Ryan Shea

@ryanshea

Fixing Identity and Content on the Internet

Walter Isaacson (former head of CNN and Time, and author of Steve Jobs), wrote an article about how the Internet is broken and how we need to fix it. Fred Wilson wrote a follow up post and I decided to share my thoughts as well.

Below is a point-by-point of how I’d implement the suggestions he detailed in his post.

1) Create a system that enables content producers to negotiate with aggregators and search engines to get a royalty whenever their content is used, like ASCAP has negotiated for public performances and radio airings of its members’ works.

Wikipedia articles are being pre-loaded by Google and thus the traffic on their site is plummeting. The same is happening with articles being pre-loaded by Facebook.

Allowing content producers to negotiate with search engines and social networks would be great, but negotiation only works when both sides have leverage. We essentially have a monopoly search engine and a monopoly social network. Who in their right mind would prevent Google from indexing them? Who would block shares on Facebook?

This highlights the need for a competitive landscape of search engines and social networks, as well as more software that allows users to control their user interfaces and how they interact with their data. See this post by USV partner Albert Wenger: http://continuations.com/post/....

I’d also like to see a world some day where music and video producers could register their content in a license database, along with information to receive payments. Then, streaming apps could facilitate the payment and delivery of a license that works across applications (buy a movie on iTunes and be able to watch it on Amazon). My hope is that a company like Mediachain will one day help us get there.

2) Embed a simple digital wallet and currency for quick and easy small payments for songs, blogs, articles, and whatever other digital content is for sale.

The key here is (a) a micro-payments standard that’s neutral and cross-border (b) a digital wallet in the browser (or in a browser extension or in an app or in the OS). Bitcoin is the only payment system I know of that fits the bill, and micro-payments could be accomplished with payment channels today and with Lightning tomorrow.

I’d like to add on to this by saying that a digital wallet in the browser is also important for larger payments for online commerce.

Amazon has an online commerce monopoly in large part because they made shopping almost frictionless in a world of high friction. Most sites require you to put in your credit card info and shipping info and navigate through multiple pages. Not amazon. One click.

If we want more consumer choice and we want lower prices and we don’t want online retailers to be squeezed dry, we have to make it easy for consumers to make purchases on *any* site and direct to any retailer.

The key for reducing friction is two-fold: (a) a simple, universal payment system (b) an easy way for consumers to fill in their shipping info.

One way to get both of these things is to use an entirely new open commerce platform like OpenBazaar, with a built-in payment system and built-in system for buyers to provide info to sellers.

Another way is to have e-commerce sites integrate Login with Blockstack, in which consumers would be able to both bring their money and bring their shipping info when they log in. One click payments on any site.

3) Encode emails with an authenticated return or originating address.

One of the biggest problems with email is spam. In essence, the problem boils down to the fact that it doesn’t cost anything to create a new email identity. This means that spammers can create as many identities as they want and spam filters either (a) trust them and let spam through or (b) don’t trust them en masse and contribute to a massive consolidation in email providers. This also means that spam filters have to be really good. The fact that spam filters are one of the most complicated components of an email provider has contributed to further consolidation in email providers.

The way to fix this is to require an investment in order to create an email identity. If it costs a bit of Bitcoin to create a username, then there’s a finite, manageable number of identities that spam filters need to keep track of. Further, spammers have to be more careful because if they screw up and get blacklisted, they just wasted a bunch of money. Spam filters can also assign higher trust levels to email addresses that spend more money to create their identities.

Blockstack’s DNS and identity system has a mechanism for this, and a spam-resistant email system is something we want to enable developers to build on top of our platform.

Here are the original tweets by Walter and Fred:

Like Walter’s suggestions? Think my approach is feasible? Crazy? Let me know on Twitter (@ryaneshea) or as a response below.

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