbit, for several years. This was well before Curtis’ quirky personality became so odious. I have known these people a long time - and am very familiar with their technical skills.


I’m with you with regards to the C implementation. Rust is certainly the way to go nowadays. I think they realize this too and I imagine there will be some serious refactoring in the future. The blockchain is only used for the ID system, and I believe they’re planning to migrate from ethereum to their own system. None of the communication or synchronization is handled through the blockchain.

It’s true, it’s a lot.

Wow, thank you for posting. As I understand it, he is totally divested from the company and the political “declarations” you mention do not seem to be a part of it.

Would you say that the current team reflects his persuasions in any way? I was skeptical at first but so far I have been proven wrong. I’m certainly open to this being the case.

And to be clear, I am vehemently far-left and find this sort of thing disgusting and repulsive.


I mean everyone has politics. I find the world-dominating brutalism of Bill Gates and Jeff Bezos to be far more bloody. But Libertarians are a funny mindset, particularly since they’re conservative but call themselves liberals. Or I guess libertars.

Bigger point: Bill Gates is a repulsive evil that shouldn’t ever be forgiven for what he did to open source computing, and any effort to unglue his children (Mark Zuckerbot, etc) is welcome to me. Though I don’t know how this new OS is any different than other attempts at democratizing or freeing us from big data.

I’m actually inclined to think that, when it comes to operating systems, libertarians and liberal ideals may be fairly well-aligned. Not that this excuses the founder’s extremism, but if I have to choose between two operating systems where one is written by a large, monopolistic corporation and the other by a libertarian, I’d prefer the latter on an ideological basis.

That said, I currently run almost exclusively Apple operating systems on my personal computing devices, so I’m a bit of a hypocrite in that regard.

the philosophy alone seems really interesting & promising ! It’s the only decentralized project like this I’ve read about that privileges user experience, which I think is really important.

are they continuing to focus on browser technologies for the frontend or planning to roll their own UX toolset in the future ?

also, is the idea to run the OS on your PC and connect peer-to-peer, or install your own cloud server? (or both/ either ?)

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Sure - CEOs have politics, and often politics we don’t like… but they lead very large organizations that, as a whole, stay well in the middle, and generally try not to mix politics with their work. And sure, we often choose to hold our noses, and deal with those companies when convenient.

But there are examples like Chik-Fil-A and U-Line (and for many Walmart) where the founders/owners really are too much: I’m not buying chicken from a company lead by people that want to annul my marriage and take away my kids, no matter how tasty.

I think Curtis is far worse than that, as his own copious writings make plain. He is not a “liberal idealist” libertarian that will work for our common freedoms… He’s a “I don’t care if your kids have to work in a sweatshop” libertarian.

As for the crew behind Urbit - He left just 18 months ago - leaving his cofounder and other cohorts. I think if you could voluntarily work with likes of Curtis - for years - on an idealistic project - at the very least, you must abide his politics: It’s not like he keeps it secret or tones it down when “at work”. So sure, he may not be there, but crew is the same.

— = —

I was once intrigued by Urbit… only to first discover that the code is a smug pile of “NIH” ignoring, for no considered reason other than ignorance, decades of existing work in the very things it was attempting. And then I discovered Curtis behind it, which both explained the code - and raised very deep ethical concerns.

— = —

I will leave this here. I did feel it imperative to say what I said given what I know. But now that it’s said, I don’t want to detract from any future discussion here of the system on its merits.


I have little skin in the ‘new OS’ game and wasn’t planning on commenting, but as a millennial who grew up with access to chan boards, as a person who is an always has been extremely online (and is now a trans anarchist and as far left as one can go), it is no-joke W I L D to me that 1. Moldbug is still around, and 2. is trying to create something this intensely ambitious and… specific. I can’t even really describe what it was like to read this comment. This info is at once terrifying and hilarious.


I have to admit that my personal interest in this project stems from exactly that. I’ve been aware of this project since Moldbug himself introduced it and couldn’t get over the sheer audacity of it. Through the lens of my extreme politics, a piece of software was being built that literally represented everything I despised on a theoretical level. My relationship with Urbit is a sort of perverse “opposition research”.

But then there were major shifts in how it presented itself, Bug left, and then it somehow turned into a democratic platform. Whether that is remotely the case is something I am still working out.

thank you millions for introducing me to http://distributedweb.care


I’d like to acknowledge my naivety in bringing up this topic without putting the background and politics at the forefront of the discussion. Thank you everyone for correcting that oversight.


Hi all, I’m an interface designer working at Tlon, the primary company developing Urbit.

I’m happy to answer all and many questions about this system, about my personal hopes and dreams for building computers and an internet that are smaller, more easy to be reasoned about, and where people can grow communities of their own accord, versus dealing with the ‘grain’ of how the advertising-optimized is currently constructed.

I joined post-Curtis, and absolutely do not vibe or align myself with his political output, past or present — there are a good cohort of coworkers/peers who occupy a similar position as myself! I think we could be broadly categorized as more anarchist in bent, if you had to place us in a box :sunny:

I think the primary point of critique that’s generally top of people’s minds who find urbit unpalatable is the self-imposted limitation of 4billion “short-named” nodes in the system, which are meant to represent human-sized entities (from the individual, to the family, to the school, to the small business, etc.). It’s understandable that building a system with a limit of 4billion -short- named nodes is worrying, but similarly to how all 7 billion humans don’t each own cars, and travel in buses or planes or what have you, urbit nodes can be shared between small groups of friends, or families or such.

The other addressing of this concern is the plain fact that other ‘long-name’ nodes exist in the system, and number in the several hundred quintillion or so! Far more than the amount of people who will exist, very likely lol. You can think of these nodes as individual accounts as defined in any other p2p system, as a hash, but with a naming system overlaid across it. This is a case perfectly outlined by secure scuttlebutt (ssb), bittorrent, hypercore/dat, and really most p2p software out there.

I’m personally excited about urbit because it is a promise of a fresh start for how people can interact with computers. A lot of people’s misgivings with it are unfortunately mixed up with the dude who invented the undergirding opcode list and associated programming language, but his work has effectively been written over many times over at this point.

I’m happy to field any questions here about urbit or my involvement in it. I’m obviously here at lines because I love music lol, and i’m excited to bring musical capability to urbit eventually. Monome’s software and hardware are huge inspirations for me, personally.


Currently, the default user environment (frontend, basically) is established via web technologies — the idea is to further develop the technology such that it will no longer require web tech. The dream, of course, is for the computer to run on actual hardware, but that’s a ways out!

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Is that relevant though? @flower how do you respond to this?

Let’s assume the lower end, that $10/month is required for the routing services. If a star sells all of its planets and they remain under that star, that’s potentially another $650k in revenue per month. When we consider that Yarvin owns “a few percent of all stars” (which is thousands of stars)3, if Urbit does achieve widespread adoption, then that is a staggering amount of wealth. Yarvin’s nominal departure from Urbit does not change the fact that he stands to gain tremendously from its success.


Also related to this is : what’s the structure of the company behind Urbit? Is it a coop? Is it an association? I tried to find out by a quick search but it wasn’t clear. Obviously from your post @jasonw22 I gather that there’s a very real possibility for profitability but in what way?

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The simple (possibly too simple) answer to this question is that, like any service offering established in the world, one could choose not to purchase or operate or interact with infrastructure he owns.

I acknowledge this is a possibly naive outlook, but similar to how one can choose to buy from a local market vs. whole foods, one can choose to operate (and interact with) urbit infrastructure they recognize as being true to their beliefs/ideals.

This is obviously hard to do real due diligence on, but I do believe it will be possible.

While it goes without saying that -some- subset of folks out there will be fine and actively pursue purchasing network infrastructure/nodes from curtis, and he will inevitably profit off this subset, one of the primary points of urbit’s existence is that folks who don’t wish to interact with nodes involved in that sphere can choose to do so incredibly easily.

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