Re-decentralizing decentralization

From DevSummit
Revision as of 23:05, 24 November 2022 by Gunner (talk | contribs)
(diff) ← Older revision | Latest revision (diff) | Newer revision → (diff)
Jump to navigation Jump to search

FFDWeb - Filecoin (crypto) money - funding decentralized projects no strings attached!

  • Danny joined as speculative, finding people doing interesting next-level stuff
  • Coming together of people building the tools into a somewhat coordinated movement
  • Few years ago - Scuttlebutt, Mastodon, dat, IPFS - now all talking to one another and sense of what to do next
  • Small group together can be very productive, but people wary of previous lessons learned - eg building tools for people who really like building tools on that front


  • interested in decentralization for chinese media. decentralization can maybe route around - explored IPFS and other dcomms tools eg Element/Matrix
  • interested in the space and the concepts, learning
  • general interest in decentralization and free internet
  • watching it with a skeptical eye esp wrt 'web3' - is this something we should be engaging?. interested in censorship resistance
  • Greenhost - infra provider very happy we are in post-crypto crash times to look at these tools for what they are - redundancy is fantastic, but on the infra side complex
  • Ouinet – not in the “Silicon Valley” pop-dweb circuit, small team working closely with partners on the ground in censoring countries. Diversity of tools in the toolbelt is the goal (it’s not a competition, but rather an ecosystem)

matching interest to incentives

  • censorship resilience is key
  • some tools not even originally decentralized - Tor actually started out really as a system of anonymity

should break down these tools perhaps by intention

  • circumvention
  • privacy
  • security
  • autonomy

Historically, we got into the politics because of the correspondence between it being interesting and it being useful in censorship scenarios

  • eg IndyMedia
  • Wikipedia, decentralized in a way
  • compsci problem that's super interesting to people

However, there are significant bits of centralization in the very design of the internet - eg DNS

web3 built out of those technical ideas, getting excited, then people running ahead of that to make money

  • also ideological
  • not everyone who thinks of decentralization in political terms is progressive, emerging conservative/rightwing aspect
    • decentralizing money, capital etc

challenges is that the people working in the space are often pretty privileged. working with decentralized folks around the world, have to be in a fairly privileged position..

Delving into the nitty-gritty

a bunch of those historical projects eg Tor, SSB, Mastodon, are tools that have been built separately but in communities that are increasingly talking to each other. Main interest now is recognition there are some outstanding problems to solve before these things are accessible, namely:

  • security
  • accessibility

how do you actually even build a secure thing??

  • when relying on any third-party providers
  • privacy - original model that drew a lot of people here - eg FB & Twitter allow you to share to a few people, selective sharing
  • physical infra
  • regional ambassador support

resources - easy to fray the network if you lose resources so some central authorities are needed

  • eg bittorrent trackers, public ipfs gateeways
  • getting things to a critical mass of people

Delta Chat

Network effect problem - can make things easier or harder

  • local vs global issues in dweb tech
  • local content can be good, moderation is a challenge
    • ukraine v russia context discussed

if talking about moderation - big players hire local people but don't understand the regional subtleties

  • what does that mean in a decentralized environment? how to establish trust and safety within these tools given the failure mode of the big comms platforms
  • not a solved problem
  • mastodon dealing with this right now

Most people want something like gdocs - cloud provider always available

  • to do that decentralized, so many of these problems to solve ourselves

--> eg: distributed identity systems. people converging on this but usability and design is tricky

Core problem is beyond just the geeky issues people are so interested in - but rather basic a11y and usability

  • this privilege to make the ideological choice to use decentralized tools..
  • could stand to center the needs of those without that privilege
  • these alternatives are not especially interesting to people in the target populations

in the process of redecentralizing, imperative to center the voices of those most in need

What can we learn from?

  • IPFS: fascinated but also scared. decentralized file storage - bits and pieces all over and encrypted, stored on people's instances (you can see and choose what to store). fascinated by infra provider to host or build plugins
  • Mastodon: only looks like Twitter because the UI is shaped that way. fundamentally works different. by nature can't reproduce viral effect (or would DDOS hosts). new paradigm of how we communicate (not just an "alt twitter")
    • mostly for those already comfortable with it and who are unconcerned about their "viral effect" (and privileged enough not to have to worry about it)
--> can strain servers.
  • like the direction of many small internets
    • alternative DNS systems (multiple parties?)
  • more cultural openness to these trends - see Discord

Infra problem is real - need in-country servers but difficult to obtain and maintain in countries such as China or Russia

  • if few gateways, easy to block those few public gateways
  • cat & mouse situation- Andy Greenburg on tracking abhorrent uses of bitcoin - eg bitcoin chains all trackable since bitcoin is not meant to be anonymous

lots of tradeoffs with these technologies. dealing with anonymity threat-model is extremely challenging for p2p apps.

federation vis-a-vis decentralization vs hybrid model

  • can run IPFS in a p2p way, but most people don’t want to due to security
  • so web gateways emerge, where a public gateway can find what you want and deliver it to you
  • one solution is putting stuff into the browser

bunch of engineers working for dweb community got something into chrome to embed IPFS or other web gateways in Chrome

  • alternatives like eg Mozilla and Chromium

Issue is people in these Silicon Valley companies still have the final say.

  • What is the incentive to actually use decentralized tools and technologies for users in these countries?
  • these organizations should take responsibility
  • more outreach and empowerment of communities on the ground
  • reaching out to other orgs and ISPs to provide more gateways
    • not easy to incentivize

what efforts are being done around education?

  • dweb camp is an interesting space for this, excited about non-programmers being involved


  • danny outlined the history of this “redecentralization” movement and the various actors
  • in the process of re-decentralizing the internet and the geeky excitement over web3 by largely SV-based devs privileged to have the ideological choice to use them, how do we center and empower the voices needs of those most in need of these tools ( so as to ensure actual decentralization of the physical infrat but more importantly community stewardship and participation in local contexts?
    • some of these tools for instance rely on semi-centralized infra such as IPFS public gateway
    • tradeoffs with privacy and security