Politics

Is It Possible to Build an Internet So Decentralized That It's Beyond the Government's Reach? BitTorrent is Going to Try.

"Denying gatekeepers their grip on our future."

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Exciting news from BitTorrent:

It started with a simple question. What if more of the web worked the way BitTorrent does?

Project Maelstrom begins to answer that question with our first public release of a web browser that can power a new way for web content to be published, accessed and consumed. Truly an Internet powered by people, one that lowers barriers and denies gatekeepers their grip on our future. 

The announcement is more of a manifesto than an actual explanation, but it's easy to extrapolate the basic details.

BitTorrent is a protocol that uses a peer-to-peer network for file sharing. It allows users to collect data in bits and pieces off the hard drives of others users instead of downloading files directly from a central server.

A Web browser built with BitTorrent could load pages by drawing information from other people who've already visited the same websites and automatically saved some of the information, instead of going straight to the source. So when users log on to Reason.com in the future, they'll be pulling different little pieces of data—text, pictures, ads—from millions (billions!) of other users instead of straight off of our server.

Eric Kinkler, CEO of BitTorrent |||

An obvious benefit is speedy browsing. With Project Malestrom, blockbuster stories at Reason.com wouldn't affect download speeds because users wouldn't all at once be trying to access the same server.

Project Malestrom could also help unclog the Internet's pipes—muting the debate over net neutrality and denying Washington justification for "fucking up the Internet"—because BitTorrent has an elegant system of prioritizing data flows called "Micro Transport Protocol."

"It's the best example we have of technology being used to solve what is perceived to be a policy problem," BitTorrent CEO Eric Klinker told Fast Company when asked about its Micro Transport Protocol. "It's only through the technology that the Internet's rules are written."

But here's what I find most exciting about Project Maelstrom: If the Web is distributed over a vast decentralized network, governments have no way to control what people do and say online. Sending in men with guns to pull a server offline is a waste of time if the data on that server is duplicated on billions of computers dispersed around the globe.

This technology could also supercharge projects like OpenBazaar, a decentralized e-commerce platform in which home computers act as nodes in a vast free trade network that nobody controls. And it seems like a first step towards the dream of a "mesh network," in which the Internet has no trunk pipes and every computer is simply linked to another computer, creating a network so dispersed that no central authority could control or destroy it.

H/T: Mr. Knuckle of NXT FreeMarket.