Decentralized Internet Interview

In decentralization, we trust, and in our community, we believe!

This interview is part of the #Decentralized-Internet writing contest! For those who are reading about it for the first time, HackerNoon has built a partnership with Everscale (Formely Free Ton) – a decentralized, community-powered blockchain movement for free internet! This is the last month to participate in the contest. You can see all #Decentralized-Internet stories here.

So without further ado, let’s start the interview.

Thank you for joining us! Please tell us about yourself.

I am a Brit now living in Norway getting used to the cold while enjoying the benefits of an egalitarian society. I started my career as an engineer in television studios and productions and now I work for suppliers leading product teams.

Let’s discuss centralized internet first. What is your opinion on the centralized internet? What are its pros/cons?

Technically the Internet is and probably always will be decentralized because there is (I’m fairly sure but don’t quote me on this) no single place on the planet that has stored the entire “internet” on a single storage array attached to a single router. However, in order to reach the scale and level of reliability that we know and love today, the most important parts have had to become centralized to some key locations.

The centralized internet is the natural starting point for a massive global infrastructure project like the Internet, and don’t be fooled into thinking the decentralized internet will be any different – nothing that scales to this magnitude remains a hobby project for long. The huge amount of data stored and transferred around the world every day is mind-boggling, only a brave soul would attempt to consider the scale over the history of the internet, so really it’s just easier to take it all for granted that the internet is ‘there’ and it ‘works’ – which is what most of us tend to do.

It’s is truly a modern technical wonder and the pros – the amount of computing and storage required to get it to the point it’s at today and be as reliable as it is, would not be possible without a concentrated effort of wealth and technical specialist’s knowledge that could only be funded and hosted by governments or private companies managing and maintaining fiber-optic lines and huge data centers.

The cons are that the server-side of this machine is, therefore, a limited resource and can only be controlled by big organizations. In exchange for using this service, you have to agree to play by those organization’s rules, and sometimes that might require giving up more of your private information than most people would naturally agree to if the terms and conditions of usage were truly transparent. The more we use these services the more reliant we become.

Additionally, technically the infrastructure is somewhat monolithic and much like the laundered over micro-service software architecture of modern cloud computing a new decentralized internet might offer a leaner and more efficient model.

What does decentralization mean to you?

Decentralization to me is what I hope Web 3.0 will come to represent, and not the “monetization” of the internet but the ability to have some core essential parts of it spread across a multitude of devices owned and operated by the users themselves.

If this is achieved by leveraging a host of technologies such as 5G wireless network speeds, blockchain-based ledgers, brilliant compression technologies, and mind-boggling powerful modern devices littering the pockets of most people on the planet – that would be worth of a major version number – Web 3.0. Right now, we’re probably still on 2.X.

How does decentralization change the internet?

How does decentralization change the internet? That is a tough thing to answer because I’m writing this on a computer that will save and store all the information on a CDN that then backs it up to a few hard disks attached to a big server in a big server room. To be honest, now I have 250GB fiber broadband at home, this all works better than it ever has. So in order to change the internet, it’s first going to have to be equal to or better than in terms of performance.

If I could switch to using a service that was decentralized while also knowing my own devices at home were also securely serving a tiny chunk of the internet to other people, that would be pretty cool. Why would it be cool? Because something as essential to our daily lives and now the digital “Library of Alexandria” storing and sharing our collective human and history should be something we all have a vested stake in and some responsibility for keeping available for everyone. If a decentralized network works, then it gives every single person that uses it some skin in the game, a stake at the table, and some bargaining power, and this time without giving up our personal data and digital personality.

What is the best thing about decentralized internet?

A decentralized internet, if it works, will provide an opportunity for users to take back some control over their identity. Projects around storage, digital identities (signatures and federated logins) are really exciting.

Are you currently directly or indirectly working on the decentralized internet use case? We would love to know more about it.

I’ve been taking part in a few projects, to keep abreast of the technology. The one I’ve been part of for the longest time (since 2018) is Storj.

What are the biggest challenges in the way of the decentralized web?

Standardization is the biggest challenge. Until there becomes a common intermediary protocol for sharing and moving data from one system to another, adoption is likely to lag.

Do you have any apprehension or fear related to the decentralization of the internet?

My biggest concerns are that it is already becoming corrupted before it’s even started. So much dirty money and private wealth is flooded into the poster child, cryptocurrencies, and NFTs, it’s concerning. However, that also means there is money to be made because it can’t afford to be lost. This means that funding will be easier and therefore we are hopefully much more likely to find that the product that moves the needle sees the light of day and does not remain centralized on some clever person’s personal laptop or Github repo.

How do you see the future of the decentralized internet?

I don’t think mass adoption will happen because a platform is branded as decentralized – it does not and probably never will mean anything to most people. Most people do not buy technology, they buy products, it was the same with Web 2.0 where people signed up to Facebook to see pictures of friends and relatives and keep “up-to-date” with people they had less day-to-day contact with.

Web 3.0 will be no different, adoption will occur when we see if offer an improved and augmented version of a service we use today. For example storage, contracts or popular services such as a social media site or video service. Then people will adopt for the service and product, not the technology. If I knew what that was, I’d be working with it already!