In what may turn out to be a seminal moment in the history of IT, a bunch of luminaries, idealists, crypto geeks, hackers, paranoiacs and industry veterans met earlier this year for the first Decentralised Web Summit with the objective to "lock the web open" by design.
This followed concerns that the internet has become controlled by a few giant corporations and governments. The idea behind "re-decentralising the web", or locking it open, is to return it conceptually to where it started: a free and open network for the secure sharing and storage of information.
They are not just motivated by censorship and privacy concerns. The speed of the internet as experienced by most of us has failed to keep pace with Moore's Law and other measures of technological advance, and things will get worse if the principle of net neutrality is compromised.
Most decentralised projects are small and at an early stage, but there are some big names involved, such as Sir Tim Berners-Lee and Kim Dotcom, many building on new techniques and technologies that have arrived in recent years, particularly crypto-currencies and blockchains.
It's an area that's buzzing with new ideas. So who's who in the decentralised world, sometimes called Internet 2.0? Join us as we take you on a tour of the movers and shakers.
Sir Tim Berners-Lee
Anyone who's paid attention to the father of the World Wide Web's recent pronouncements will know that Berners-Lee is not at all happy about how his baby has turned out. He's even made a film about it called ForEveryone.net.
He was one of the speakers at the Decentralised Web Summit, and is particularly strong on issues of surveillance and net neutrality, the principle that access to content should not be controlled by a single interest.
"The web has got so big that if a company can control your access to the internet, if they can control which websites you go to, they have tremendous control over your life," he said recently.
"If they can spy on what you're doing they can understand a huge amount about you, and similarly if a government can block you going to, for example, the opposition's political pages, they can give you a blinkered view of reality to keep themselves in power.
"And if they can spy on you and find out the people who are really serious dissidents they can round you up and put you in jail. So suddenly the power to abuse the open internet has become tempting for government and big companies."
The solution must be technological, according to Berners-Lee, as the legal system cannot keep up with the global nature of the web.
He is now working on Solid, or 'social linked data', a set of conventions and tools for building decentralised social applications which is based on existing W3C standards and protocols.
It would be unfair to miss out fellow internet pioneers and organisers of the Decentralised Web Summit.
Vint Cerf, co-creator of TCP/IP, has spoken his vision of a web that archives itself, and Brewster Kahle, founder of the Internet Archive, has said that we need to rebuild the web to ensure that it guarantees privacy and security for its users.
Next Satoshi Nakamoto
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