Over 1,100 New Arcade Machines Added to the Internet Arcade

The Internet Arcade, our collection of working arcade machines that run in the browser, has gotten a new upgrade in its 4th year. Advancements by both the MAME emulator team and the Emscripten conversion process allowed our team to go through many more potential arcade machines and add them to the site.

The majority of these newly-available games date to the 1990s and early 2000s, as arcade machines both became significantly more complicated and graphically rich, while also suffering from the ever-present and home-based video game consoles that would come to dominate gaming to the present day. Even fervent gamers might have missed some of these arcade machines when they were in the physical world, due to lower distribution numbers and shorter times on the floor.

A somewhat beefy machine and very modern browser will be required to run these games. In general, pressing the 5 key will insert coins, 1 and 2 will start 1 or 2 player games, and the arrow and spacebar keys will control the games themselves.

Let the games… continue!

To visit the new 1,100 additions, click here.

Thanks, as always, to Dan Brooks, for maintaining the Emularity system to allow near-instant upgrading of emulators and additions of new platforms to the Internet Archive collections.

Posted in News, Software Archive | Leave a comment

Let’s Celebrate: Building A Better Web!

White Tie Optional: the stylish Kyle Courtney & Hannah Scates Kettler enjoy Internet Archive’s 2017 Annual Bash.

IA’s Director of Media, Alexis Rossi, sports the most memorable hat of 2017’s Bash.

Once a year, the Internet Archive’s community pulls out its fancy hats, quaffs a cocktail or two, and celebrates the latest breakthroughs in building a better web together. Our goal: to bring you knowledge in all its many forms that is richer, deeper, more trustworthy and openly accessible on the Web. Knowledge that will fuel innovation and understanding for generations to come.  So won’t you join us?  Come to Building A Better Web: The Internet Archive’s Annual Bash, Wednesday, October 3 from 5-10 p.m. at our headquarters in San Francisco.  Tickets start at $15 but no one will be turned away for lack of funds.

Four arms are better than one? The special turntable used in digitizing 78 rpm records.

First order of business: come at 5 PM for taco trucks, cocktails and hands-on demonstrations of how to digitize a rare book, play a virtual reality game, or explore the newest features of the Wayback Machine.  Be sure to grab a library card and get it stamped at each demo station: at the end of the evening we’ll award you with an IA-themed prize.

San Francisco muralist, Ju Young Ku will be painting a new work while the party bubbles around him.

Meanwhile, don’t miss the amazing creativity of muralist Ju Young Ku as he paints a new library-themed scene before your very eyes. Before the night is over, you can take photos in front of his latest work. Be sure to get tattooed (temporarily) with a GeoCities GIF image from the 90s and groove to a 78 rpm mix from our DJ during the dinner hour.

IA’s Mek (Michael Karpeles) shows off experiments from Archive Lab.

Next up: head inside to learn more about the Internet Archive’s latest experiments.  And be sure to find the gallery of works by the Internet Archive’s Artists-in-Residence, including the mind-tripping installation by artist Chris Sollars. He sampled psychedelic screensavers, live recordings of the Grateful Dead, and psychotropic literature from the Internet Archive’s digital vaults to create a commentary on the nexus between drug culture and early tech culture from the 80s and 90s. 

Grab a grassy spot and contemplate Chris Sollars’ installation on display.

At 7 PM head upstairs to the Great Room for an hour-long presentation of the coolest new tools and mind-boggling new collections of 2018.  From the great works of Tibetan Buddhism to 12,000 free audiobooks on your mobile phone, we’ll unveil the latest and greatest breakthroughs of the year.

And don’t go home yet!  At 8 PM we’ll head outside for dessert, gift giveaways, and dancing to the vinyl playlist of DJ Phast Phreddie.  It’s a party with a purpose: to celebrate the open, creative, sharing community of the Web–a Web we’re working hard to make better each and every day.

GET YOUR TICKETS NOW!

 

Dancing anyone?  We’ll end the evening with ice cream and great music.

 

 

Posted in Announcements, News | Leave a comment

Revised wish list now available: 1.5M books we want

Earlier this year we released our Open Libraries wish list, which brought together four datasets to help inform our collection development priorities for Open Libraries.  After working with the wish list for a few months and reviewing our approach, we decided to make a few revisions to the ways in which we brought together the data.  Our wish list was always intended to be an iterative work-in-progress, and we are pleased to release our latest version here: https://archive.org/details/open_libraries_wish_list

Download wish list now

What’s in the wish list?

To create the wish list, we brought together four datasets:

  1. OCLC’s list of one million most widely held books, based on holdings records of libraries worldwide;
  2. Library Link’s holdings records of North American libraries, leveraging the decisions of thousands of librarians in prioritizing collections for patron use;
  3. Open Syllabus Project, which has collected syllabi from the Internet to compile the most assigned books in classrooms;
  4. Data about book and scholarly article citations in Wikipedia, published by the Wikimedia Foundation.

These data help us define a collection of 1.5M books, identified by their ISBNs, that are widely held and frequently cited.  We continue to work on human-mediated efforts to identify collections that are reflective of the diverse voices in our communities.

What’s changed?

In this latest revision to the wish list, we decided to keep the focus on materials that are widely held and widely cited by fine tuning the thresholds for inclusion on the list in the following ways:

  • In our previous wish list, we had included xISBN “synonyms” to the ISBNs on the list as a way of increasing the breadth of materials, but realized that approach created scenarios where we could have digitized a different edition than the one cited by a Wikipedia editor, or included on a syllabus.  In the latest revision, we chose to include only the ISBNs included on each list.
  • We also revised our approach to the Wikipedia citations, including those books that had been cited more than once.

This latest revision gives us a wish list comprised of 1.5M ISBNs that we feel confident in using as a core collection around which to focus our acquisition and digitization priorities.

How can you help?

If you’d like to help us build our digital collection, you can contribute in the following ways:

  • Donate books
    • You can donate books to our physical archive. If you are a library, a publisher, or have a private collection with more than 1,000 books to donate, please contact Chris Freeland, Director of Open Libraries, at chrisfreeland@archive.org. We will add these books to our digitization queue and they will become ebooks available through Open Libraries as funding becomes available.
  • Identify books
    • If you are an author who would like to add your own books to the list, you can donate physical copies, and/or contact us to let us know you’d like us to ensure that your work will be preserved and available to future generations.
    • If you’re a librarian, educator, or other book lover and would like to help us continue to curate the wish list to ensure that it includes the most useful, important and culturally diverse books, please reach out to us.
  • Scan books
    • If you have books on our wish list but don’t want to donate them to our physical archive, we offer scanning services and can digitize your books in one of our regional scanning centers.

 

If you are interested in participating, or have questions about our program or plans, please contact Chris Freeland, Director of Open Libraries, at chrisfreeland@archive.org.

Posted in Announcements, Books Archive, News, Open Library | 3 Comments

Identity in the Decentralized Web

In B. Traven’s The Death Ship, American sailor Gerard Gales finds himself stranded in post-World War I Antwerp after his freighter departs without him.  He’s arrested for the crime of being unable to produce a passport, sailor’s card, or birth certificate—he possesses no identification at all.  Unsure how to process him, the police dump Gales on a train leaving the country. From there Gales endures a Kafkaesque journey across Europe, escorted from one border to another by authorities who do not know what to do with a man lacking any identity.  “I was just a nobody,” Gales complains to the reader.

As The Death Ship demonstrates, the concept of verifiable identity is a cornerstone of modern life.   Today we know well the process of signing in to shopping websites, checking email, doing some banking, or browsing our social network.  Without some notion of identity, these basic tasks would be impossible.

That’s why at the Decentralized Web Summit earlier this year, questions of identity were a central topic.  Unlike the current environment, in a decentralized web users control their personal data and make it available to third-parties on a need-to-know basis.  This is sometimes referred to as self-sovereign identity: the user, not web services, owns their personal information.

The idea is that web sites will verify you much as a bartender checks your ID before pouring a drink.  The bar doesn’t store a copy of your card and the bartender doesn’t look at your name or address; only your age is pertinent to receive service.  The next time you enter the bar the bartender once again asks for proof of age, which you may or may not relinquish. That’s the promise of self-sovereign identity.

At the Decentralized Web Summit, questions and solutions were bounced around in the hopes of solving this fundamental problem.  Developers spearheading the next web hashed out the criteria for decentralized identity, including:

  • secure: to prevent fraud, maintain privacy, and ensure trust between all parties
  • self-sovereign: individual ownership of private information
  • consent: fine-tuned control over what information third-parties are privy to
  • directed identity: manage multiple identities for different contexts (for example, your doctor can access certain aspects while your insurance company accesses others)
  • and, of course, decentralized: no central authority or governing body holds private keys or generates identifiers

One problem with decentralized identity is that these problems often compete, pulling in polar directions.

For example, while security seems like a no-brainer, with self-sovereign identity the end-user is in control (and not Facebook, Google, or Twitter).  It’s incumbent on them to secure their information. This raises questions of key management, data storage practices, and so on. Facebook, Google, and Twitter pay full-time engineers to do this job; handing that responsibility to end-users shifts the burden to someone who may not be so technically savvy.  The inconvenience of key management and such also creates more hurdles for widespread adoption of the decentralized web.

The good news is, there are many working proposals today attempting to solve the above problems.  One of the more promising is DID (Decentralized Identifier).

A DID is simply a URI, a familiar piece of text to most people nowadays.  Each DID references a record stored in a blockchain. DIDs are not tied to any particular blockchain, and so they’re interoperable with existing and future technologies.  DIDs are cryptographically secure as well.

DIDs require no central authority to produce or validate.  If you want a DID, you can generate one yourself, or as many was you want.  In fact, you should generate lots of them.  Each unique DID gives the user fine-grained control over what personal information is revealed when interacting with a myriad of services and people.

If you’re interested to learn more, I recommend reading Michiel Mulders’ article on DIDs, “the Internet’s ‘missing identity layer’.”  The DID working technical specification is being developed by the W3C.  And those looking for code and community, check out the Decentralized Identity Foundation.

(While DIDs are promising, it is a nascent technology.  Other options are under development.  I’m using DIDs as an example of how decentralized identity might work.)

What does the future hold for self-sovereign identification?  From what I saw at the Decentralized Web, I’m certain a solution will be found.

Posted in Event, Past Event, Technical | 1 Comment

SAVE THE DATE! — Building a Better Web: Internet Archive’s Annual Bash

Please save the date and join us for our annual bash on October 3rd, 2018! This year we’re working to build a better web, one that is useful and reliable, and we hope you will come to celebrate with us!

Get Your Tickets Now!

Fake news, the rewriting of history, power that is too centralized — we know the problems. Now let’s build a better web, together.

Join us as we demonstrate how the Internet Archive is rising to this challenge. Meet others in the community who, like you, are trying to help.

We’ll kick off the evening with cocktails, tacos and hands-on demos.

Let’s bring everything online and make it accessible;
Let’s make what is digital permanent and reliable;
Let’s build a decentralized web that we can trust.

Bring your visions for a better web and your dancing shoes, and together let’s build a stronger and more reliable digital commons.

Wednesday, October 3rd
5pm: Drinks, food trucks, and hands-on demos
7pm: Program
8pm: Dessert and Dancing

Location:  Internet Archive, 300 Funston Avenue, San Francisco

Tickets start at $15. If you are moved to donate more in support of Universal Access to All Knowledge, we appreciate your support. We will provide tax receipts for all donations made.

Get Your Tickets Now!

Posted in Announcements, Event, News, Upcoming Event | 13 Comments

The 2018 Internet Archive Artist in Residence: Pickling the Past for Future Edibility

Exhibition Overview on the Archive for download or viewing here: https://archive.org/details/2018ArtistInResidence

or on YouTube:

Article Written by John Held, Jr.

The Internet Archive is near and dear to my heart. First: a disclaimer. When the website provider Geocities went under and scrubbed existing sites, my data loss was incalculable. But all was not lost. The Internet Archive came to my rescue, capturing the site for posterity, giving it a new URL and making it accessible again, along with almost 300 billion (!) other preserved websites. http://web.archive.org/web/20050323100927/www.geocities.com/johnheldjr/

The Internet Archive, which is physically located down the street from me in a majestic former Christian Science Church at the intersection of Clement Street and Park Presidio, captures much more than defunct websites. It also digitizes and makes accessible books and sound recordings. For every person who bemoans the fact that private information put up on the Internet is forever available, there is another viewing the resource as an invaluable service expanding the depth of research on multitudes of topics.

Research takes many paths, and one path especially favored by Internet Archive founder Brewster Kahle is providing an open-ended road of creativity for artists to travel down. In a talk he gave last year at the inauguration of the Internet Archive’s Artist in Residence Program exhibition at Ever Gold (Projects), Kahle marveled at the inadvertent uses of the structure he constructed. Yes, the Internet Archive provides a public service by capturing and disseminating information, but the myriad of unpremeditated “happy accidents” resulting from the formation of this highly engineered edifice, is often the most satisfying. Important as the formidable information sharing of the Archive is, we can also be impressed by the ability of the system to transmute information in unexpected ways. It’s the manifestation of alchemy embedded in today’s technology.

Selected by residency founder and director Amir Saber Esfahani, this year’s residency artists Mieka Marple, Chris Sollars and Taravat Talepas and have each approached the mining of the Internet Archive through independent investigation and style of presentation on topics ranging from Hieronymus Bosch, the Grateful Dead and the Iranian Revolution.

Mieke Marple has previously exhibited at Ever Gold (Projects) on the theme of the Tarot. She switches gears in the current exhibition to investigate the imagery of Hieronymus Bosch’s, “What Abomination from the Garden of Earthly Delights Are You,” interpreting her understanding of the work through linking Victorian eroticism with floral embellishments, creating her own version of “Earthly Delights.”

Two installations by Chris Sollars sharply contrast with Marple’s timeless Victoriana. Searching the Internet Archive for psychedelic screen savers and Grateful Dead recordings, and linking them with the literal pickling of information by mixing canning and hardware from the Internet Archive itself, Sollars reveals the endless possibilities the Internet Archive can generate.

Taraval Talepasand was born in the United States to Iranian parents during the Iranian Revolution of 1979. This duality informs much of the work of the widely exhibited artist, who is on the faculty of the San Francisco Art Institute. Instead of dredging the Internet Archive, Talepasand adds to it by creating the “Vali Mortezaie” Archive in collaboration with his son Hushidar Mortezaie. The collection contains vintage publications from pre-revolutionary Iran, including magazines, propaganda posters and advertisements. Talepasand, who studied Persian miniature painting in Iran, translates the Archive’s contents through a series of drawn and painted works.

Kudos to Ever Gold (Projects) gallery director Andrew McClintock, who collaborated with Amir Saber Esfahani, on the exhibition’s organization. Ever Gold (Projects) is known for presentations of in-your-face artworks that scream contemporaneity. The current exhibition’s diversity mirror the range of roads made possible by the capture of billions of websites and petabytes of information. Just as pioneer women in an earlier age pickled the year’s crop, preserving it for later edibility, the Internet Archive, as exemplified by Chris Sollars installation, preserves information for future consumption.

The Artist in Residence Exhibition ran from July 14- August 11, 2018. We have put together a short video with interviews from Brewster Kahle and the artists involved, as well as shots of the actual opening event.

Posted in Announcements, Event, News, Past Event | 4 Comments

Why I Love Helping Back up the Public Web

Over the past couple of years the Wayback Machine has been written about, or referenced, by journalists, researchers, academics and students in more than a thousand published news articles.

This week a CNN article used the Wayback Machine to bring to light writings of a public figure, that otherwise would have been lost, in a relevant and current context. Reading the article made me the happiest about leading the Wayback Machine project since I started 3 years ago.

I think it is fair to say that this article, written by Andrew Kaczynski, @KFILE of CNN, makes the case stronger, and more clearly, than any other, of the importance of cultural memory in general, and the Wayback Machine in particular, in the role of supporting a healthy political discourse and helping to hold those in power accountable.

The article cites two columns of now Vice President Mike Pence that were posted about 17 years ago and that can be read via the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine here and here. However they return a 404 (page not found) error when accessed via the “Live Web” here and here, and have been gone from the live web for more than a decade.

The fruits of the Wayback Machine are the result of thousands of people over the past 20 years, working, volunteering and otherwise contributing to the Internet Archive’s efforts to preserve our cultural heritage and helping to make the web more useful and reliable.

If it were not for the Wayback Machine, the cogent and earnest writings of a columnist who became Vice President of the United States might not be available for us to reflect on, and benefit from, today.

To all those who value journalism, memory, context and perspectives, supporting the Internet Archive’s mission of Universal Access to All Knowledge is necessary now more than ever in our digital age.

Posted in News | Comments Off on Why I Love Helping Back up the Public Web

Puzzling Pictures at the Decentralized Web

Normally, I’m Jason Scott, Free-Range Archivist at the Internet Archive… but at the quickly-approaching Decentralized Web Summit being hosted at the San Francisco Mint, I’ll be your puzzle emcee overseeing a fun event and contest that takes place all over the building.

Called “Puzzling Pictures”, we will have six paintings hung up on the walls. It’s fun enough to find where we hung them, but contained within these paintings will be multiple layers of puzzles, leading to destinations online at the Archive, and ultimately, we will have a chosen winner of the top-level puzzle. This winner will have a charitable donation of cryptocurrency donated in their name to the charity of their choice.

The puzzle was designed by LoSTBoy (aka Ryan Clarke), who has designed contests for the DEF CON hacking conference and the Mr. Robot television show; the paintings are done by international lowbrow contemporary artist, Mar Williams. Mar will be attending the conference and will be auctioning off the paintings in a silent auction throughout the event.

It’s a challenging set of puzzles, so be sure to seek me out (I’ll be in a top hat and some crazy outfits) to work on them, and have fun!

Posted in Event | 4 Comments

Are you Ready? Decentralized Web Summit 2018 is almost here

They are coming from Helsinki and Tokyo, Berlin and Niteroi, Brazil.  We’ve invited archivists and activists, policy wonks and protocol builders to join us at the Internet Archive and SF Mint for the Decentralized Web Summit, July 31-August 2, 2018.  This three-day event is for anyone interested in building the Web we want—and the Web we deserve.

The full schedule is now available here.  And with 140+ sessions spanning six tracks, there promises to be a rich mix of conversations happening in every corner of the historic SF Mint.

“There’ll be coders. There’s going to be lawyers and policymakers. There are humanitarians. There’s diverse voices from all over the world, coming together to try to be part of the discussion,” explained Brewster Kahle, founder and Digital Librarian of the Internet Archive, the organization organizing the Summit. “So it’s not just about locking a bunch of coders in a room, and saying ‘Gosh, what do they have for us now?’ It’s ‘let’s do this in the open. Let’s go and make it so that people can participate and be part of this.’”

If the Decentralized Web Summit of 2016 was a call to action, this year’s event is a demonstration of how far we’ve come in the last two years.  There is now working code to test, new global regulations to consider, and the realization that it is time to grapple with real world applications and challenges.

“I am so excited for the Decentralized Web Summit. I want to have real, and maybe sometimes hard, conversations about the implications of the technology that we’re all experimenting with now,” said Danielle Robinson, Co-Executive Director of Code for Science and Society, stewards of the DAT Project. “I want to bring people to the table who weren’t at the table two years ago at the last event, and make sure that new voices in the community have the space to speak, and the support to talk about what’s important to them. So I’m looking forward to a big, diverse and exciting event.”

Highlights include:

  • Jennifer Granick of the ACLU’s Speech, Privacy, and Technology Project, will deliver a keynote, “The End of the Internet as we knew it, and What Happens Next.”
  • Learn how to build your own P-2-P website on Beaker Browser with no server!
  • Enter our decentralized virtual world, where VR meets the browser and your virtual media stays in your hands.
  • Sir Tim Berners-Lee will unveil his latest innovations with SOLID, the project that allows users to store and maintain control of their own data.
  • Experience demos of the latest breakthroughs in Decentralized Identity.
  • Hear the Stories from the Field from those working with partners to create decentralized tools in remote regions of the world.
  • Meet the leaders of 70+ Decentralized projects in the Opening Night Science Fair, where you can have one-on-one conversations with the innovators.
  • Explore how decentralizing social networks may be challenged by current and proposed regulations, and how we can influence those policies before they become law.
  • Hear from tech leaders grappling with everyday issues of governance: how do we all prevent the DWeb from becoming centralized all over again?
  • Experience the Secrets Exhibit in the vaults of the Mint, and conversations with Whitfield Diffie, the creator of modern public-private key cryptography.
  • And we haven’t forgotten–the Web should be fun!  So we’ve commissioned famed Defcon cryptographer and puzzle master, Ryan Clarke, and artist Mar Williams to create six paintings, each holding the pieces of a deviously difficult puzzle for you to solve.  The winners will receive OMG, ETH and ZEC coins to donate to charity.

So get ready for hands-on learning, probing conversations, new allies to meet, and yes, tons of fun!

Six deviously difficult cryptographic puzzles will be hidden in these paintings, ready for you to unlock.

Posted in Announcements, News | Comments Off on Are you Ready? Decentralized Web Summit 2018 is almost here

Decentralized Web FAQ

Baffled by blockchain? Decentralization left you dazed and confused?  We’ve answered some frequently asked questions to help you make sense of this new area of technology.

Q:  Why create a Decentralized Web?

A:  The way we code the Web shapes how we live our lives online.  Ideally, that code should protect user privacy, freedom of expression and universal access to all knowledge.  Instead, centralized points of control make it easier for governments that are so inclined to censor and conduct surveillance, and for private companies to collect, share and monetize more personal information than many users would like.

A goal in creating a Decentralized Web is to reduce or eliminate such centralized points of control. That way, too, if any player drops out, the system still works. Such a system could better help protect user privacy, ensure reliable access, and even make it possible for users to buy and sell directly, without having to go through websites that now serve as middlemen, and collect user data in the process.

Q:  So how do you build an alternative? What are the components of a Decentralized Web?

A:  A new Decentralized Web requires a decentralized way to store and retrieve the files that make up websites, decentralized log-ins so users can interact, and a peer-to-peer payment system.  A distributed authentication system (proving you are who you say you are) could end the need for centralized usernames and passwords. Public key encryption could protect privacy, so users could have more confidence they weren’t being spied on.  Decentralized databases could allow information to ‘live’ in many different places, so information can’t easily be blocked or erased. The Decentralized Web should also have a time axis, making past versions of the Web accessible, similar to what the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine does now.

Q:  Why does it matter?

A:  Online activities are now an important part of life for much of the world’s population. The original vision of the World Wide Web was to empower users, but many users now complain that too much power and user data is concentrated in the hands of too few corporate and government players, making it easier to conduct warrantless surveillance, feed the public disinformation and impose censorship.  It also makes it possible for state-sponsored or criminal hackers to scoop up personal data and passwords of millions of users at a time, and to use that information to create false identities, steal money and more. And over time, huge amounts of creative content—essays, musings, personal messages, photos, videos and other data— have disappeared when commercial entities shut down, or even when they just change their protocols. The average life of a webpage now is about 100 days before it’s changed or deleted. The Decentralized Web aims at least to mitigate, ideally to reverse or correct many of these trends, by putting control and ownership of data back in the hands of those who create it.

Q:  What is the significance of the Decentralized Web Summit? What’s the outcome you are hoping for?

 

A:  The Decentralized Web Summit, Aug. 1-2, 2018, will bring together hundreds of people interested in building a better Web. The Summit will include the creators and builders of the original Internet and World Wide Web, plus other developers of cutting-edge decentralized protocols and representatives of civil society, human rights and government from around the world. It’s our belief that technology alone cannot change society; it takes laws, policies, market forces, and the right set of values to make meaningful change. So we are convening people from many sectors to consider how to build the Web we want, and the Web we deserve.

This is the second installment; the first Decentralized Web Summit was produced by and held at the Internet Archive in San Francisco, June 7-9, 2016.

“The first Decentralized Web Summit was basically a ‘Hey! Did you know this is possible?’  It was a call to action,” says Brewster Kahle, founder of the Internet Archive. “The idea now is to try to get some coordinated effort to move this forward. There have been great advances in this direction over the past couple of years.  People are starting to show real working code and real projects. They’re building whole technology stacks that are more decentralized, in large part fuelled by the excitement of the cryptocurrency systems. The altcoins and Bitcoins are proving that interesting and complicated systems are starting to work out there.”

Q:  Why is the Internet Archive involved?

Builders, archivists, and civil society leaders discuss building a decentralized Web at the 2016 Decentralized Web Summit at the Internet Archive.

A:  The Internet Archive has been archiving the World Wide Web for 20 years, saving different versions of webpages over time, and making them openly available to anyone using the Wayback Machine (available at https://archive.org/web/).  The Decentralized Web would build the Wayback Machine into the DWeb, and the DWeb into Wayback Machine, says Internet Archive founder Brewster Kahle. “The Internet Archive is dedicated to the open world,” says Kahle. “We’re only going to survive if the open world is more interesting than closed app worlds on cell phones, or a dystopian world of closed, segmented, siloed, corporately-owned little pieces of property.  We would rather see an open, next-generation Web succeed.”

Q:  What’s meant by ‘decentralized storage’?  Is the blockchain the same as the Decentralized Web?

A:  Decentralized storage means that rather than the current system under the World Wide Web, where a file exists in one physical location on a server, a file can instead be stored in multiple computers around the world, possibly with just bits of the file in each one, that all come together and get sent to a user who requests that file. BitTorrent was one early example of this.

A particular form of decentralized storage is a verification system of transactions that uses blockchain technology. One company that uses the blockchain is Ethereum, which allows multiple users to agree to store and verify data on their computers, and in exchange for doing this, they get value in a cryptocurrency called Ether. This is different from Bitcoin, says Ethereum’s creator Vitalik Buterin because, as he said at TechCrunch SF 2017, “with Bitcoin, the protocol is in service of the currency, but with Ether and Ethereum, the currency is in service of the protocol.” That is, the currency provides an incentive for its holders to store small bits of data that can help create a Decentralized Web.

A challenge, Buterin says, is that blockchain is vastly less efficient and more costly, in terms of using energy and computing time, than centralized Web offerings, and that approaches that could make blockchain more efficient might do so at a cost to privacy or security, while efforts to increase privacy and security could further reduce efficiency. These are challenges for developers and builders of blockchain-based protocols to work out.

There are many decentralized protocols that are not based on a blockchain. But in the overheated publicity over blockchain technology, the public has started to conflate blockchains and the Decentralized Web.  The two are related, but not synonymous.

Q:  If creating a Decentralized Web is a decentralized effort, how does it all come together? Who’s in charge?

A:  Creating common coding standards would allow independent developers to go off and create their own component parts, that can fit together in various ways, like the way Lego pieces can be assembled and reassembled. This approach worked for the original World Wide Web. Common standards allowed developers to contribute, without having to go through a central authority for approval. As long as new websites or apps used the standards, they could go online and become part of the Web.

Q:  How will all a Decentralized Web change a user’s online experience? Do we all have to relearn everything? That sounds like a lot of work.

A:  The hope is that new Decentralized Web components will gradually be integrated into existing and new servers over time, so that the experience for individual users is as a smooth, if not seamless, transition to a better, safer online experience in which a user retains ownership and control of his or her own data.

Q:  How does net neutrality relate to the Decentralized Web?

A:  Net neutrality is the principle that no data online is advantaged or disadvantaged, in terms of access or flow. The closer you can get to net neutrality, the better for a Decentralized Web. It would be difficult if not impossible to have full Decentralized Web access under an authoritarian government that controls and censors the internet, and can cut off access if it sees a user trying to use Decentralized Web tools. China, in particular, has already proven adept at slowing or stopping internet connections, and blocking access to VPNs and other tools meant to circumvent surveillance and censorship. Even non-authoritarian governments may demand a backdoor to do online surveillance. The end of net neutrality in the United States could also make it possible for an internet provider to slow access to DWeb tools and websites. That’s the bad news. The good news is that increased efforts to control the Web may motivate developers and builders of the Decentralized Web to work faster and more creatively to find work-arounds.

Q:  Will the Decentralized Web replace the current Web, be a parallel, separate entity, or exist as an integrated part of the existing Web?

A:  It’s impossible to know what will happen in the long run—quite possibly some combination of all three. In the short-term, component parts of the Decentralized Web are already starting to become available online, via the existing Web, and may eventually be integrated into browsers.

Q:  How does the Decentralized Web scale up, so enough people are using it to make it more than just a niche interest of a small segment of Web users?

A:  Some revolutionary technologies are adopted quickly, others more gradually.  World Wide Web creator Tim Berners-Lee said in his 2014 TED talk that adoption of the World Wide Web went from five percent of the world’s population in 2000, to 40 percent in 2014. The hope is that the promise of the Decentralized Web, to provide users with more control of their online experience and of their own data, and to better preserve data online, will rapidly draw people to adopt and use Decentralized Web tools.

Q:  So that’s how the Decentralized Web can make life better. How might it make life worse?

A:  Any technology is a tool, and many tools can be used constructively or destructively. The same technology that protects users from central surveillance, might also protect criminals  and hide their activity. That’s one thing. Another is, if information is stored in decentralized ways—say, with bits of each file stored on multiple computers around the world, and/or embedded in a blockchain—how do you ever truly get rid of information you no longer want to have online?  For Europeans, who have advocated for a ‘right to be forgotten,’ that could be a concern.

Q:  Aren’t big online companies going to push back against this, since it will affect their business model of monetizing their users’ data? How will social media and other companies related to online activity make a profit?

A:  Big online companies may well push back, because their current core business model of monetizing user data will not work well in a Decentralized Web environment. But it needn’t be a zero-sum game. It’s likely that other business models will emerge to take advantage of the opportunities offered by the Decentralized Web, much as companies have, over time, found ways to profit from open source endeavors.  Whether existing social media and internet-related companies choose to try to obstruct the development of the Decentralized Web, or to recognize this is the kind of Web users actually want and find ways to profit within the new model, is a decision each will have to make.

Q:  Ok, sign me up. How and when can I get onto the Decentralized Web?  

A:  Some apps and programs, built on the decentralized model, are already available, and you can sign up and use them at will. But the Decentralized Web, as an envisioned ecosystem, might not be fully functional and integrated for another five or ten years. Remember how it felt to use the early World Wide Web? Apps and features came and went. Some of it was buggy, and some of it was revelatory, and users helped developers figure out what needed to happen, and how it could better come together. Expect another era like that, building on what we’ve already learned, to create a better Web for everybody.

Still have questions?  Visit this page to see more quotes from key Decentralized Web players.

Now you may be ready to sign up for the Decentralized Web Summit 2018:  Global Visions/Working Code.

More questions still? Contact Dwebsummit@archive.org.

 

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