There is something not quite right about the internet. It’s not what it seems. On the surface it looks like a great boon to human freedom, where ordinary people who previously would not have had a voice can express themselves freely and form communities with like-minded individuals even if they are spread out all around the world. It looks like tool which allows downtrodden populations to spread the truth regardless of government controls, and to organise themselves against tyranny.

Once upon a time there was some small amount of truth to these naive and idealistic visions of the internet. They were always overstated, but still there was some truth to them. This is increasingly not the case. Governments around the world, including in western countries such as the United States or Europe, are increasingly cracking down on online free speech, and using the internet to spy on their entire populations. As people conduct social relationships in semi-public online forums which they would previously have conducted entirely in private, much more of our lives comes under public and government scrutiny. Meanwhile big business can increasingly analyse the ‘big data’ it controls about all of our lives to control us like Pavolv’s dogs salivating over the gruel they feed us through the media. Far from being a tool to promote freedom, the internet is becoming the primary tool of our oppression.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. The internet really can be all of those things which we once dreamed that it was. We just need to decentralize it.

The Benefits: Why We Need to Decentralize The Internet

start our own internetCreating a new internet infrastructure which is decentralized has a number of benefits. Because there is no central authority, or central computer server, which is ‘in charge’ of running a service or website there is nobody the government can go to if they want to censor information which they don’t like. This makes decentralized technologies heavily censorship resistant. This also means that instead of a company being in charge of your data – and therefore being able to use it for their own nefarious purposes behind your back – your data is encrypted and held across a distributed network in a form only you can access. This means that a decentralized internet is likely to have higher privacy standards than our currency technology allows for. The lack of central servers also makes it harder for hackers to break into the sites you use and steal things.

The economics of a decentralized internet are also interesting, as it opens up the possibility for ordinary users of a network to contribute towards its upkeep, and potentially even earn a profit for doing so. The use of another decentralization technology – cryptocurrency – is usually suggested as a way to do this.

Web 3.0: Decentralized Internet Projects

There are several so-called ‘web 3.0’ projects around at the moment, which are trying to create frameworks and platform for a decentralied internet. Of course there are also independent decentralized apps, or ‘DApps’ which use their own networks or which live on top of cryptocurrency block chains. In fact, cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin could themselves be thought of as the first generation of ‘DApps’.

This page is the first in a series of posts on web 3.0 technologies and the decentralized internet. I will keep it maintained with an up-to-date list of all the frameworks and platforms which you can use to make your own decentralized websites and decentralized apps. I will also try to keep it updated with the best information and resources for creating your own DApps, with their own networks, independently and without going through one of these frameworks.

List of Current Web 3.0 Projects for Making Decentralized Websites and Apps:
  • ZeroNet – Built on torrent-like technology the ZeroNet project allows users to create uncensorable decentralized websites. There is currently no user-rewards mechanism, however, and no concrete designs for operation at larger scales.
  • Maidsafe – Perhaps the original decentralized internet project, maidsafe’s ‘Safe Network’ has been in development for over 8 years now. The technology is built around a system for distributed storage, in which data is shredded into tiny packets and stored in multiple locations at randomly selected nodes. A cryptocurrency called Safecoin is included to reward storage providers, and in the future to also reward people for providing other resources such as bandwidth or cpu time.
  • Ethereum – Perhaps the most eagerly awaited of the group, Etheruem is based around a smart contracting system and will include tools for developers to build decenralized apps using Ethereum’s own Turing complete programming language ‘Serpent’. A distributed storage mechanism is baked into the protocol from the start. Etheruem also has its own cryptocurrency which will be used to provide fuel for the network and its apps, and unlike Maidsafe this cryptocurrency uses block chain technology.
  • Bitshares Toolkit – The Bitshares toolkit is actually a set of developer tools for creating ‘decentralized autonomous companies’ or DACs, like Bitshares itself. But since these DACs could provide the similar services to conventional websites and apps I thought it would be appropriate to include it here.
  • IPFS – A ‘distribited file system’ with torrent-like features which can be used for creating your own decentralized apps.
  • Eris Industries – A ‘distributed application stack’ which provides many useful tools for developers.
Honourable Mentions:

Twister: A decentralized app for microblogging (twitter-style social sharing) – not exactly making an app or a website, but making a microblog is fun too!