Shermin Voshmgir: Blockchain and the future of the internet

The Blockchain doens't just enable bitcoin - it could change the way we use the web. But we have to act fast.

Shermin Voshmgir is the founder of BlockchainHub

WARNING: Live-blogging. Prone to error, inaccuracy and howling crimes against grammar and syntax. Post will be updated over the next few days.

The internet we have today is broken in many ways. We don’t own or control our data. We can’t make money with content we produce – or if we do, it’s often indirectly.

To understand blockchain, we need to look back in time. In the 90s we sometimes called the web the information data highway – a phrase we couldn’t imagine using today, because the underlying idea became so normal. Web 2.0 allowed us to start building applications, like social media and ecommerce platforms. It created a peer to peer economy, with one player in the middle, who controls the data and the transactions.

Web 3.0 is the decentralised web. It started with Bitcoin – it needed a way of two people who didn’t know each other could exchange money in a trusted way, without banks. The Blockchain was an open source tool to do that. And then people realised it was useful for more than just money, it could be used for energy trading, for example, or solar power amongst neighbours. We could have ride sharing… without Uber.

How did we get there? From computers, to networked computers, to a worldwide network of devices to the internet of things. Despite all that connection, data storage is local – even if it’s remote. It’s stored in a place. Who who owns it? Who verifies the transition that run through them?

Blockchain is a protocol of trust. It enables the move from the data monarchy – where data is stored at a centralised point – to data democracy. This is enable by smart contacts, which are neither smart nor contracts. They’re more like a digital handshakes, where the terms of the transition is built in the code, and if it is agreed, is automatically enforced. This created the potential of a decentralised web. Blockchain registers transactions, it doesn’t store data, so we need that element, which is coming.

Escaping data chaos and slavery

We live in a world of data chaos – a jungle of usernames and passwords – and data slavery – where you pay for a service with your data and privacy. We either use insecure password – or centralised password managers, both of which have risks. We either use data slavery services, or we don’t. There’s no middle way.

If we get Blockcahin right, we could live ina world where we own our own data, but we only have a narrow window of time to do that. You chose where to store your data, and use a private key to protect it. No password jungles any more. And you own your data, not the service.

This is Privacy by Design. We need this. We’re in the early stage of this. Again, going back to the 1990s, e-mail was the first major use of the internet, and many people thought it was just that. We’re in the same stage with Blockchain. Everyone thinks it’s about Bitcoin, but it’s so much more.

If we don’t get this right, we could create the centralised control machine. So, let’s take this opportunity and get it right.