Civil Liberties

Bitcoin-Inspired Project Launched to Decentralize the Internet


Isokivi / Wikimedia

Bitcoin, the peer-to-peer cryptocurrency is taking the conventional financial system by storm. The Bitcoin boom has inspired developers to explore additional applications of the same fundamental protocols. Ambitious Bitcloud developers are asking, why not the use the same tools to decentralize the Internet?

BBC News quotes the project's anonymous founders issuing this call to arms:

If you're interested in privacy, security, ending internet censorship, decentralising the internet and creating a new mesh network to replace the internet, then you should join or support this project.

The advantages of a Bitcloud network are many. Bitcloud's decentralized structure would allow users to sidestep National Security Agency (NSA) snoops. While natural disasters and wars threaten a centralized structure, a decentralized structure would mean the Internet is more likely to remain intact.

How does it work? Under the current system, consumers are dependent on concentrated Internet Service Providers, businesses like Comcast and AT&T, that offer Internet access. Just as Bitcoin removes financial intermediaries from the system, Bitcloud hopes to displace intermediary ISPs. While ISPs are at risk of interference, a decentralized system is irrepressible. Shutting down a decentralized internet would require targeting and destroying each individual node.

Bitcoin requires miners who contribute computing power to process transactions. Similarly, Bitcloud rewards users for contributing bandwidth. Basically, ISPs would be replaced by individuals whose computers "would perform tasks such as storing, routing and providing bandwidth, in return for payment."

Some tech intellectuals have called for a decentralized Internet structure, or mesh networks, in the past. Primavera De Filippi, a Harvard research fellow of distributed online architectures, argues that beyond the "obvious benefits" like NSA-resistance and enhanced reliability, it provides some interesting cultural benefits. "What's really revolutionary about mesh networking isn't the novel use of technology. It's the fact that it provides a means for people to self-organize into communities and share resources amongst themselves: Mesh networks are operated by the community, for the community. Especially because the internet has become essential to our everyday life" she wrote in Wired.

According to BBC News, Bitcloud developers hope Bitcloud will ultimately supplant the Internet. De Filippi, on the other hand, thinks mesh-networks would make a good supplementary tool.

But either way, BitCloud is a revolutionary project with global reach. It would provide users with more reliable Internet, handicap government surveillance, and maybe even save lives.