Blockchain: Reawakening the Dream Of A Decentralised World Wide Web ?

Blockchain: Reawakening the Dream Of A Decentralised World Wide Web ?
Blockchain: Reawakening the Dream Of A Decentralised World Wide Web ?

I have written widely how blockchain has become a tour-de-force strong enough to disrupt whole industries and economic sectors. The technology can provoke a profound tsunami that can wave the very pillars of our current systems. Its growing presence in today’s biggest corporations – and small new start-ups – only means that far from being just mere fuss words, these techs are quite real and, their development is happening at fast pace. The ones in charge of shaping the evolution of the technology, have the opportunity to change the near future of humanity for the better. On the other hand, for this outcome to become real and truly beneficial, governments and citizens hold the responsibility to  watch careful over all the blindspots and problems brought by these technologies so its challenges are anticipated ( and prevented) before they occur.

The stakes are high, because the perils are plausible. In 2019, it is expected that much will happen in the blockchain world. And one of the most important aspects of the technology that will need to be tackled, is similar to what happened with the Internet, 20 years ago. Will blockchain help us regain once again a more decentralized internet?

As most of us know, the original  Internet  was born out of a network of networks operating  within the military in the US, and as such was classified and it belonged to the government. When private funding corporations started to promote its development at a worldwide scale, fears came  around the perils of what seemed like its privatization and ownership.

ARPANET was the network that became the basis for the Internet. Based on a concept first published in 1967, ARPANET was developed under the direction of the U.S. Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA).
ARPANET was the network that became the basis for the Internet. Based on a concept first published in 1967, ARPANET was developed under the direction of the U.S. Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA).

However, things took a different and better twist, through the hands of a young English scientist working at CERN, Switzerland. In March 1989, he made a proposal for an information management system, and by mid November the same year, he was able to implement the first successful communication between a Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP) client and server via the internet. The world wide web was born, the greatest communication medium of our time. The only requirement Tim Berners-Lee asked for, was to leave the World Wide Web protocol open, accessible and free for everyone in the planet.

Tim Berners-Lee's entry in Time magazine's list of the 100 Most Important People of the 20th century, March 1999
Tim Berners-Lee’s entry in Time magazine’s list of the 100 Most Important People of the 20th century, March 1999

Story tends to repeat itself. What happened to the Internet 2 decades ago, might be what will happen and be the most immediate and critical challenge blockchain faces on the verge of the new year.

If back in the 80s Berners-Lee created a protocol that was accepted and used for everyone, nowadays, blockchain is still at the very beginning of its development. Its key players, compete with each other in an imaginary race to become the first ones to develop the definitive blockchain protocol, with the hope that their technology will be replicated and its use extended. This is exactly what happened just before Berners-Lee’s HTTP protocol.

Layer 2 Blockchain Solutions

Blockchain is a very young technology, so it is critical for the future of this technology and its widespread implementation,  to look if there are any solutions  similar to the HTTP protocol.  As it stands now, we have what is called Layer 2 solutions in terms of blockchain development.

The key attribute of layer 2 solutions is that these operate “on top” of existing blockchains. Rather than having the script of a particular program executed by every computer in the blockchain network (which is the basis of what blockchain stands for), layer 2 solutions are implemented simply by two or more computers involved in the transaction.

In order for this to happen in a safe way, new security and trust solutions must be invented, since much of the computing activity in individual transactions or smart contracts will be taken “off chain.” To take some of the burden “off chain” is very Important, and it is expected that  breakthroughs will happen with blockchain tech, when easing the heavy, multi-party computation that blockchains carry. But to keep up with the original characteristics of blockchain, it is important to ensure that transaction histories are at some point anchored by “on-chain” consensus algorithms.

It is still early days, but what we can anticipate in 2019 and upcoming years, is a competitive dance between the interests of established corporations, which tend to stand against Layer 2 startups, and the effort of those startups and potentially thousands of independent coders around the world. What is expected to result from this dance will be new standards and protocols, and a handful of companies/technologies, mediated by watchdogs like the World Wide Web Consortium.

Berners-Lee’s altruistic and responsible act changed the world 20 years ago. Now, at the dawn of blockchain and Artifical Intelligence hatching, new players stand before a similar dilemma, and it is up to them (and all of us if we stand firm and watchful) that  humanity as a whole can benefit from this disruption for the better, and keep up with this breakthrough that we all are about to leap into.

Tim Berners Lee at CERN in the 80s
Tim Berners Lee at CERN in the 80s

As for Professor Berners Lee, he is doing is bit for a more decentralized internet… even though he is not using blockchain. Though he is a supporter of blockchain he is finding other solutions. Solid is his new exciting project led taking place at MIT. The project aims to radically change the way Web applications work today, resulting in true data ownership as well as improved privacy, but until now there is no apparent mention of incorporating or integrating blockchain, yet at least.

We will have to the future to happen to see if  Tim-Berners Lee Solid, or blockchain will  finally bring about the decentralised internet from the people to the people that he first envisioned.

 

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