Locking the Web Open: A Call for a Distributed Web

Over the last 25 years, millions of people have poured creativity and knowledge into the World Wide Web. New features have been added and dramatic flaws have emerged based on the original simple design. I would like to suggest we could now build a new Web on top of the existing Web that secures what we want most out of an expressive communication tool without giving up its inclusiveness. I believe we can do something quite counter-intuitive: We can lock the Web open.

In this article, Jeff Kaplan outlines how we can make the web safe, open, and secure with technology that exists right now. It’s a refreshing view of what the internet could be without the hype of blockchain (which is meantioned in the article) and vaporware.

The Web is not distributed [like the internet] While different websites are located all over the world, in most cases, any particular website has only one physical location. Therefore, if the hardware in that particular location is down then no one can see that website. In this way, the Web is centralized: if someone controls the hardware of a website or the communication line to a website, then they control all the uses of that website.

Consider all the content that you’ve probably uploaded to Facebook. If Facebook decided to turn its servers off that would be the end of your information.

Even major companies, such as Apple, Google, and Yahoo, have taken down whole systems hosting millions of user’s websites, often with little notice.

Google Reader comes to mind.

Jeff goes into how systems like the Interplanetary File System (IPFS), BitTorrent, and client-side javascript can make lots of the features of the web both distributed and secure. Without going into any technical background what these peer-to-peer systems would do is distribute the hosting of websites.

Right now my website is hosted on a single server. When anyone visits they download a page from my server. In Jeff’s vision once someone visits a webpage they would download and begin to host the web page. So the more people who visit a page the more hosts that page has. Each of us would be hosting a little piece of the world wide web.

This model also helps circumvent censorship:

Since a distributed website does not have a single location it would be more difficult to monitor or block its use. Furthermore, if one copy gets behind a firewall of this kind, then it can be replicated inside, making censorship more difficult.

What we need to do now is bring together technologists, visionaries, and philanthropists to build such a system that has no central points of control. Building this as a truly open project could in itself be done in a distributed way, allowing many people and many projects to participate toward a shared goal of a Distributed Web.





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