The internet is  decentralized by design. It took off with hackers running independent  servers in their basements. Direct peer-to-peer communication was common  among the first inhabitants of the web. The internet was a liberating  force that connected and empowered people. The ability to send  information instantly to any corner of the world seemed surreal and  fascinating.

As more and more of the population joined, the  net became more convenient. It shifted towards centralized services and  walled gardens. We have waived our rights for the faster, sleeker  experience which gradually turned into ad-ridden, attention-grabbing  nightmare that we face today. Nowadays, the web is ruled by corporate  overlords who made ego-driven photo sharing easy even for the least  tech-savvy of us. Somewhere along the way, the vision of  decentralization was lost. It was traded in for the vision of  convenience and profit.

Today, we see that we have gone too far in  the direction of centralization. We have our data abused and sold by  the corporations who mostly care about growth. We were told that the  free web is unsafe and dark, but hate groups easily hijack centralized  platforms to spread their agenda with enormous scale and power. Maybe it  is still possible to regain the initial vision of decentralization?  Maybe it is still an option to swing back the pendulum and empower  internet users with independence, content ownership and liberty? I  believe it still can be done. And the initial deep ideas of the  decentralized web can help to guide us towards this important goal.Step 1: Liberate Content Publishing

In  the early days of the internet, it was clear that everyone owned their  content. The ownership was very physical. It meant that you run your own  server, and all the data that you want to share with people can be  stored on the hardware platform of yours. You could transfer and back up  the information yourself if you had the technical wits about how to do  it.

Today, in the convenient world of the web, people are not  aware of the servers. They create and publish content on the centralized  social platforms that try to monetize and sell their information. If  the platforms can't monetize their user data, they simply shut down and  take away all the years of work and content that the end user has  contributed to them. In a way, the users are selling the rights of their  content for the platforms, and in exchange, they can use these  platforms for free.

In order to implement the vision of  decentralization, first we need empower people to easily publish and own  their content on the web. Together with Val Repsys, we have built a prototype of a decentralized publishing platform https://dpage.io/ that enables people to easily create informational content-oriented web pages.

This is an example of a DPAGE that you should check out.

As  you can see, there are no ads, no clutter, only information that was  created by the user. This information has a personalized URL that can be  shared across the multiplicity of social platforms without giving up  ownership. The user is still controlling and owning the information that  is referenced by his unique URL and domain name.

Dpage.io is not a  website builder, and it is not a blogging platform. Running a website  is quite complicated — it involves a wide range of skills such as basic  design feel and at least elementary IT knowledge. The informational  landscape today shifted from people sharing personal websites to sharing  social posts. The problem is that the posts that people create are not  independent pages owned by end user. They are governed by a service that  they were posted in.

Dpage.io is built on top of Blockstack platform. This platform provides infrastructure for the storage layer  of the decentralized apps. That means that the end user does not have to  worry about running his own server, about data encryption, security or  backup. Blockstack still has ways to go in terms of user friendliness  and features but it is a step in the right direction.

Giving  people an easy way to publish and own their content online is something  that is still missing today. The complexity of this problem was  exploited by the big tech companies. In the end it left all of us less  powerful and dependent on the monopolies of the web.Step 2: Empower decentralized identity

Who  are you? This is the question that every platform, every website is  asking you. It is a very important question because the answer to it  defines what you can do and if you can be trusted. It is a sad state of  affairs today that most of us have given up our identity for others to  control. Every time you do 'log in with facebook' or 'log in with google'  you relinquish the right to vouch for yourself. Now the corporations  are the authorities that prove your credibility and identity. If you  don't own your identity, that means one day your identity and your  rights can be taken away.

What does the early internet wisdom tell  us about identity? It tells us that everyone should have a personal  domain name. The domain name system enables any person on earth to have  his human-readable address on the web. This system is decentralized by  design and is owned by nobody. Sure, it has its own shortcomings,  vulnerabilities and so on. But the protocols can be improved. It is  important that we retain this vision of decentralized web identity  available for anyone.

The Blockstack platform has invented their  own domain name system that is based on blockchain. That might be the  natural evolution of a more secure DNS model that could make the  decentralized identity more wide-spread. However, the problem that I  have with blockchain solutions is the lack of legal ownership of your  identity. If the identity can theoretically be stolen by gaining access  to your computer, it is not much of a reliable identity at all. The good  thing about original domain name system is that you can protect your  domain with the law. If somebody stole your name, you could have a case  in court against that person and take your identity back. This legal  aspect of internet identity is very important to ensure its robustness.

Today,  we are missing easier ways to register and control domain names.  Connecting your domain that was bought at one provider to a different  website hosting service is a nightmare for a common user. Since it is  more profitable for business that a user would buy both domain name and  all the other services in the same place, they intentionally make this  experience less user-friendly.

Domain name system and domain based  email addresses are the last pillars of the old decentralized internet  that we use today. We should not sacrifice these important ideas for  convenience, but improve and embrace them. Everyone should have a basic  human right to have their own presence and identity of the web.Step 3: Liberate Content Sharing

After  we have all the people owning their content, creating decentralized web  pages and connecting them to their own domain names we still have a  problem. People need a way to share their content and get the  recognition for it.

Today, the centralized platforms are the way  people create and share their content. However, the sharing tends to be  limited mostly inside the platform itself. For example, it is more  convenient to share Facebook videos on Facebook's social network than  youtube videos. Cross-platform sharing is strongly discouraged using all  kinds of dark UX patterns. You see, it is not profitable for the  platforms to allow their users to leave their walled garden. If you go  outside, you will consume less ads. This is called poor retention.

In  order to empower people in owning their own content, we also need to  create platforms that treat external content as a first-class citizen.  As a prototype for this behavior, I have created https://decentus.com/.  This is a web content aggregator that embraces the ideas of  decentralized identity and content ownership. A user who is identified  via domain name or blockstack id can post any external link. The title  and description of this link are being retrieved from the meta-data of  the web page itself. The external content is treated first-class, and  the aggregator is only responsible for indexing and prioritizing the  external content.

In Decentus, you can see all posts that were posted by the user (domain). Here is an example.  In a way, this is a news feed of tautvilas.lt decentralized user. In  the future, it is possible to add notifications and subscriptions where  anyone could subscribe to a list of domains that they follow. Since your  domain is your username, it means that your personal website is also  your user profile for all social networks that you would use. This opens  up a lot of new possibilities for developing your personal brand.

Decentus.com also implements a loginless way to submit external URLs.  This is implemented by using domain-name based authentication.  Currently, this process is quite clumsy, but it is a glimpse to the  possible future where you would not need to log-in to any service and be  recognized by your domain name using mechanisms of cryptography. No  logging in also means no stealth tracking of user actions on the web.

Currently,  Decentus platform is extremely simple and it gives just a glance to the  liberated web. In the future a composition of technologies like  blockstack, dpage, decentralized identity, loginless interactions and  external content oriented social platforms will give us the full  experience. I believe in the internet where people will own their  identity, where the web pages will be independent and self-defining  pieces of content . Having a more decentralized web will enable content  aggregation and sharing possibilities that we have not imagined before.  It will open up the creative abilities of humans to build a better web,,  where the flow of information runs free and unrestricted.

If you would like to discuss more about the ideas of the decentralized web, don't be shy and drop me an email at connect@tautvilas.lt

via Medium by @TautviIas
TautviIas Mečinskas