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SwellRT logo.jpg
Original author(s)Pablo Ojanguren & others, from the GRASIA research group, at Universidad Complutense de Madrid
Developer(s)Pablo Ojanguren & others
Initial releaseJuly 1, 2015; 4 years ago (2015-07-01)
Stable release
0.2.0-beta / September 30, 2017; 23 months ago (2017-09-30)
Written inJava, JavaScript
Operating systemCross-platform
TypeWeb framework Backend as a service
LicenseApache License

SwellRT is a free and open-source backend-as-a-service and API focused to ease development of apps featuring real-time collaboration. It supports the building of mobile and web apps, and aims to facilitate interoperability and federation.



SwellRT has its origins in the work done within the GRASIA research team at the Universidad Complutense de Madrid, as part of the EU-funded project P2Pvalue (2013-2016).[1] In 2014, the developer Pablo Ojanguren took the lead in forking Apache Wave, dropping several components, re-engineering it, and building a "Wave API" to build applications on top.[2] In 2015, such Wave API became a standalone product named SwellRT.[3][4]

Impact on Apache Wave project[edit]

In 2016, several discussions took place within the Apache Wave community, aiming to tackle the stagnation and crisis state of the project. The Apache Software Foundation mentor of Apache Wave, Upayavira,[5] was concerned on the project stagnation, but framed SwellRT as Wave's potential savior:

Once more Wave is on the brink of retirement. However, this time, an offer has been made of code from SwellRT, which is a fork of Wave itself, and a concall has been scheduled for interested parties to discuss whether it is a go-er. It is my (limited) understanding that many of the complexity issues in the Wave code that have prevented community development have been resolved in SwellRT.[6]

Eventually, Wave was approved to continue within Apache incubator program, and a copy of SwellRT codebase was placed in the Apache Wave repository in order to grant the Wave community access to it.[7] In this regard, Intellectual Property of SwellRT was transferred to the Apache Foundation in 2017.[8]

Taiwan minister and free software programmer Audrey Tang showing SwellRT sticker on her tablet
Taiwan minister and free software programmer Audrey Tang showing SwellRT sticker on her tablet (Medialab Prado, Madrid)

Recent recognition[edit]

In both 2016[9][10] and 2017,[11][12] SwellRT participated in the Google Summer of Code as part of the set of projects from the Berkman Klein Center for Internet and Society at Harvard University. In both years, the contributions were highly relevant. In 2016, SwellRT replaced its XMPP-based federation protocol (inherited from Apache Wave) for the Matrix.org federation protocol.[13] In 2017, end-to-end encryption was implemented,[14][15] following an innovative approach to encrypt communication in Operational Transformation collaborative documents.[16]

SwellRT received international recognition within the fields of decentralized technologies[17][18][19][20][21][22][23] and real-time collaboration.[24][25][26][27][28][29] In the Decentralized Web Summit, organized by the Internet Archive in San Francisco, it was selected as one of the current innovative decentralization technologies.[30] It was also selected by the Redecentralize advocacy group, as one of the redecentralization projects whose founders were interviewed,[31][32] It launched an international contest to develop apps using SwellRT,[33] which was awarded to free/open source developers in India.[34] And the project was presented as invited talk in the Center for Research in Computation and Society at Harvard's School of Engineering and Applied Sciences,[35][36] and in several international conferences.[37][38][39][40][41] SwellRT was one of the first adopters of the Contributor Covenant code of conduct.[42]

Technical approach[edit]

SwellRT is a fork from Apache Wave, inherits some of its architecture and technology stack. However, it grew beyond the limits of Wave, first presenting itself as a web framework and nowadays growing to a backend-as-a-service platform.[43][44] Its current technical approach covers the following:

  • It is fully free/open source software.
  • It is developed in Java. GWT with JSInterop is used to generate JavaScript API reusing the same source code. Android client is also built from the same Java sources.
  • It provides an extensible and pluggable rich-text editor component for Web (only) supporting custom annotations and widgets.
  • Real-time data storage is based on Wave's Operational Transformations model, thus it is eventually consistent.
  • It is designed to maximize interoperability, and follows a federation approach similar to Apache Wave, using XMPP or Matrix.org communication protocol. It aims to support the creation of apps that are federated, i.e. rely on multiple interoperable servers, and objects shared across servers. This allows organizations to control their own data.

Collaborative objects[edit]

SwellRT provides a programming model based on collaborative objects. A collaborative object is a JSON-like object that can be shared by some users (or groups) that can make changes in real-time. Changes are propagated (and notified) in real-time to any user connected to the object.

A collaborative object can store properties of simple data types (string, integers, etc.) as well as rich-text and references to files or attachments. This approach is suitable to implement any document based collaborative application like text editors or spreadsheets.

Objects and participants are uniquely identified on the Internet enabling decentralized access from different federated servers.

Main features[edit]

  • Real-time storage (NoSQL)
  • User management
  • Event based integration
  • Federation (XMPP or Matrix.org)

Applications using SwellRT[edit]

SwellRT facilitates the development of mobile/web apps, and thus several apps have been built using this technology. Apart from the demos provided by SwellRT,[45] third-parties developed other demo apps such as a Q&A site,[46] an extension to extract keywords,[47] a collaborative scrollbar,[48] a political participation Android app,[49] a Trello-SwellRT connector.[50] Besides, two fully-fledged apps are currently using SwellRT technology:

  • JetPad, a GoogleDoc-like collaborative editor, free/open source and federated [51][52][53]
  • Teem, a free/open source web/mobile app for the management of communities and collectives[54][55][56]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "European Commission : CORDIS : News and Events : A substantial boost for easily and safely producing new online apps". cordis.europa.eu. Retrieved 2017-10-28.
  2. ^ Ojanguren-Menendez, Pablo; Tenorio-Fornés, Antonio; Hassan, Samer (2015). Distributed Computing and Artificial Intelligence, 12th International Conference. Advances in Intelligent Systems and Computing. Springer, Cham. pp. 269–276. doi:10.1007/978-3-319-19638-1_31. ISBN 9783319196374.
  3. ^ "Barrapunto | SwellRT: el primer framework libre para apps colaborativas y descentralizadas". softlibre.barrapunto.com. Retrieved 2017-10-28.
  4. ^ swellrt: SwellRT, open source framework for real-time collaboration, P2Pvalue, 2017-10-20, retrieved 2017-10-28
  5. ^ "Wave Incubation Status - Apache Incubator". incubator.apache.org. Retrieved 2017-10-28.
  6. ^ "September2016 - Incubator Wiki". wiki.apache.org. Retrieved 2017-10-28.
  7. ^ "December2016 - Incubator Wiki". wiki.apache.org. Retrieved 2017-10-28.
  8. ^ "March2017 - Incubator Wiki". wiki.apache.org. Retrieved 2017-10-28.
  9. ^ "Special Announcement: P2Pvalue and Google Summer of Code 2016". P2Pvalue blog. 2016-04-17. Retrieved 2017-10-28.
  10. ^ "Berkman Klein Google Summer of Code Wiki". cyber.harvard.edu. Retrieved 2017-10-28.
  11. ^ "International students team up with Berkman Klein mentors to learn open source development | Network of Centers". networkofcenters.net. Retrieved 2017-10-28.
  12. ^ "Berkman Klein Google Summer of Code Wiki". cyber.harvard.edu. Retrieved 2017-10-28.
  13. ^ "Wave Federation protocol over the Matrix Protocol - 2016 - Google Summer of Code Archive". summerofcode.withgoogle.com. Retrieved 2017-10-28.
  14. ^ "SwellRT/Wave E2E Encryption: Overview – Geeks". blogs.harvard.edu. Retrieved 2017-10-28.
  15. ^ "End-to-end encryption in SwellRT - 2017 - Google Summer of Code Archive". summerofcode.withgoogle.com. Retrieved 2017-10-28.
  16. ^ Clear, Michael; Reid, Karl; Ennis, Desmond; Hughes, Arthur; Tewari, Hitesh (2012-09-19). Collaboration-Preserving Authenticated Encryption for Operational Transformation Systems. Information Security. Lecture Notes in Computer Science. Springer, Berlin, Heidelberg. pp. 204–223. doi:10.1007/978-3-642-33383-5_13. hdl:2262/68179. ISBN 9783642333828.
  17. ^ Ermoshina, Ksenia; Musiani, Francesca; Halpin, Harry (2016-09-12). End-to-End Encrypted Messaging Protocols: An Overview. Internet Science. Lecture Notes in Computer Science. Springer, Cham. pp. 244–254. doi:10.1007/978-3-319-45982-0_22. ISBN 9783319459813.
  18. ^ "SwellRT : un cadre open source de développement d'applications Web collaboratives décentralisées". Programmez! (in French). Retrieved 2017-10-28.
  19. ^ "SwellRT : une technologie open source pour applications | OSS". www.opensourceschool.fr. Retrieved 2017-10-28.
  20. ^ "Barrapunto | SwellRT: el primer framework libre para apps colaborativas y descentralizadas". softlibre.barrapunto.com. Retrieved 2017-10-28.
  21. ^ "Crear en tiempo real aplicaciones descentralizadas | Catalunya Vanguardista". www.catalunyavanguardista.com (in Spanish). Retrieved 2017-10-28.
  22. ^ "'How P2P Will Save The World', with Samer Hassan – STEAL THIS SHOW". stealthisshow.com. Retrieved 2017-10-28.
  23. ^ "An exciting list of the next-generation Decentralized world's projects/orgs that're abuzz :) • r/ethereum". reddit. Retrieved 2017-10-28.
  24. ^ Bianchi, Lucia; Liò, Pietro (2016). "Opportunities for community awareness platforms in personal genomics and bioinformatics education". Briefings in Bioinformatics. 18 (6): 1082–1090. doi:10.1093/bib/bbw078. PMID 27580620.
  25. ^ Ojanguren-Menendez, Pablo; Tenorio-Fornés, Antonio; Hassan, Samer (2015). "Building Real-Time Collaborative Applications with a Federated Architecture". International Journal of Interactive Multimedia and Artificial Intelligence. 3 (Regular Issue). ISSN 1989-1660.
  26. ^ "Real-time collaborative rich text editing". stackoverflow.com. Retrieved 2017-10-28.
  27. ^ "What is a good Framework for a realtime collaboration web app with several realtime documents per App Instance". softwarerecs.stackexchange.com. Retrieved 2017-10-28.
  28. ^ "Blogory.org Javascript Collaborative Rich Text Editors". blogory.org. Retrieved 2017-10-28.
  29. ^ "Economies col·laboratives procomuns 03/11/2016/apunts - teixidora". www.teixidora.net (in Catalan). Retrieved 2017-10-28.
  30. ^ "Decentralized Web Summit: Locking the Web Open". decentralizedweb.net. Retrieved 2017-10-28.
  31. ^ Irving, Francis. "Interviews — Redecentralize.org". redecentralize.org. Retrieved 2017-10-28.
  32. ^ Irving, Francis. "#23: Pablo Ojanguren - SwellRT — Redecentralize.org". redecentralize.org. Retrieved 2017-10-28.
  33. ^ "SwellRT Free Software Contest - Enter by Sept. 18 | P2P Foundation". P2P Foundation. 2016-08-30. Retrieved 2017-10-28.
  34. ^ "VIT University". VIT University. Retrieved 2017-10-28.
  35. ^ "SwellRT: Facilitating decentralized real-time collaboration". crcs.seas.harvard.edu. Retrieved 2017-10-28.
  36. ^ Harvard's CRCS (2016-10-06), CRCS Seminar 09/26, Samer Hassan: SwellRT: Facilitating Decentralized Real-Time Collaboration, retrieved 2017-10-28
  37. ^ "The Commons Collaborative Economy explodes in Barcelona - Commons Transition". Commons Transition. 2016-04-18. Retrieved 2017-10-28.
  38. ^ "Decentralised Apps - Redecentralize London April Meetup". Eventbrite. Retrieved 2017-10-28.
  39. ^ "2nd FLOSS4P2P Workshop". P2Pvalue blog. 2016-04-17. Retrieved 2017-10-28.
  40. ^ "Proyectos y herramientas para abrir la democracia « Ciudades Democráticas". ciudades-democraticas.cc (in Spanish). Retrieved 2017-10-28.
  41. ^ "#OGP16 Summit". en.ogpsummit.org. Retrieved 2017-10-28.
  42. ^ "Contributor Covenant: Adopters". www.contributor-covenant.org. Retrieved 2018-05-26.
  43. ^ swellrt: SwellRT, open source framework for real-time collaboration, P2Pvalue, 2017-10-20, retrieved 2017-10-28
  44. ^ SwellRT wiki, P2Pvalue, 2017-10-20, retrieved 2017-10-28
  45. ^ "SwellRT Server". demo.swellrt.org. Retrieved 2017-10-28.
  46. ^ Juste, Abel Serrano (2016-09-22), upvote: Real-Time Collaborative Q&A. Find the best idea, retrieved 2017-10-28
  47. ^ teem-tag: A Python module for extracting relevant tags from text content in Teem, a P2PValue project., P2Pvalue, 2017-02-13, retrieved 2017-10-28
  48. ^ ThomasWrobel (2016-10-28), SwellRT_Example_CollaborativeScrollbar: A very simple example of a SwellRT client, retrieved 2017-10-28
  49. ^ Ramos Romero, Jaime; Bastarrica Lacalle, Javier (2015). DemoCritics: aplicación Android de participación política con edición colaborativa en tiempo real [DemoCritics: Android app for political participation with real-time collaborative edition] (Final project (Computer Science)). Madrid (Spain): Universidad Complutense de Madrid.
  50. ^ Shubham, Kumar (2017-08-18), teem-trello-webhook-server: The server which listens for changes in the Trello board model and simultaneously uodates them in the SwellRT object model, retrieved 2017-10-28
  51. ^ "European Commission : CORDIS : News and Events : A substantial boost for easily and safely producing new online apps". cordis.europa.eu. Retrieved 2017-10-28.
  52. ^ "JetPad". jetpad.net. Retrieved 2017-10-28.
  53. ^ Haste, Rough (2017-04-23). "Notes on "How P2P Will Save the World"". RoughHaste. Retrieved 2017-10-28.
  54. ^ "Collaboration that doesn't give others a license to distribute your stuff". Horizon: the EU Research & Innovation magazine. Retrieved 2017-10-28.
  55. ^ "Una app para involucrar a más gente en proyectos colaborativos - El salmón contracorriente". www.elsalmoncontracorriente.es (in Spanish). Retrieved 2017-10-28.
  56. ^ "Teem". Teem. Retrieved 2017-10-28.

External links[edit]