Advancing Toward a Decentralized Internet in the Real World
The recently aired Season 5 of the popular HBO comedy Silicon Valley features a decentralized internet powered by end-user devices and an internal blockchain-based crypto economy. As usual, the fictional treatment in the show, which has been rightly praised for providing an entertaining but accurate portrait of contemporary tech trends, is based on real developments.
The first Decentralized Web Summit, a gathering of developers striving to make the internet open and decentralized, was held in San Francisco in June 2016. The summit was organized by Tim Berners-Lee, the “father of the web,” and Brewster Kahle, founder of the Internet Archive. Blockchain technology was considered an important part of the push to decentralize the web, as shown by a high-profile workshop titled “Blockchain and the Web,” organized by MIT Media Lab and the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) soon after the Decentralized Web Summit.
The Internet Archive has recently announced that the Decentralized Web Summit 2018: Global Visions/Working Code, organized by the Internet Archive and Aspiration will be held from July 31 to August 2 in San Francisco.
“Our goal is to bring the builders, policymakers and the global community members who will use the Decentralized Web together to explore the visions, values and working code needed,” reads the announcement. “What could it look like at scale? How can people around the world use and benefit from these technologies? What code is working and what is still missing? What do we need to collaborate on in the future?”
At the Decentralized Web Summit 2018, Berners-Lee will present SOLID, a modular and extensible protocol and toolbox under development at MIT. The SOLID project wants to build decentralized social applications while preserving, as much as possible, compatibility with existing W3C standards and protocols. The SOLID platform, described in the project’s Github channel, doesn’t seem to rely on blockchain technology at the moment.
In the harsh reality of underfunded community projects, many promising decentralized internet projects vanish without a trace. This is not the case for ZeroNet, a minimalist, decentralized P2P network that uses Bitcoin cryptography and BitTorrent technology. Though ZeroNet is funded by donations and the community, the project is alive and advancing steadily, if slowly.
Blockchain developer Blockstack is committing $1 million to support the development of social network decentralized applications (dApps). This recently announced initiative has its own brand-new website.
Some interesting ongoing developments toward a decentralized internet, based on Ethereum, were presented and discussed at Edcon 2018, the community Ethereum development conference, which was held in Toronto in May.
The ambitious Akasha project to build a next-generation social media network, powered by Ethereum and the InterPlanetary File System, was unveiled in May 2016. The project, started by Mihai Alisie, cofounder of Bitcoin Magazine, is currently testing a beta version with desktop and web apps. At Edcon in Toronto, Alisie argued for the need for a decentralized internet and gave updates on the Akasha project.
“The introduction of blockchain technology has provided us with the opportunity to build an equitable, censorship resistant and globally accessible internet,” Matthew Spoke, CEO of Nuco and founder of Aion Network, said in conversation with Bitcoin Magazine.
“This decentralized internet movement is comprised of multiple layers that build up the future stack of the internet. Layers such as identity, messaging, payment, data storage, registries and file storage are all being rapidly built across the blockchain ecosystem on various protocols. However, these layers in their current design lack a critical component to enable the widespread adoption of the decentralized internet — the ability to communicate value and logic between them. The future of the internet will not consist of a single winner, but an ecosystem of decentralized layers operating on and collaborating across numerous blockchain protocols.”
Spoke explained that a future “web 3.0” decentralized internet architecture needs to be an ecosystem seamlessly transferring logic and value between its parts in a decentralized way. Aion wants to be the common infrastructure that will bridge communication between decentralized layers and the development of native-cross chain applications to enable a global decentralized internet.
The future of the internet will not consist of a single winner, but an ecosystem of decentralized layers operating on and collaborating across numerous blockchain protocols.
The current “Kilimanjaro” release of the Aion platform introduces a performance optimized Ethereum Virtual Machine dubbed FastVM for faster and economical contract execution, an optimized version of the Equihash proof-of-work algorithm (Equihash2109) to increase memory requirements and diversify the active Equihash parameters, and a Token Transfer Protocol for AION tokens on Ethereum (ERC-20) to flow seamlessly and become native AION coins.
Essential elements of the web 3.0 stack, such as payments, data and file storage, and identity, are being built across various blockchain protocols.
“As these layers gain adoption or fail along with the underlying protocols they are built upon, this new stack will exist across multiple blockchains due to the specific performance, regulatory decentralization or feature requirement of the use cases being powered,” Spoke said. “To enable the widespread adoption of a decentralized internet infrastructure, connecting these disparate layers and underlying protocols together is essential.
“As an example, if a user is using an identity solution on Ethereum to manage their basic personal information (ex: name, email, birth date) and wishes to utilize a social media platform built on EOS, for the end user these layers must seamlessly integrate.”
The internet was meant to be a decentralized communication network, with many competing providers for basic services like email, hosting and applications. But some internet service providers achieved economies of scale that made it advantageous for them to own, store and control the information being communicated.
“This caused the internet to evolve into a system where centralized entities own and control large amounts of value and data, as well as the communication channels to transfer those assets,” concluded Spoke.
“By distributing the value and data on a public blockchain ledger, which is available to anyone who wants to download it, the blockchain enables a truly decentralized internet. The nature of public blockchains such as Aion requires all nodes to reach consensus and share identical ledgers, rather than decisions being made by centralized entities.”