The internet was born on October 29, 1969. Twenty years later in 1989 Tim Berners-Lee, a British computer scientist, invented the World Wide Web leading to the version of Internet we know and use today.
Now a startup called Blockstack is claiming that the Internet is broken and has been so for a while. The company, which has raised $5.3 million in funding and drawn the attention of Microsoft as well as Berners-Lee, has released a new browser that will help create applications for a decentralized web.
The Internet as it exists is far from perfect because of mass data breaches, insecure connections, and restrictions placed due to ownership of digital keys of identity and authentication by monopoly platforms, say Muneeb Ali and Ryan Shea, co-founders of Blockstack.
The argument is that Internet users have little or no control over their data. If users decide to leave social media platforms such as Facebook or Twitter, they stand to lose all of their personal information. Thus, users have placed blind trust in a few dozen companies to safeguard their information.
Read more: The New Decentralized Web Revolution
Blockstack says companies shouldn’t have so much power to control users’ personal information. One of the co-founders made the comment at a TEDx talk last year, referring to Google’s old motto “Don’t Be Evil”. “Companies shouldn’t get to decide whether to be evil or not. We want a motto that says ‘Can’t be evil’,” he said.
Blockstack has used blockchain technology to make a secure and independent identity system for every user. This bypasses the need to make separate accounts for every website.
If you use a website built with Blockstack’s technology, you can grant it a one-time permission to use a profile which only you control and whose access you can take away at any time.
This new decentralized internet lets users own their data and exercise greater control over their identity information, taking power away from monopolies.
“A new Internet needs to have security and safety as a core of its DNA. Applications and services cannot be owned and controlled by remote third-parties. We can build a digital world of truly peer-to-peer Internet utilities maintained not by corporations, but collectively by the people. We can build a digital world that encodes property rights, where we can own our data, and where the people are powerful,” say the co-founders on the company blog.
The company uses cryptography to secure data stored in the cloud and locates this data using blockchain technology.
Blockstack unveiled the new browser at Consensus 2017, a leading blockchain technology summit held in New York on May 22-24. The company has released the alpha version of the browser for developers. A version aimed towards users will be released in the upcoming six months.
The Blockstack Browser is not a standalone browser but a plug-in that can be used in existing browsers like Safari, Firefox, and Chrome. Developers can start making applications by downloading the Blockstack Mac or Linux app and using these in existing browsers.
The advantage of the Blockstack Browser is that its infrastructure has made it possible to use existing browsers to create apps for the decentralized web. It can be used to create decentralized versions of popular existing applications such as Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook. Or to create new kinds of apps that weren’t possible before a decentralized Internet.
The Blockstack Browser is currently powered by the blockchain technology behind bitcoins but the company may switch to other blockchains if costs go up or if needed otherwise.