Philosophy of Tailscale: Social proximity networks

Published on , 472 words, 2 minutes to read

This post was written while I worked for Tailscale. It is archived here for posterity.

Originally, computer networks mapped almost 1:1 to social networks. There has been a lot of development since then. We have added more and more devices to our networks thanks to mobile devices, remote work and Internet of Things. This has caused our home and office networks to not really be as trusted as they used to be. We have many more devices per person than we used to.

Today, networks end up being a collection of devices that are in close physical proximity. Networks used to consist of devices that can all trust each other. However, you certainly wouldn’t trust random people at a coffee shop the same way you would trust your friends or family. You don’t know what they would want to do to your machine. You don’t have any social proximity to those people, even if they are sitting right next to you. You may not even trust your local network devices, such as the lightswitch that somehow needs internet access to turn your light on and off.

Untrusted networks make it hard when you genuinely want to share things between your friends and family. You have to rely on third parties or peeling back layers of protection to communicate. Port forwarding, firewall rules, IP address allow listing, authentication proxies, permissions fatigue, and so much more get in the way of your communication.

Here at Tailscale, we build networks to connect you, your family, friends, and coworkers together. Tailscale networks are built on the concept of identity, and let you build a network based on social proximity, or people that you are emotionally close to. Tailscale network members don’t need to be in the same room, building, city, province, country, or even continent. Physical proximity becomes irrelevant and you can focus on social proximity instead.

Tailscale works to connect all of those devices so you can focus on communicating with each other like you were in that same room. You can focus on doing things that you want to do between each other, such as playing games, backing up important files and sharing your most precious moments: no port forwarding, firewall rules, allowlists, proxies or permissions fatigue. We hope to obsolete all of those.

We want to turn your connections with people into connections between devices. Connecting people is the core of our business. Whether you need to connect between your friends to play minecraft, your family members to aid in backups, or sharing a prototype between your coworkers; Tailscale is there for you. We can’t wait to see what possibilities you unlock with our social proximity networks. What kind of things could you create if you and those close to you could directly connect to each other?

Facts and circumstances may have changed since publication. Please contact me before jumping to conclusions if something seems wrong or unclear.