GAIUS - Local Internet in a Box

About Solution

GAIUS Networks is a New York University spinout startup with an ambitious vision of solving the last mile content provisioning challenge for the next three billion users in emerging markets.

Problem

Many challenges hinder web access in developing regions, including poor connectivity, high server latencies, and the growing complexity of web pages. A typical web page downloaded by a browser may involve: (a) downloading 100+ objects [1]; (b) spawning 30+ network connections; (c) issuing 20+ DNS requests with high response times; and (d) processing several layers of recursive requests triggered by JavaScript and HTTP redirections.

Beyond these well-known issues, one major problem that has not been explored in detail is the lack of easily accessible, locally relevant content. Since the vast majority of web content is produced elsewhere, there is a shortage of content relevant to users in developing regions. Several aspects of the existing web ecosystem make it hard for people in developing regions to publish web content:

(i) despite the shift toward mobile, publishing web content from a mobile phone is awkward, (ii) hosting is relatively expensive, (iii) the lack of platforms to share and discover local web content, and (iv) the irrelevance of advertisements that power the economics of today’s “free” Internet.


Solution
To address these problems, we propose GAIUS, a new mobile web ecosystem for local content creation and diffusion. The GAIUS ecosystem is primarily designed for empowering a localized web abstraction and is not meant as a complete replacement for the conventional web.

Architecturally, GAIUS consists of a set of distributed servers that host GAIUS content and an application running on user’s smartphone device that enables creation and consumption of content.

GAIUS makes several key simplifying design choices:

(1) Locality and Edge servers: GAIUS makes an explicit distinction between local and global content providers. Every mobile user and content provider is associated with a locality that determines the visibility of their content among users. A locality can be defined at various granularities, e.g. serving a large city or a small town. Every locality is associated with an edge server that handles all the requests from users within the locality.

(2) Channels: Rather than websites, the simplified abstraction for content in GAIUS is a channel. Analogous to Twitter feeds or television channels, GAIUS allows mobile users to act as content providers to create channels and publish content on their channels. The content provider dictates the visibility of a channel within and across localities. Users access content by searching and subscribing to channels. GAIUS also enables conventional web content providers (such as news sites) to auto-convert their website into channels.

(3) Mobile App Markup Language (MAML): GAIUS channels are represented in a highly concise Mobile Application Markup Language (MAML) format instead ofHTML, CSS and JavaScript. The MAML format is streamlined to reduce the complexity of web pages. The GAIUS app on an end user’s device acts as a MAML browser and receives, interprets, and renders the MAML pages.

(4) Content meets Ads at the Edge: GAIUS explicitly decouples content and advertisements. Every locality is associated with a set of local advertisement providers who power the GAIUS ecosystem. Channels are associated with explicit spaces for advertisements. When a user requests a particular page  within a channel, a GAIUS policy engine takes into account user’s preferences, content provider’s policies, and advertiser’s contracts to choose the advertisements for a specific content.

We have early deployments of GAIUS in several communities around the world. The current deployment of GAIUS supports both user-created localized channels and an automatic conversion of several localized web sources to localized channels. Our deployment also supports highly popular web content as global channels. 

Our early deployment demonstrates that GAIUS enables users to create and publish pages without extensive training or web publishing experience and highlights how users can intuitively control their data consumption through the GAIUS app.


The grant if successful would help us establish several of our pllanned trials with a telco operator in Philippines, community telco operators in Papua New Guinea, Nicaragua and Cape Town & joint deployments with Ammbr (www.ammbr.com) in India.


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