The Digital Agency for International Development

Lopad: high speed collaborative text editing over low bandwidths

By tariq on 30 January 2010

Note: lopad is still a work in progress. The #crisiscampLDN team have made good progress, there will be a first cut up in the next few days. Getting it to the optimised, low bandwidth tool it needs to be is a project for the next few weeks.

I'm in "the ball room" (the other one's called "the tree room" in case you're wondering where the heck we are) at #crisiscampLDN and I'm thoroughly impressed by the efforts of @nickstreet and @mrchrisadams from Headshift.

What are they doing? Something really cool - making the first release of lopad. Check out the intro on from @leashless above.

What is lopad?

Aptivate makes a service called loband - it takes high-bandwidth webpages and makes them work quickly on slow connections.

There's a demand (e.g. from staff at UNFAO and users in Rwanda) for a related service, tuned for low bandwidth environments, that lets users easily collaborate over a text file.

This is the first addition to the lo* (pronounced lo-star) family of products: lopad.

Think of it as a super-lightweight Google Docs with no registration, instant visibilty of other user's changes and fast performane on all internet connections.

There's already a product called Etherpad which has been open-sourced since Google bought the company (to absorb the team into Google Wave). They plan to discontinue the public service in a few months time. In response to this, there are already some other public instances of Etherpad (e.g. PiratePad) as well as many private ones, but the immediate goal of the lopad project is to:

  • Create - a free public instance of etherpad, promoted for use in the relief and development sectors but open to anyone
  • Optimise to perform well on low bandwidth and/or high latency connections
Some of the things we're going to be doing along the way will be getting a production server up and running, getting a copy of etherpad on there, rebranding it to "lopad", analysing the opportunities for improving the bandwidth performance of the system and then implementing them.

In true meta-style, there's more info and developer notes online at:

Some highlights from the above:

I also think this will be a valuable tool for use by people in the Crisis Camp effort.

So: friends, coders, countrymen, come and join in!