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Decentralised Web Summit: Is this the future? I hope so…

Is a decentralised web the way ahead? Is it even feasible? I certainly hope so, but I cannot imagine governments will make it easy. It will be interesting to see what comes out of the summit today.

18 comments to Decentralised Web Summit: Is this the future? I hope so…

  • Myno

    Ditto and likewise. The bottleneck of the Internet “backbone” is going to be a tough one to crack. Within dense metropolitan areas, overlapping individual WiFi could provide peer-to-peer coverage that bypasses ISPs, making it harder to broadly siphon local communications. It requires by-in by a sufficient fraction of ordinary folks, which has long been the Achilles’ Heel of TOR concepts, reducing speed and constraining safety. Running some enlightened new protocol atop that basic coverage would be wonderful, but still begs the question of making the connections between cities, and of course leaves out the rural population. Making those connections is where gov’t can more easily interfere.

  • Eric Tavenner

    It doesn’t need a new protocol. TCP/IP was originally designed for military use on a decentralised net, intended to automatically route around battle damage or active opposition.

  • Paul Marks

    Good luck.

  • Stuck-Record

    Check out Maidsafe.net.

    They’ve been working on this for 6 years and seem to be very nearly there. A great many extremely intelligent people think that they’ve cracked it. If true it’ll change everything.

    Exciting times.

  • Rob Fisher

    Maidsafe looks interesting. I am also looking at Storj — which seems to be just about storage wheras Maidsafe wants to do more. And then there is federated social media like GNU Social and Diaspora. Some sort of peer to peer version of Twitter or Facebook would be nice. There are some Google results showing various projects but I can’t tell yet which ones have legs.

  • Stuck-record

    I know, Rob. It feels like the world is about to change and there is an opportunity for a GINORMOUS pile of money to be made betting on the right platform; Bitcoin, Ethereum, Maidsafe, or some as yet unreleased blockchain app – but which one?

    There’s going to be a gold rush for sure. Micropayment for content alone could destroy the ad-revenue model and monetize a whole new world for the small creator.

    Social media is really hard though, because of the prime mover advantage of the incumbents. Fortunately Twitter and Facebook are doing all the right (wrong) things to piss off their user base with heavy-handed censorship. Sadly, Youtube has also begun doing it..

  • Runcie Balspune

    The best way to have a completely “free” global network is to create a wholly satellite based system something similar to Iridium but vastly more ambitious, it would be very unlikely any government could exert control over such a network being completely wireless and having no communications equipment in state owned territory, whilst individual nodes could be shutdown, you wont be able to prevent the information from transferring.

  • Sam Duncan

    “It doesn’t need a new protocol. TCP/IP was originally designed for military use on a decentralised net, intended to automatically route around battle damage or active opposition.”

    IPFS is very interesting, though. It’s not necessary for mesh networking, but presumably that’s the point of this “summit”: to bring together all these rising technologies and try to figure out where they’ll take the web/net.

  • Laird

    Runcie, I’m about as far from a tech expert as you’re likely to find, but the satellite-system idea just doesn’t seem feasible to me. One obvious problem is the cost, not only of the satellites themselves but of delivering them into orbit. Yes, the price of the latter is coming down, but it’s still going to be considerable. It’s difficult to see how that expense could ever be recovered. And also there’s the small problem of the Outer Space Treaty. Most developed nations are signatories to it, and it requires governments to control all placements of orbital devices. If the major governments came to see a decentralized web as a threat they could seriously hamper the ability to create a usable satellite network. You’d almost have to get the network into place before letting anyone know what you’re doing. That seems unlikely, at best. Where am I wrong?

  • Jerry

    Re Laird –
    To say nothing of how fragile satellites are !! ( EXTREMELY easy to disable, disrupt, outright destroy )
    In addition, if one or more ‘governments’ say ‘NO’, the satellites simply will not be placed in orbit regardless of even private enterprise attempts !

  • Mr Ecks

    Signals can be bounced off incoming micro-meteorites. There is nothing the scum of the state can do about them short of nuking the upper atmosphere daily.

  • PersonFromPorlock

    I have never understood the argument that the Internet resists censorship, when anyone who uses it can be located by government and punished.

  • Runcie Balspune

    Liard, why do you not think it is feasible when it was already done (with Iridium)? This was already a private enterprise and with private companies now well advanced in satellite delivery, it would be easy for Google or someone to put them in place.

    Jerry: EXTREMELY easy to disable, disrupt, outright destroy

    No they are not, only nations with a very high level of advanced advanced technology can destroy or disrupt an individual satellite easily, you either launch a missile or a “killer satellite”, either method is extremely expensive to develop, maintain and deploy, I don’t know why you might think targeting a small box traveling at 26,000 km/h that is only active in a hemisphere for 45 minutes or so is easy, modern “cube” satellites are tiny.

    The treaties covering satellite orbit are really only for geostationary, which an Iridium like network would not apply.

  • Laird

    Runcie, correct me if I’m wrong, but didn’t Iridium go bankrupt? It put up all those satellites as a profit-making venture, which failed. Where is the profit is decentralizing the internet? Who is going to spend the money to do so?

  • Runcie Balspune

    Laird, Iridium did go to Chapter 11 early on, but the company is now NASDAQ and planning their next generation network.

    This is not the point, I am not trying to justify whether it is feasible economically but that it is perfectly technically possible, and with over 20 years advancement since Iridium, combined with the emergence of several private enterprises ready to put satellites in orbit as cheaply as possible, plus the dramatic decrease in payload weight and associated costs, it would be a small sideline for Google et al to achieve.

    Iridium was named after atomic element 77, because it would have that number os satellites (actually it has 66), a modern version would have hundreds, if not thousands of much cheaper “cubesat” type units that would launched dozens at a time. Good luck to any government taking them all down. There would be no wires, just an antenna pointing at the sky, directional to reduce interference (or despotic government tracking), and you just hook up your existing system to one.

    My underlying objection to “decentralized web” is there is no such thing whilst necessary equipment occupies territory governed by states, remove that aspect and you have substantially more freedom.

  • Rich Rostrom

    Runcie Balspune: Iridium did go bankrupt. Motorola lost billions. The company survives, but only because the satellites are a sunk cost, and the relative trickle of on-going revenue is enough to keep the network operational.

  • Runcie Balspune (June 9, 2016 at 7:48 pm): “Iridium was named after atomic element 77, because it would have that number of satellites (actually it has 66)”. When the redesign to need fewer satellites was done, they noticed that 66 was the number of Dysprosium, whose Greek name means “hard to get at” (because the researchers who discovered it found it was very hard to obtain in a pure state). The idea of renaming the project was quickly dropped. 🙂

    Like Concord, Iridium never recovered even a fraction of its investment, but once built was able to survive, largely, in the early days, due to CIA interest – the ability to make a phone call to a satellite n/w from anywhere in the world had its uses.

  • Tedd

    All that’s needed is for enough people to care. WiFi (802.11) can already handle ranges up to several kilometers under the right conditions, making even most rural locations accessible if a high enough percentage of people were to participate in a voluntary alternative internet. Remember, that’s how cable TV started. It wouldn’t take any new inventions, just a small percentage of reasonably tech-savvy people (we already have that) and a much larger percentage of people who care enough to join in.

    That last part is where the weakness lies. Very, very few people care enough for this to work, right now. And by “care” I mean care enough to actually investigate alternatives. I work with engineers in their twenties some of whom, I recently discovered, don’t even realize there are alternatives to Google, for web searches. So if even young, tech-oriented people are unaware of options and not concerned enough to investigate them then we’re very, very far away from the density a successful alternative internet would require, unless somebody finds a way to make it much easier. Hence the importance of some of these new technologies.