A lot of weird stuff has been happening to data inside the internet’s walled gardens. It has been getting shut down by the people who own the sites we all depend on. There’s a protest going on at Facebook over the issue right now. One Turkish journalist is saying that his account has been blocked inside the country, at his government’s request; Palestinian journalists have a similar problem. YouTubers believe that their videos have been getting unfairly de-monetized by mindless robots.
On a more macro level, publishers that had worked hard to build a Facebook driven traffic strategy saw their traffic plummet when the social media giant decided it preferred user generated content. These decisions cut more deeply because so many organizations depend entirely on the big social sites for relevance. Some of them don’t even have standalone websites.
NowThis was feted at its founding in 2012 for building a news organization that assumed all of its content would be distributed on sprawling social networks, but it hasn’t caught on as a cultural force. Social network driven growth was a seductive way to reduce friction marshaling powerful network effects to build audience, which made it easier for content to go viral. That said, it seems like publishers forgot to consider the potential downside of depending on someone else’s IP to distribute content?
A Union Square Ventures and Y Combinator backed startup called Blockstack, just barely out of stealth mode, has been designing an alternative browser for what could be fairly described as another internet, one powered by the bitcoin blockchain. “They are in it for the long run,” Muneeb Ali, a CTO and Cofounder, said of his investors, during an interview with the Observer at his office. “They actually believe that this is the future.” In other words, even if a different kind of internet undermines past investments, investors still want to be positioned well for the next ones.
Blockstack’s browser, a fork of Chromium, is the first application for an internet that works much as this Economist journalist described in a prior post by the Observer. In its first version, it will only have access to this new internet. Some day, it could be built to work for both.
Ali spoke on the TEDxNewYork 2016 stage, describing an internet that couldn’t be censored. In that talk, he said, “The new internet takes away power from these large companies and takes it to where it always belonged, with the people.” The architecture the team has built is completely open source.