Yggdrasil is a proof-of-concept to explore a wholly different approach to network routing. Whereas current computer networks depend heavily on very centralised design and configuration, Yggdrasil breaks this mould by making use of a global spanning tree to form a scalable IPv6 encrypted mesh network.
The following table illustrates high-level differences between traditional networks like the internet, and the Yggdrasil network:
|End-to-end encryption for all traffic across the network||No||Yes|
|Decentralised routing information shared using a DHT||No||Yes|
|Cryptographically-bound IPv6 addresses||No||Yes|
|Node is aware of its relative location to other nodes||No||Yes|
|IPv6 address remains with the device even if moved||No||Yes|
|Topology extends gracefully across different mediums, i.e. mesh||No||Yes|
The internet as we know it today doesn’t conform to a well-defined topology. This has largely happened over time - as the internet has grown, more and more networks have been “bolted together”. The lack of defined topology gives us some unavoidable problems:
These problems have been partially mitigated (but not really solved) through centralisation - rather than your computers at home holding a copy of the global routing table, your ISP does it for you. Your computers and network devices are configured just to “send it upstream” and to let your ISP decide where it goes from there, but this does leave you entirely at the mercy of your ISP who can redirect your traffic anywhere they like and to inspect, manipulate or intercept it.
In addition, wireless meshing requires you to know a lot about the network around you, which would not typically be the case when you have outsourced this knowledge to your ISP. Many existing wireless mesh routing schemes are not scalable or efficient, and do not bridge well with existing networks.
Yggdrasil takes a very different approach. Rather than just accepting that the internet is a sprawling conglomeration of unstructured networks connected together in an unstructured fashion, we instead arrange the routing scheme of the entire network into a global spanning tree.
A spanning tree has the following properties:
By arranging every device in such a way that they all agree on the same global spanning tree, we can do some things that we previously couldn’t do before:
By using a distributed hash table (DHT) to share routing information, this allows any single device on the network to find out enough information to route to another node, without depending on centralised infrastructure.
Cryptographic signatures are used when exchanging routing information between peers, such that the network can agree on the same candidate to be the global root and to lay out the coordinates of each node beneath it.
It should be efficient for the following reasons:
We believe that Yggdrasil should be able to scale to very large networks as a result.
Yggdrasil is currently an alpha project, early in development but actively maintained. Our expectation is that a future “beta” quality release should know enough to be compatible in the face of wire format changes, and reasonably feature complete. A “stable” 1.0 release, if it ever happens, would probably be feature complete, with no expectation of future wire format changes, and free of known critical bugs.
The true goal of this project is to test the scalability of the Yggdrasil routing scheme, therefore it needs as many participants to run and test the software as possible so that we can study the behaviour of the network as it grows. We’ve done our best to support as many platforms as possible and have a number of public peers that you can connect to in order to join the network, so please feel free to experiment.
The project is likely to reach a number of possible outcomes: