I talked a little bit about the new plan for Operator post-Kickstarter, but I wanted to discuss more in depth what the new vision is going to be.
The idea behind Operator has always been targeted interventions against Internet censorship. Most of the work in censorship circumvention has focused on general purpose tools. This approach has created tools like Tor and PGP. They’re good tools and they’re very useful. However, when making a totally general tool you make design tradeoffs that limit how effective and usable it can be for a specific use case. I think that we can do better if we develop more narrowly targeted tools.
The Operator news reader was the embodiment of this idea, a news reader which just works even if you’re on a network which is blocking access to news. The state-of-the-art crypto is in there, the cutting edge protocol obfuscation technology is the core of the application. However, by focusing on just reading news, the user experience can be simplified. There is no need to configure proxies or install and manage processes that run in the background. To the user it just looks like a normal news reader.
News was the first application that I wanted to make resistant to Internet filtering, but it’s just one of many. Mail could work better if you had a dedicated email client for encrypted email rather than trying to take a generalize purpose email client and make it secure by installing and configuring plugins. Wikipedia could be made to work on networks that block access to certain articles. Twitter would be enabled where it is currently blocked. Every censored Internet service could be augmented with an censorship-resistant one.
In addition to targeting specific services, I also want to address the needs of specific user groups. Apps should be localized to fit the needs of the users. For each application, we should focus on distributing it to the users that actually need it, which includes prioritizing language translations to the most relevant ones.
So the purpose of the new Operator is to engage in tactical interventions against instance of Internet censorship as they occur. We’ll tailor what application we develop to what’s going on the world, whether it’s news, mail, or any other form of communication over the Internet.