Contrail: Enabling Decentralized Social Networks on Smartphones

  • Patrick Stuedi ,
  • Iqbal Mohomed ,
  • Mahesh Balakrishnan ,
  • Rama Ramasubramanian ,
  • Ted Wobber ,
  • Doug Terry ,
  • Z. Morely Mao

MSR-TR-2010-132 |

UIST '09 Proceedings of the 22nd annual ACM symposium on User interface software and technology

Mobile devices are increasingly used for social networking applications, where data is shared between devices belonging to different users. Today, such applications are implemented as centralized services, forcing users to trust corporations with their personal data. While decentralized designs for such applications can provide privacy, they are difficult to achieve on current devices due to constraints on connectivity, energy and bandwidth. Contrail is a communication platform that allows decentralized social networks to overcome these challenges. In Contrail, a user installs content filters on her friends’ devices that express her interests; she subsequently receives new data generated by her friends that match the filters. Both data and filters are exchanged between devices via cloud-based relays in encrypted form, giving the cloud no visibility into either. In addition to providing privacy, Contrail enables applications that are very efficient in terms of energy and bandwidth.