Update 13 September 2012: This post will no longer be updated. Complete and up-to-date instructions can be found at: http://go.to.freenet
Freenet is one of the most powerful yet least known tools for anyone who is interested in secure Internet communications. The purpose of the Freenet Project is described on their official website as follows:
Freenet is free software which lets you anonymously share files, browse and publish “freesites” (web sites accessible only through Freenet) and chat on forums, without fear of censorship. Freenet is decentralised to make it less vulnerable to attack, and if used in “darknet” mode, where users only connect to their friends, is very difficult to detect.Communications by Freenet nodes are encrypted and are routed through other nodes to make it extremely difficult to determine who is requesting the information and what its content is.
For those who truly value privacy, anonymity, and free speech, Freenet is a viable replacement for typical social networking websites such as Facebook or Google+. Anyone who genuinely cares about their ability to publish easily, securely, and anonymously (if desired) should add Freenet to their cyber repertoire.
The following tutorial is the first segment of a six part guide that details how to set up secure communications over Freenet, including email, discussion forums, microblogging, and (nearly) instant messaging. At the end of this first segment, you will be able to access Freenet yourself and then follow the other five sections.
These instructions are for the Mac OSX operating system. If you use the Windows operating system, please refer to this other set of instructions.
The Freenet Social Networking Guide
Part 1a: Freenet Installation
- Download and run the Freenet Installer.
- If you don’t already have Java installed you’ll be prompted to do that first.
- Now you’re done with Java.
- Enable Web Start to launch the Freenet installer.
- Click ‘Allow’ here.
- Choose the language you’d like to use.
- The next remaining screens do not require any interaction other than clicking ‘Next’ unless you want to change the installation directory.
Part 1b: Freenet Configuration
- You should now see the setup wizard. Click ‘Choose custom security’.
- You should always browse Freenet in Private Browsing or Incognito modes. If you aren’t already do so now. Remember to copy the URL and paste it back into the address bar.
- Click ‘Next’.
- Enable automatic updates and UPnP and click ‘Next’.
- Choose the second option here. If you know other people who use Freenet you can upgrade to darknet mode in the future but for now you need to connect to strangers in order to access the network.
- Choose “NORMAL” here.
- Choose “LOW” here. The higher levels of security unfortunately do not fully protect your identity if you use the kinds of social networking plugins we will be installing. You should use a whole disk encryption product like Truecryptor FileVault, but setting that up is outside the scope of this guide.
- The installer will pick a default value based on the size of your hard drive.
- You have two options to choose from here. If you want to limit bandwidth based on a monthly cap click ‘Yes’. Otherwise click ‘No’ and skip to step 11.
- ‘Select’ your monthly data cap from the options provided or type a value into the last box. Skip to step 12.
- Select the right bandwidth limit based on your connection type in your own values.
- Before installing any of the social networking plugins in future steps you should increase the maximum amount of memory your node is allowed to use. Go to the ‘Core settings’ page under the Configuration menu.
- The first option in this menu should be ‘Maximum memory usage’. Change this value to 512.
- Scroll down to the bottom of the page and click ‘Apply’.
- Before the change takes effect you must restart the node. Return to the Freenet homepage to do this.
- At the bottom of the page there is a button you can use to restart your node.
- Confirm that you want to restart and wait for the page to automatically refresh and load the home page.
Congratulations, you’ve successfully installed Freenet. Now you can set up secure, anonymous social networking accounts by continuing with Part 2 of this guide. (the link to Part 2 will not open until you have successfully installed Freenet)