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How Does Urbit Work?

Nonfungible Identities

In order to interact with the Urbit network, a user must own an Urbit ID, or planet, also represented by an NFT. While purchasing and activating a planet is relatively simple, the scarce and permanent nature of Urbit IDs makes a user’s identity valuable, increasing both security and computational efficiency through powerful reputational economics. As it is no longer trivially easy to replace one’s identity, the Urbit ID system incentivizes good behavior from both individuals and network nodes, discouraging spam, Sybil attacks, and phishing.

Hierarchical Organization

In Urbit, IDs are grouped hierarchically: galaxies are higher than stars are higher than planets, which represent, more or less, individual users. This hierarchical organization allows unknown users to locate each other through trusted intermediaries before transacting with each other directly.
Urbit’s hierarchical structure also ensures rapid dissemination of data and software updates across the entire network, employing higher IDs as nodes without losing the benefits of a decentralized network. While galaxies have voting power in the Urbit ecosystem, there is little functional difference between celestial levels in Urbit—galaxies and stars serve as distribution centers, but planets possess the same ability to interact with Urbit and take advantage of the powerful tools populating the network.

Hoon, Nock, and Merkelized Data

Hoon, Urbit’s native coding language, and Nock, its barebones assembly language, are designed for simplicity—which make them the perfect partner for blockchain integration. With only twelve op codes (compared to hundreds for Solidity and thousands for other programming languages), Nock offers a simple coding interface for multichain integration and asset transfer protocols, such as ZK-rollups.
Just as importantly, Urbit features binary tree data organization (also known as Merkle Trees) instead of serialized data. This simple hash tree configuration enables hyper-efficient data discovery and transfer, as well as optimized network function, making Urbit significantly more powerful than other P2P networks, let alone an off-chain system built from scratch to interact with web3 smart contracts.
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Nonfungible Identities
Hierarchical Organization
Hoon, Nock, and Merkelized Data