Decentralization of Internet
Since the boom of “dot com” more than 20 years ago, the Internet has reshaped not only the way people interact with each other, but also the way businesses operate and serve customers. Along with rapid tech development, however, the Internet which used to be decentralized slowly turned to be centralized. On episode 9 of Blockchain Beyond Hype, we invited Patricia Parkinson to discuss how the blockchain technology can re-decentralize the internet again!
Laks: We are here today with Patricia. Welcome to Blockchain Zoo. We’re excited to have you here to discuss your thoughts on the Internet versus blockchain and how the blockchain technology is changing the web as we know it.
Since the boom of “dot com” more than 20 years ago, all industries have changed the way they operate and serve customers. Based on that, changes provided by blockchain technology are expected to be massive. Is it the reason why you have started working on several projects using this technology?
Patricia: I absolutely believe that blockchain is going to be that massive. I’m a part of bridging generation that had the internet really young. I’ve had computers since I was three years old and the Internet since I was ten. So I had analog experience and Internet experience and also had a critical eye because of that. As I got older, I started questioning the Internet that became our normal and started looking for answers on what was working or wasn’t. When I found the original version and design of the Internet from Ted Nelson in the 70s, I spent a couple of years traveling the world trying to figure out how I can contribute to making that our reality with the Internet. It wasn’t until I realized that blockchain bridges the digital and the physical world and understood those intricacies. This is where I can make a contribution to making that our future.
Laks: You help teams build innovative digital experiences, so the projects you work on are at the intersection of design, technology, and entrepreneurship. What does it take for you to unleash this creative potential of teams you work with?
Patricia: I think that regardless of the specific projects, there are three kinds of ingredients that go into play for people feeling empowered creatively. The first is choosing a team that is purpose aligned. The second is making sure that there’s clarity on the vision at hand and then there’s a buy-in from the team on that vision. And then lastly, creating healthy creative boundaries that people feel empowered to iterate and experiment within that process and work autonomously within it as well.
Laks: One of the blockchain’s missions is to re-decentralize the Internet. It’s hard to believe, but like you said the Internet was decentralized a while ago. When launching a website, you had to buy a server and host a website on your own. Now we use centralized hosting services and other services from corporations like Twitter, Facebook, Google. Do you see the decentralization as the main change blockchain will bring into our lives?
Patricia: I think decentralization is part of it. But at a more human level, it’s going to change the way that we cooperate with one another. It’s going to help us align incentives. It’s going to improve transparency and accountability between different parties. I think that decentralization is important, but what people actually want is accountability, and I don’t think full decentralization is always the answer to get there.
Laks: The Internet is built on open-source protocols, such as TCP/IP, HTTP, or SMTP. Understanding “Simple Mail Transfer Protocol” was a must to send an email in the past. Today it’s enough to be able to operate with Outlook or Gmail to do it. These services popularized the Internet by making e-mailing very convenient, but they also centralized it by growing large. How will bringing back decentralized functionality look like?
Patricia: I think one example we’re already seeing on the blockchain called EOS which is – you can use your username to send email to people rather than having a specific email address. So we’re seeing these services like Dmail. I think it’s also interesting that we’ll have a central source for saving things like email on the blockchain but then many different explorers that have different user experiences and interfaces on top of that. So you can choose the type of interactions that you want to have to the same data that you can have access to in all those different services.
Laks: 1990s was an important era for the Internet when the mass adoption wave came after more than 20 years since its creation. Minding all of that, when will mass adoption happen for the blockchain technology in your opinion?
Patricia: I think that there are three key things that can happen to help encourage mass adoption. The first and most important is, we need to design experiences that are as good if not better than what we’re familiar with on the web right now. In a lot of cases, people won’t even know that their services are running on the blockchain. The second is, we need to make it convenient for people to use in their everyday life. And I think a big part of that is the way that we currently look at money as digital which is a point of sale devices when we’re using credit cards. We need to have those devices also accept cryptocurrencies natively. Then sadly but kinda true is the third one when the next inevitable financial crisis happens, this is the first time when the cryptocurrency will be available. It didn’t exist in 2008, and I think people will look at it as a realistic option to protect their wealth that they didn’t have before.
Laks: After the internet will become decentralized again, the power will go back to users. That will drastically change content creation, distribution, and incentivization, but also censorship. Let’s imagine, my archeological expedition discovered artifact, which does not match the regular view of history and mankind. It is a revolutionary discovery. How do you see the usage of blockchain in content distribution will enhance the process of spreading controversial news?
Patricia: I think we’re already seeing this happen. I think that because blockchain creates a permanent source to save information like this that is being leveraged for controversial information. A couple of months ago, there was a 9/11 hacker who was releasing controversial documents on the blockchain Steem. You are not able to ever censor it from the core blockchain level, but at the explorer level, they can hide that it exists. So the people who know where to go can always find it. We’re also seeing this on sites like Everipedia where anyone can submit and edit any piece of content. Of course, there’s community moderation involved and whether or not that gets accepted by the community unless it’s an official publication. But there always will be the record that it was submitted. So we’re going to have no true source necessarily but also no ability to really censor this type of information.
Laks: Those concepts are embraced by one of the projects you work at, Everipedia which you did mention, which is the evolutionary stage of Wikipedia. How do these two platforms differ?
Patricia: Wikipedia has two camps that are considered to be Inclusionists, which is like – put as much there as possible, and Deletionists – let’s be really tight about what goes onto Wikipedia. And this is starting to cause a few problems where there’s a gap, which is called the Goldilocks Zone, between what is considered notable enough to go on Wikipedia and what people are searching for on the Internet and find it interesting. And that’s where Everipedia comes in to disrupt that space. It’s the new Wikipedia for up and coming things and culture.
Laks: Social media will be even less manageable. Do you think we are ready for it?
Patricia: I think that they might actually become more manageable. I don’t know if you’ve ever tried to contact Facebook’s community moderation teams, but it’s near impossible. So what we’ll have popping up is community moderation and also algorithms that have the content that’s most relevant to us. The highest quality content will float to the surface and won’t be forced within what Facebook considers to be their own algorithm. You can choose different explorers based on experience that you want. Maybe it’s only for sound clips. Maybe it’s optimized for really beautiful high-quality images. I think that we’re going to be able to have better experiences through that. But also and more importantly, we’re going to be able to be paid for the value of our content through social media. So it’s no longer going to be the nice, warm, fuzzy feeling for thumbs ups and comments. It’s going to be money in our wallets.
Laks: So it looks like the main shift is in the way how humanity will interact and collaborate. No surprise there, technology is just a tool. What other collaborative mechanics of interaction powered by the blockchain can you see in practice?
Patricia: I’m most excited about the opportunities through blockchain to collaborate better with one another. We’re seeing examples of this already pop up in the early days of EOS. We have referendum systems currently in use signaling to the block producers on the sentiment of the community. We’re having new types of shared ownership pop up through DACs. The decentralized organizations appear. And most of all, I think that people that are gravitating towards the blockchain space versus the cryptocurrency space are having more open dialogues, better ideologies, beliefs, and philosophies. So we’ll be able to congregate in communities where we have that kind of core driving force. From that place, we can accomplish a lot more than we could before.
Laks: Blockcollab.io and deco.network present a new way of managing the co-operation of individuals. Could you tell us more about it?
Patricia: Blockcollab is what we’re calling a collaboratory. It’s a group of people that are working on the fringe of the new world of work. What we’re doing is exploring the trends of moving from institutionalized structures to network structures, from being siloed in an organization to being cross-disciplinary and things like from having a fixed time that you work to fluid schedules. So we’re both showing up in these ways the way that we work as well as working on projects that are enhancing and encouraging that to exist in the world. Whereas Deco.net is focusing more on reducing the friction that sometimes happens in collaboration. The two kinds of points that we’re tracking this from is (1) aligning incentives between collaborators and (2) making payments easier and faster.
Laks: If you had to list the three soonest changes or consequences which blockchain and re-decentralization of the Internet will bring to the business world, what would they be?
Patricia: I think that three things that are going to shift, one of them is financial freedom. We’re going to have investment options that weren’t open to everyone previously. We’re also going to have abilities to protect our wealth and to generate passive income through a variety of different online activities. My favorite is the idea that you don’t pay to play, but you play and get paid in terms of gaming. I think that’s the first one that we’re going to see as for mass adoption. The second is, I think we’re going to see people having more open dialogues around ideologies and why decentralization, accountability, transparency is important to us. And I think the third thing is helping this grey territory that exists between people that are independent contractors and not necessarily corporations but are hiring subcontractors. We’re going to give people the ability to work collaboratively on large projects without having to run through those regulatory hoops.
Laks: Well, this has been very interesting. Thank you for telling us about blockchain vs. the Internet. We do like to ask all of our guests – how do you envision decentralization and blockchain changing the world?
Patricia: I think that for a long time the value that’s been created by people in the Internet has been captured by centralized, what Jaron Lanier and ‘Who Owns the Future?’- his book calls “Siren Servers”, and people on the other side of that haven’t had their contributions on the Internet properly returned back to them. So I think through decentralization of the web, we’re going to see different ways that that value is returned back to the user. Be it in some privacy, control of their data, or the way that they generate their revenue and income in the world.
Laks: And how do you think the market for blockchain-based solutions will evolve?
Patricia: I think, first we’re going to see the word blockchain being used a lot less, especially to promote a product. Blockchain will kind of underpin the solutions being possible and as effective and efficient as they are. But the everyday consumer doesn’t really need to know that. I also think that we’re going to see the ability to run applications being cheaper and more effective on blockchain solutions than on traditional servers, which is really exciting. I’ve already seen it on EOS actually in the last couple of weeks. The last is, I think we’re going to start seeing services pop up where users are paid to use the service and don’t have to pay to use the service.
Laks: Well, this has been fascinating. Thank you, again, for coming to speak with us at Blockchain Zoo about the way that blockchain technology can decentralize the web again.
BBH Guest: Patricia Parkinson, Co-Founder of BlockCollab
With over a decade of experience in designing products and fostering innovative teams, Patricia is the biz wiz who has worked with 100+ startups to Fortune 500 clients. She is a visionary fueled by fascination and enthusiasm for a decentralized future.