Tim Bereners-Lee, the man who is credited with inventing the worldwide web, attended a meeting in San Francisco recently to discuss a big idea that will enable web users to circumvent “internet gatekeepers like Google and Facebook,” writes Zoe Corbyn in The Guardian.
The event was the Decentralised Web Summit, where supporters of the the so-called decentralised web — or DWeb — want a new, better web “where the entire planet’s population can communicate without having to rely on big companies that amass our data for profit and make it easier for governments to conduct surveillance.”
What is the DWeb?
Basically it avoids centralised control. In the early days of the web we communicated directly with other people through our desktop computers. But, then came Web 2.0 and, as Zoe writes, “we began to communicate with each other and share information through centralised services provided by big companies such as Google, Facebook, Microsoft and Amazon.”
Why do we need the DWeb?
Because all your data and mine is now in the hands of a few companies. Also, it also makes it easier for governments to conduct surveillance on citizens and impose censorship. And, if Facebook, for example, suddenly closed down, you’d lose lots of data. The DWeb, say proponents, is about giving people a choice: the same services, but decentralised and it gives back privacy and control to the individual.
How will the DWeb work?
In a word — ‘blockchain’. While the first applications of blockchain technology were for digital currency transactions, that same technology is now finding application in the development of the DWeb including recording the movement of data, registering unique user names and even data storage
It shouldn’t even change the way you experience the web, if the DWeb is built properly. Corbyn also points out another important aspect of it: “One thing that is likely to change is that you will pay for more stuff directly — think micropayments based on cryptocurrency — because the business model of advertising to us based on our data won’t work well in the DWeb. Want to listen to songs someone has recorded and put on a decentralised website? Drop a coin in the cryptocurrency box in exchange for a decryption key and you can listen.”
Passwords will also become a thing of the past, because you’ll have your own unique, secure identity on the web. But, you will have to keep it safe, because lose this password and you’ve lost everything. At least, that is the current thinking on this however that may change in the future, depending on what developers manage to achieve.
You can already try some decentralised apps, such as Matrix, an alternative to Slack, and there are others, like DTube, a decentralised ‘YouTube’ and there are social networking alternatives as well, such as Akasha and Diaspora.
But, we’re not quite there yet. There is a lot of work to be done, and no doubt the likes of Google and Facebook are going to orchestrate a big pushback against its development. But it is a possibility and it has significant benefits — let’s see how it progresses.