The Decentralized Internet: An HBO Tale?

By Nick Roquefort-Villeneuve, Global Marketing Director – Amalto Technologies 

Amalto-Web-3-0I don’t know about you, but I lived and worked in Silicon Valley for over a decade and watching the show of the same name doesn’t really cut it. It may be what a CIA Operative feels in front of Homeland or my ex-wife with Married at First Sight.

“Silicon Valley,” the TV series on HBO is all about the creation of a decentralized Internet, an Internet that runs on the Blockchain. The “web 3.0” as specialists call it. A huge jump indeed from the Web 2.0 as we know it today, aka the “Participative and Social Web” that emphasizes user-generated content (you know, the video of the French bulldog who hums La Marseillaise with a mouth full of french-fries posted on Facebook), usability (yep, your grandparents posted it), participatory culture (duh!) and interoperability (Grandpa was even able to share it on Twitter) for end users. I won’t even talk about the Web 1.0 and its myriad of superstitions. “If you don’t let the home page load completely, then it won’t work.” Come on, admit it…

So, how can Blockchain create a totally different form of Internet?

Web 2.0: The Big Scam After All?

When Tim Berners-Lee wrote the source code for the web in the 90s, the idea was to create a platform, where users could engage in a peer-to-peer (P2P) fashion. In other words, the vision was to build a decentralized tool.

If you take an honest look at how the Internet is working today, users (you and me) don’t have much power after all. They are at the mercy of what companies like Google, Microsoft and Facebook, among very few other firms, want to show them or rather want them to access. Google that powers about 85% of the searches in the Unites States is a quasi-unavoidable intermediary in the process that consists in searching and then accessing a website. Said differently, Google decides what search results people will see according to client companies that pay them. If a customer needs to transact with a vendor that carries a “Real Women Wear Black” Oakland Raiders tee-shirt, nowadays it’s Amazon that’s likely going to be the third-party between the buyer and the supplier. The way the Internet functions is similar to an oligopoly. It is dominated by a handful of players that centralize all the action, while promoting the belief that users are indeed empowered and have the power, since they’re able, for example, to post a video of a French bulldog humming the French national anthem with a mouse full of French-fries and share it almost instantly on numerous social media platforms.

That’s what I call without hesitation the big scam. Especially when you know that your personal information is being sold to advertisers and you have absolutely no say about it nor do you see any of this money land in your bank account.

Web 3.0: Giving Power Back to The Users?

The purpose for creating an Internet that runs on the Blockchain is simple: Build a tool that gives power back to its users by restoring control of their personal data and by providing them with the ability to utilize the Internet, without having to rely on and pay intermediaries (the Google and Amazon of this world). Peer-to-peer, decentralized. But is it truly an Internet that would run on the Blockchain? Not exactly. It’s more so about building decentralized applications (or Blockchain-based apps) that would leverage the internet for access purpose.

I always enjoy remembering Napster, a pure P2P application that has largely contributed to my current dematerialized discography of one-hit wonders. Let’s face it, for years I scoured flea markets throughout the western world in an attempt to find the vinyl of Silver Convention’s Fly Robin Fly. Thanks to Napster, it still pops up from time to time on my iPhone (“Up, up to the sky!”). You’d download Napster online, install the app on your computer hard drive, before running it to connect to other Napster users and their library of songs. The file exchange would happen between users’ hard drives. Okay, forget Napster and its illegal file sharing system but keep in mind the P2P transaction aspect of it, and imagine it now takes place online. Next, imagine that each transaction is validated and stored for all partakers to see at any time. That’s web 3.0. Its extensive Blockchain network will power all forms of P2P commerce, instead of having to rely on eBay to buy fake Cialis from Canada.

Next, how does web 3.0 apply to domain names associated to websites, where you can read content and/or transact. How does web 3.0 apply to Internet searches? When you want to build a website, you need to purchase a domain name. The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) authorizes domain name registrars like iPage and GoDaddy to process the (temporary) acquisition. Web 3.0 offers an alternative to ICANN. Thanks to the Interplanetary File System (IPFS), which is a decentralized site-indexing system, websites would be organized according to their owners’ unique Blockchain identifiers (a hash). The IPFS would rely on a vast global network of personal computers whose owners, in return for financial incentives such as cryptocurrencies, would allow the system to use owners’ free hard-drive space to host websites and their content. Individuals searching for a website would no longer use Google but the IPFS system.

Web 3.0: Power to The Users…

… and money back in their pockets.

The elimination of online centralized systems acting as middlemen like Google and Facebook means:

  • Personal data cannot be sold to third-party businesses
  • Quasi-elimination of data breaches since Blockchain is virtually incorruptible
  • Payments made in cryptocurrencies would drastically reduce payments made to banks and credit-card companies