Paper Review:
Freenet: A Distributed Anonymous Information Storage and Retrieval System

Reviewer: Robert Dugas


Although numerous distributed file-sharing application have been developed, none provide anonymity for both information providers and consumers.


The freenet system represents an attempt to implement an anonymous distributed file sharing system without prohibitive overhead for storage and retieval operations.

Main Ideas

  • Stores data according to lexical hashes of document keys
  • Replicates information along path of retrieval to help ensure greater availability
  • Peer-to-peer architecture protects identity of requestors and privders of information
  • Critique

    Freenet represents one of the first implementations of a viably effective distributed file-sharing system. Although no particularly innovative algorithms are presented the combined aspects of Freenet's architecture represent an effective and robust means of achieving the system's goals.

    Freenet seems to have succeeded in spite of the methodology behind its creation, rather than because of it. Testing and analysis of performance characteristics seems to be just now taking place after implementation rather than during design and planning.

    The primary limitation, admitted but not fully addressed in the paper, is the flat namespace of the file system.Information providers must produce globally unique identifiers on their own through trial and error before successfully storing new information. In addition, the system has few provable bounds on performance in general. Finally, while much emphasis is placed on the anonymity provided by Freenet, the authors admit to the system's vulnerability to concerted attack.

    The primary lesson of freenet is that distributed, relatively anonymous, peer-to-peer file sharing is a feasible endeavor.