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portal


information sovereignty for everyone


A Portal is a B2C cloud computer that a consumer can rent for a small monthly fee and which is as simple to use as a smartphone.

Its aim is to restore people's sovereignty regarding the data they consume and produce - to give them a home on the internet.

any device

Portal looks the same, no matter if its owner uses a smartphone, a tablet, or a desktop PC to access it. Any device can be paired, even if only for a short time.

data sovereignty

Since each Portal is a separate and isolated cloud computer, no one but its owner can access its data and apps. Spying and manipulation is prevented.

fully managed

The owner of a Portal is freed from tasks like making backups, installing updates or upgrading hardware. It is all done in the background.

diverse apps

Portal's app-store is open for third-party developers, opening the gates for a huge variety of app-ideas, replacing and extending many common tools.

always on

Portal stays on and online, even if its owner is not. That way, it can host content, share data or provide a platform for collaboration.

consistent identity

A Portal represents its owner on the internet. Its cryptographic identity can replace existing authentication methods like passwords while being more secure and transparent for the user.


Status

Portal is under active development.

A prototype that is suitable for showcases and demos was completed in early 2021. If you would like a demo, please write to contact@getportal.org.
In the next phase, the prototype will be refined into something for a limited first audience.
In the meantime, the search for funding and co-founders is ongoing.

Subscribe for:
important updatesan invite to the early betaan early-adopter goodie (tbd)fewer than one update per month, no spam!


WHY?

Today's internet is dominated by powerful platforms that provide their services at the cost of harvesting users' attention. This centralization not only goes against the internet's original design, it is actively harmful for individuals and society as a whole.

Unfortunately, this situation is supported and advanced by a complex web of circumstances including technical realities, human psychology, and economic incentives. We got dug in at a local optimum and need to look far out of the box if we want to leave it behind. We will not get out by the same way of thinking that trapped us in the first place.

For that reason, Portal's philosophy departs from current trends in significant ways:
Letting users pay directly eliminates the need for ad revenue.Giving each user their own piece of virtual hardware enables built-in privacy and ownership.Minimizing engagement makes Portal a tool for its owner, not the other way around.
The aim is to restore information sovereignty for everyone.


HOW?

Cloud computers have been a tool for professionals for some time. But until now, they never became a tool for the average computer-user. Portal is unlocking this tool for everyone.

A Portal is a single-user, personal cloud computer that is so easy to use that everyone can do it. It is not a single application or service but instead a platform on which applications are built. Think of a smartphone: it also is a platform that can be used for many things when the right app is installed. By that analogy, a Portal is like a smartphone in the cloud.

But although the Portal exists in a cloud, it is a truly private space. Unlike most cloud-services, there is a clear boundary between what is inside the Portal and under full ownership and control of its user and what is outside.
This ownership is based on the fact that the user pays for their Portal, between 5€ and 10€ per month for the basic version. The users are the customers and the only ones we are committed to. This allows us to make every development decision in service of the user. Most importantly, Portal is a completely ad-free experience and no user-data is sold or given to anyone.

Using a Portal is a liberating experience. Once a user activates it, it stays always-on and always-online and over time becomes the user's presence on the internet, their digital twin. The user's physical devices - smartphones, notebooks, etc. - are paired with the Portal and display its user-interface - and that of any apps that are installed on the Portal - but nothing more. The actual data and computing stay on the Portal.
This means that there is only one context that persists across all devices: the app that the user has opened, the page they are just reading, the video-call they are currently in. A user can switch between physical devices on the fly while continuously keeping their current context. Physical devices lose importance to a degree that users could even travel with only their phone and pair quickly and temporarily with any devices available at their destination.

With these properties, Portal can become the only computer that people need. A single point of contact between a person and all their digital matters. The Cloud as it should be. Computing as it should be.

There is much more to learn about Portal. Here are some more resources that go into more detail. If you have questions or find something confusing or missing, you can write at contact@getportal.org.


Learn more about the rationale and philosophy behind Portal.

learn more

Portal vs. Cloud vs. Device

Today, most of your applications either live on one of your owned devices or as a service in the cloud. Both models have pros and cons.
Portal is an owned device in the cloud, so it combines the advantages of both.

IssueCloudLocalPortal
Maintenance (backup, upgrade, etc.)fully managedresponsibility of the userfully managed
Availabilityanywhere, anytimetied to the deviceanywhere, anytime
Application Interoperabilityservices are mostly locked silosfilesystem as common exchange layerfilesystem as common exchange layer
Identityseperate accounts for each serviceuser identity on OS levelPortal is identity
Data Ownershipservice controls and often owns user datauser owns their datauser owns their data
Surveillanceservice often monetizes user datauser data kept save locallyuser data kept save on Portal

Pairing physical devices

Since the Portal is in the cloud and you cannot directly interact with it, they need some other way to access it: they pair their existing devices like Smartphones or Notebooks with the Portal which then become its Terminals, mirroring it in real-time.

This eliminates the need to sync data between devices or switch from one device to another for a specific task.
It also means that taking ownership of new devices is a breeze and disconnecting them as well.
This level of ease is transformative! Imagine traveling only with a smartphone and whenever you need a bigger screen and a real keyboard, you borrow or rent a suitable computer, pair it with your Portal, work in your own, familiar environment, and unpair after you are done.

So whereever a user happens to be, they can always have their familiar Portal, their digital home on the nearest screen.

Connecting with Peers

Social Media means to connect with others, whether through mutual contact or one-sided following. To achieve this with Portals, it is enough to enter another Portal's address or scan its QR-code from a paired Terminal. That establishes the other Portal as a peer and from now on, the two Portals can communicate securely with each other.

A user may also allow any of their apps to learn of their peers and and talk to them securely. So if two people have the same app installed, those two apps discover each other and can exchange data.
For any app-developer, this is a blessing! They are no longer weighted down by infrastructure questions like renting servers or implementing secure protocols. This leads to an accelerated development of quality apps.

Portal-Apps

Like a smartphone, the Portal has an app-store that allows a user to install apps on it. Some essential ones are provided by out-of-the-box, others by independent developers. All can be interacted with through any paired terminal. And they may talk to their counterparts on peers' Portals - if permitted.

These apps are installed on the Portal and run on the Portal. What is visible on the Terminals is only the user interface. This has some important implications!

For example, each app can see and control all terminals simultaneously. An app for phone calls can switch an ongoing call from a user's phone to their TV as they are arriving at home.

Apps can also keep running in the background even if no Terminal is currently in use. It could finish a large download or provide a file or web document to others.

Currently, we cannot even imagine in what creative ways developers will use these new capabilities.

Elements

The Portal architecture uses proven and established technology and arranges it in a new way. Here is a complete list of its elements and how we put them together to form a whole.
We start with a Portal's foundation: virtual private servers (VPS) like you can rent from IaaS providers. For each new Portal, we rent a new VPS and install only that single Portal on it.Our Portal software stack turns a normal VPS into a Portal. It is a collection of applications that run in the background on the Portal and enable all the features that are described below.The user's computing devices that they already own - smartphones, notebooks and desktop computers - are used to interact with the Portal.This is done by using the Terminal software in the form of mobile apps for Android and iOS or a web-app that runs in your browser. They allow people to use the device as a Terminal, our word for a Portal's remote control.Portal and Terminals communicate through secure connections. They are created by a pairing process which can be as simple as scanning a QR-code.Two users can also pair their individual Portals as peers, which establishes a similar secure connection. This is the foundation for messaging, calling, file sharing, collaboration etc.The Portal comes with an app store from which users can install apps that are executed on the Portal. The app store is open to 3rd party developers.Each Portal-App can be allowed to access the Portal's features and resources and provides a user interface to all paired Terminals.

First Steps

Creation
When a new user decides to sign up for a Portal, we start renting a VPS with the desired computing power and storage from a IaaS provider. The most basic version will probably cost something between 5€ and 10€ a month.
We then install and start the Portal software stack on the VPS turning it into a Portal. One of the first things the new Portal does is generating an unique identifier, something like a telephone number. This ID lets others securely connect to the Portal.

Terminals
Next, the user must pair their first Terminal. That means that they should now install the Portal client software on one of their devices or navigate to the Portal using their web-browser, turning it into a terminal. Each terminal generates a unique ID, too.
For pairing Portal and Terminal, both must learn the others ID. Here, our signup-website serves as an intermediary, offering a pairing-code that the user must enter on their Terminal to pair it.
This was the last time that we directly interact with the Portal. From now on, only paired Terminals are allowed to access it.
At this point it is highly recommended that the user pairs at least one other Terminal so that they can still access the Portal if the first Terminal is lost or broken. Each pairing after the first can be achieved with an already paired Terminal as an intermediary so we will not have to get involved.

Peers
If you know other people that already use a Portal, you can add them as peers. Ask them for their Portal's ID and add it to your Portal's contact list. If you see them in person, you can make this exchange more securely by one of you scanning a QR-code that the other provides.
From now on, your Portals can communicate securely and you can allow your apps to see some or all of your contacts and use this communication channel.

Apps
You might have noticed, that there are some Portal-Apps already installed. You might have already used the Terminals and the Contacts app. You can explore the others.
Notice how everything you do in an app from one terminal is reflected on all others. That's because there is just a single source of truth and that is on your Portal. The Terminals just show you that truth.

Looking for Cofounders

Portal is an opportunity for cofounders that
are skilled and passionateare able to think far out-of-the-box and from-first-principleshave a desire to shape this awesome technology - the internet - to become more of a public good
Work on Portal
is highly relevant for societyhas the potential for initiating groundbreaking changehappens in relatively unexplored territory with exciting fresh challengesaims high with a long-term vision and potential for huge growth

The following roles should be filled. As it is typical with an early stage startup, a single person can fill many roles simultaneously.

PR/Marketing
You can clearly communicate even difficult concepts (in english and preferably german), have an eye for style and branding and the skills to execute your visions. Portal aims to be honest and transparent, so you should be able to adopt that communication style. We also take societal aspects seriously so you should have a good understanding and interest in topics around society and technology.
Tasks will be all about communication.
Finding the right words, images, videos, etc. to get the vision and specifics of Portal across and taking care of the execution.Maintaining and improving slide decks, the landing page, posters and whatever else you think is beneficial.Preparing and performing pitches in front of stakeholders.Shaping and evolving the Portal vision from a branding and communication perspective.
Business Administration
You have the needed skills and knowledge to take care of all business aspects of a yet-to-be-founded company under german law. Ideally, you have experience in the startup-space and are open to bootstrapping a startup.
Tasks will be about financials and strategy.
Searching and evaluating and applying for funding opportunities.Setting up and maintaining processes for handling the relationship with users with regard to payment and subscriptions.Shaping and evolving the Portal vision from a strategic perspective.
Tech
Here is an incomplete list of technologies and concepts that are or will be used for Portal. Technical cofounders should be familiar with what is relevant for the role or interested in learning them.
Linux, systemd, networking, IPv6, Wireguard, Docker
Python3, grpc/Protobuf, Flask, SQLite, asyncio, pyinstaller, pywebview, pytest, peewee
HTML/CSS/JS, Vue.js (open for discussion)
Git, Git Flow, GitLab, CI/CD
IaaS, AWS

Tech Frontend
You are experienced in creating beautiful and highly-usable web application frontends using frameworks like React or Vue.js. In particular, you know how to make them really responsive and are familiar with patterns and best-practices for the different device-types. Clean and thoughtful UX is important to you.
Tasks are all about modern web technology and UX.
Writing and maintaining the Portal's user interface and those of Portal-Apps.Finding the right abstractions and UX patterns for the new concepts that Portal introduces.Shaping and evolving the Portal vision from a UX perspective.
Tech Mobile
You are comfortable in creating iOS and Android apps. Most of Portal's views are executed with web technology inside web-views so you know how to make this feel as native as possible. You are familiar with the processes involved in publishing on the app-stores.
Tasks are everything related to the mobile-apps.
Creating the apps for iOS and Android from scratchSetting up a build and release pipelines for efficient continuous development.
Tech Backend
You are an experienced backend developer and are comfortable with many of the relevant technologies listed above and have a passion for writing clean and maintainable code.
Tasks are all about the Portal core software stack.
Driving and executing development and maintenance.Identifying and prioritizing technical tasks.Constructing the architectural patterns that make the Portal concept unique.Maintaining and evolving the devlopment processes.Shaping and evolving the Portal vision from a deeply technical perspective.

Impressum
Max von Tettenborn
Fritz-Lange-Str. 4
81547 München
0163 841 841 0
contact@getportal.org