Learn about Capyloon, a resurrected version of Firefox OS built on top of the decentralized web technologies like the IPFS protocol.
Building an Open Source OS
When it comes to the decentralized web, we tend to focus on the web apps built on top of IPFS. But what about the other ways we interact with the web?
Capyloon founder Fabrice Desré has been a Senior Staff Engineer at Mozilla since 2010. One of the major projects he has worked on is Firefox OS. Firefox OS was an open source operating system released in 2013 and positioned as an affordable alternative to Android phones. Several companies offered Firefox OS smartphones, including alcatel, ZTE, and LG. But faced with stiff competition from Apple, Google, and others, Firefox OS was discontinued in 2016.
Firefox OS continued to live on as Boot2Gecko (B2G) and eventually found a new home in KaiOS. As Chief Architect, Fabrice continues his work to bring an open source mobile OS to users, but this time with a focus on emerging markets. KaiOS devices are unique in that they use keypads rather than touchscreens, making them much more affordable (phones start at $10).
The Birth of Capyloon
This idea of restricting users and developers to specific tools and permissions never sat right with Fabrice. As time went on he began working on an OS that would power mobile web apps while putting privacy and user control first. He decided to leverage the IPFS protocol, and it was at IPFS Thing in Reykjavik where Fabrice met the Fission team. There he learned about UCANs and WNFS and how they can enable decentralized identity encrypted at rest file storage, respectively. He integrated those tools into the OS, and Capyloon was born!
Today, Capyloon is an experimental user agent for desktop and mobile devices. There are builds available for some Android based devices and Linux phones, as well as a desktop simulator for easy front end development.
Since it uses much of the FirefoxOS/B2G framework we discussed previously, it is truly a native Web OS. This means that dapps don't need to start from scratch with a backend - they can leverage the power of the Web to carry out a lot of tasks. After that, it becomes a matter of looking at APIs and seeing what needs to be exposed to enable complete functionality.
Privacy - Users shouldn't have to go through a platform or service to interact with their data. If you want to share photos from your recent trip with a friend, you shouldn't have to go through Instagram to do it. We should be able to share our files easily, control access to those files, and move them from app to app without any barriers.
Untangling Data + Data Processing - Data and data processing are too intertwined. Instead of our data living in silos that we can't easily move, why not bring the computation processes to the data where it should live, with the user? This local-first edge computing approach is a key difference in Capyloon's approach when compared to other operating systems.
Task-Based Approach - There are so many apps out there that do similar things, but they each solve their problems a little differently. But how often do we get exposed to these alternatives when we are stuck inside an operating system's proprietary ecosystem? Centralized app stores control what you can run on your device, distribution, discovery, and payments accepted. These restrictions limit innovation and make it easier for countries to censor apps.
Instead of a platform-based approach, Capyloon opts for a task-based approach. It determines what you are trying to do and then suggests a few web apps to help you do it. For example, if you are trying to travel from Santa Fe, New Mexico to Reno, Nevada, Capyloon will offer a variety of map apps to help you do that. This works similar to Android Intents, and it's a good example of how Capyloon is putting the user's experience first and creating a permissionless interface - one that doesn't rely on a centralized app store or a search engine to rank different apps according to its algorithm.