Getting an urbit

Opportunities for getting your own Urbit

Getting your own urbit requires that you both acquire an Urbit ID, and a way to run the urbit node. A wide array of options exist for satisfying both of these requirements, and in this section we will outline the main pathways for onboarding to the network and operating your urbit.

Hosting providers

Urbit hosting providers are by far the easiest way to get an Urbit ID and a running node on the network. The big providers all offer free co-custodial urbit IDs with email signup and onboarding, as well as a guarantee to let you leave their services with your identity and your data. Currently this guarantee is enforced just through convention and is not a technical affordance, although both Red Horizon and Tlon have implemented interface options for retrieving your data and claiming unilateral control of your Urbit ID.

Red Horizon

Red Horizon is designed by Chorus One with a mission to expand the freedom and sovereignty that human beings experience in their digital lives. They offer free hosted urbits and enable developers to provide a pre-defined set of applications and group memberships to help new users more quickly get their bearings. If you sign up for urbit hosting via the new user flow that is built into %fund, you will find yourself hosted by Red Horizon with a few applications we think are useful, including %fund and membership in the ~tocwex.syndicate public group in the Tlon social app.

If you have onboarded to Urbit via Red Horizon and need to get access to your ownership keys, please contact us at support@tocwexsyndicate.com or send a DM to ~sarlev-sarsen and we can assist.

Tlon Corporation

Tlon is the original incubator of the Urbit project, and following the growth of the ecosystem has evolved towards developing the Tlon suite of apps. They maintain the most mature mobile app in the ecosystem, available for download on iOS or Android, and offer streamlined mobile onboarding.

If you have onboarded to Urbit via Tlon, you are able to view and download your cryptographic keys directly from the web UI. For more details on how to do this, check out the "Tlon hosting" section of the Ethereum key management page.

Self-Hosting

Working with Urbit hosting providers is by far the easiest way to get on the network, but it comes with some drawbacks. For example, in order to run your urbit, the hosting provider has control of and access to your data. For many, this is a non-issue as it is essentially the same as any existing social network and many web2 applications. For others, more sovereign control of their data is desirable. There are two primary paths for self-hosting: Orchestration software for running an urbit at home, or using developer-friendly virtual private servers.

Native Planet

Native Planet is an urbit company that builds hardware and software for easy at-home urbit hosting. Specifically, they build urbit orchestration software called Groundseg that helps non-technical users to run and maintain their own urbits, and provide a networking services called StarTram that protects your privacy and ensures you can access to your urbit from any of your devices. And it does this all while giving you more sovereign control of you data by keeping you in physical control of the device that holds your urbit. Groundseg is expected to be run on a dedicated device, but you don't have an extra computer laying around, Native Planet makes Urbit dedicated devices with GroundSeg pre-installed, and that comes with a free year of StarTram.

Groundseg

Turn nearly any device into a dedicated Urbit Server! Native Planet has released Groundseg as open-source software to make self-hosting Urbit easy and convenient, so you can own your data and keep the network decentralized.

The default password for all Native Planet software is “nativeplanet”. You can find more documentation and instructions in the GroundSeg manual, but the 'quickstart' is as follows:

Linux

Install GroundSeg on an existing Linux machine by copying this into a command line: sudo wget -O - get.groundseg.app|bash

Colony OS

Create a dedicated Urbit hosting device by flashing Native Planet’s Colony OS to any x86 machine capable of running Linux. Download: Colony OS ISO

Startram

StarTram is Native Planet's purpose-built networking backend for home-hosted Urbit ships. As a subscription service paired with GroundSeg, StarTram makes it trivially easy to access your ship from anywhere. They also offer Anchor, an open-source single tenant version of StarTram that can be self-hosted if you are so inclined.

Virtual Private Servers

There be dragons here. Manually hosting your own urbit comes with a wide array of responsibilities. Of course, we believe in you if you believe in yourself, but consider yourself warned that this is an undertaking. Expect to encounter challenges, but also to find a helpful community and maybe even make some friends.

While the urbit program most definitely can run on your local computer and it will "work", running an urbit on your home network and getting it to reliably and performantly communicate with the external world is a technically advanced undertaking. Unless you are a networking professional, we strongly recommend self-hosting on a Virtual Private Server (VPS) from a service provider like Digital Ocean (great ux, moderate cost), or SSDNodes (powerful machines for cheap). Various urbit contributors have written guides over the years on how to get up and running; here are a few of our favorites:

All of these guides will get you to the same place: A running urbit on a virtual server, but with potentially different flavors of implementation. If the words tmux, caddy, nginx, screen or sysadmin mean anything to you, you'll probably be at home here so can through the guides and pick your favorite. If they don't, seriously consider going the Groundseg route.

Acquiring a Urbit ID

In addition to an internet connected, always-on computer on which to run the urbit program, if you chose to self-host you will need to acquire an Urbit ID. There are two decisions you will need to make in this domain: layer one vs layer 2, and planet vs star.

Layer one or layer two?

We will make a controversial claim here: Layer 1 (L1) and Layer 2 (L2) Urbit IDs grant different affordances to their owners. While both are cryptographically owned, L2 ships and their ownership are opaque to the outside world, while L1 ships are legible to the broader Ethereum ecosystem but come with greater cost burdens for some administrative operations. Once on the network, both types of identity function the same; it is only with the external world that you may experience different featuresets. If you are going down the self-hosting path and expect to be a deeply engaged %fund user, we recommend acquiring an L1 Urbit ID to ensure access to all the best upcoming features. For more on why we think this way, read this blog post. Of course, we will also always support L2 identities for the core feature set.

Planet or star-level identity?

As it relates to %fund, the important decision to make to answer this questions is whether or not you would like to serve as a trusted oracle. If yes, you need a star. If not, you will be well-served by a planet-level identity. If you would like to learn more, read on!

Urbit ID and the associated "public key infrastructure" (PKI) uses a hierarchical sponsorship model for distributing address space, managing peer discovery, and network packet routing. To learn more about the PKI design and implementation (aka Azimuth), you can read the urbit.org documentation here. In short, there is a layered hierarchy of identities, represented as Ethereum ERC-721 NFTs:

  • Galaxies are the 256 (2^8) network governance nodes and have a single syllable handles, or "@ps", such as ~zod

  • Stars are a set of 65,536 (2^16) infrastructure and services nodes and have a double syllable @ps such as ~tocwex

  • Planets are 4,294,967,296 (2^32) individual user nodes and have a quadruple syllable @p such as ~sarlev-sarsen

To learn more about why we have this restriction in place, read this section on why we only support stars and galaxies as trusted oracles.

Where to buy an Urbit ID

Given that Urbit is a decentralized network, there are a broad array of providers who can sell (or give) you an Urbit ID. Of course, we aim to be your first stop so if you would like to buy an L1 planet under ~tocwex, just email support@tocwexsyndicate.com and we'll get you set up. But if you would like a broader selection of handles (aka @ps), we can also point you to any of the following providers:

Want to serve as a trusted oracle but don't have the capital to purchase a star? Check out the Urbit Foundation Grants program to earn one for contributing to the network.

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