Web decentralisation has been hanging in the air since the World Wide Web creation itself. However, the rapid spread of HTTP and its lasting hegemony keeps the promise of decentralisation undelivered. We are now at the brink of experiencing painful consequences of centrally-stored data systems: starting from massive energy costs of server maintenance, DDoS attacks, government-enforced censorship of “undesired” materials, to suspicious cooperation of internet and server providers with government agencies.
Luckily, the work on making the Internet great again has been all but dormant. Here are three projects that shine a light of hope on the future of the web.
The InterPlanetary File System is a peer-to-peer hypermedia protocol designed to make web faster, safer, and more open, according to its creators. It flattens the web structure by creating a distribution system that is asking the network to search for the file’s storage node directly, instead of sending a server request. Each file is given a unique hash, and is then placed in a storage node. IFPS technology keeps versions of the files that together create a permanent archive of the Internet. The results are more efficient data storage and extraction, free form the risk of external interference.
IFPS 0.5 version is available for testing.
The Internet is currently following a direction towards more centralised, heavily-controlled flow of information. Dissatisfied by this tendency, Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the World Wide Web, aims to shift them into a more individual-oriented way. Supported by his team at MIT, he leads the project that manifested itself in the form of Social Linked Data (Solid). Solid consists of a set of tools and principles that can provide an alternative to mainstream social media providers. These consist of:
- identity, authentication and login
- authorisation and permission lists
- contact management
- messaging and notifications
- feed aggregation and subscription,
- comments and discussions
The key feature of Solid, beautifully called True data ownership, is giving users the ability to choose where their data resides by decoupling content from the application. Solid is an open-source technology and is available on GitHub. More information about the project, and an opportunity to discuss it is available on their forum.
An interesting approach has been taken by a Scottish company called MaidSafe. Their idea is to use the collective spare capacity of interconnected computers to manage the entire web movement - without the need for any servers. Safe Network splits your data into parts that are then encrypted individually, and ultimately dispersed around the network. This way there is no possibility for any hacker or government interference. The providers of data storage are awarded in a cryptocurrency, paid by the users of the web. This may resemble a blockchain model, however, Safe Network doesn’t use blockchain technology, and does not suffer from its scalability issues. The exact way that Safe Network stores and manages data is very complex, a more detailed description can be found here.
Final stages of the project are still under development but it’s good to keep an eye on it now, as it has the potential to revolutionise the way we use and create the Internet.
As the threats of privacy breaches and censorship continue to rise, decentralisation could be a solution that takes the control from the large server providers and governments and redistributes it among the users. These projects are set to achieve that and change the shape of the web forever. Let’s just hope that we won’t have to wait another 30 years for them to develop - we may not have that much time.