I've been aware of and fascinated by Urbit for a while. In 2017, Meher and I did an Epicenter podcast with Galen Wolfe-Pauly about Urbit. I recently listened to it again and it is great. I also bought a bunch of stars in 2018 and when we'd visit San Francisco, we'd always stop by Tlon's offices.
But Urbit was quite abstract. The vision resonated, but could it really work?
About a year ago, when Tlon started testing a hosting product, I became one of the first beta users. I have a planet running (~minwyc~dablen) and have been using Urbit a bit through the Landscape UI. So far it's pretty limited. I joined a few groups and have been messaging with a few people. It feels a bit like a calmer Discord alternative. It doesn't look like much. If you didn't understand what's underneath and what's ahead, you'd be astonished that this project started 20 years ago.
But as I've been following it from afar, my confidence has been growing. I'm starting to feel as confident about Urbit as I felt when I learned about Bitcoin and cryptocurrencies in 2013.
Here is one way to think about Urbit. Crypto is all about owning your own assets. Have more control over your own actions, data and communication. But most people will control their cryptoassets through a wallet on their phone. It's proprietary hardware, a closed-source operating system, a centrally managed app store. I use an iPhone, but it's really more Apple's phone than my own. And of the big tech companies, Apple is even the one that least encroaches on their users.
Do you feel like you own the computer you're using?
Urbit has rebuilt the computing stack around the user having full ownership. Crypto is top-down, Urbit is bottom-up. They will come together.
Urbit will be the computing stack that crypto is built on. And as the entire economy will be taken over by crypto, I think Urbit will become the primary computing platform overall.
Though, it's also interesting to ask what the intersection of crypto and Urbit will be. If everyone has a personal server that comes with cryptographic keys and an identity, probably that replaces some things that people today try to use blockchains for. It will not replace blockchains. It will work together seamlessly with blockchains. Urbit is very bullish for crypto. But Urbit will also profoundly change how crypto applications are built. At least, I think so. Though, I don't understand how at this point.
Urbit is coming. The future is bright.