Post By Simon Montford on Oct 3, 2018
Today’s web is pretty much controlled by an oligopoly of tech giants that I will refer to as “GAFAM”. They have grown incredibly rich by hoovering up personal data belonging to billions of people and using it to develop incredibly addictive products. This practice is, in most cases, perfectly legal as it is done with the consent of their users.
Due to the network effect, the aforementioned purveyors of online products have become so dominant that few viable alternatives exist. Their suites of products are designed to work best when integrated within their respective platform ecosystems, and this makes everything super convenient from the user's point of view. However by stitching everything so seamlessly together they get to know even more about us.
Now that the Internet of Things has gone mainstream, it’s as if sensors have become woven into the very fabric of our lives. Everything can be monitored from our eating habits to our sleeping patterns, even our mental state.
This accepted practice of forcing users to give up their privacy and cajole them into becoming bound by unfavourable terms of service is becoming increasingly intrusive, and it needs to stop.
Regulations like GDPR are not the solution. All those annoying pop-ups that appear every time you visit a website are thanks to politicians who have tried to solve how data is used by tracking cookies. Hashtag fail. That is why I am vehemently against government intervention, but thankfully without their involvement, it looks like things are a-changin’.
A new wave of technologies are being developed that could fundamentally transform how the World Wide Web operates. A growing number of very bright and highly motivated pioneers across the world are working to make the web more decentralised using innovations such as blockchain. The decentralised revolution is well underway!
Companies like Ethereum and EOS have used it to create distributed platforms that enable anyone to build and run distributed applications. Brave is a web browser that bypasses Google by enabling users to sell their data directly to advertisers; the startup raised $35m to fund their project in under 30 seconds!
However, perhaps the most telling development was the recent announcement by the web’s inventor, Sir Tim Burners-Lee, that he has been working with a team at MIT on an open-source project called Solid. The project’s stated aim is to give power and agency back to individuals because the web has become an “engine of inequity and division; swayed by powerful forces who use it for their own agendas”.
Although Solid could make consumer-facing web apps more democratic it may not be enough to address the needs of every enterprise. If data is the new oil, corporations will also need to become less reliant on the tech giants, however, this will be a huge challenge. Many corporates have built their entire operations around on tap cloud-based offerings like machine-learning-as-a-service that they could never develop internally.
This is why my team and I have been working on our own decentralised open-source platform called DX3. Unlike Sir Tim, our goal is not to fix the entire World Wide Web. We are leveraging distributed technologies to solve highly targeted problems that exist within a few target industry verticals.
So in conclusion, there is no doubt that the web has made the world a better place, but it needs a fresh coat of paint in the form of a major upgrade. My hope is that it will evolve into becoming what Sir Tim designed it to be in the first place; a global network controlled by everyone who uses it.
Now that sounds like my kind of revolution!
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