From FireChat to Starlink: The Best Attempts to Decentralize the Internet by@juancguerrero

From FireChat to Starlink: The Best Attempts to Decentralize the Internet

May 8th 2022 2,757 reads
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The internet is not perfect and can be censored, surveilled, and controlled by a few private corporations or governments. There have been projects that have attempted to decentralize the internet that are laying the groundwork for achieving it. In the end, no matter how decentralized your blockchain and your Dapps are, to access them you have to go through an ISP. An example is Starlink - a project for building decentralized satellite networks for connecting rural areas to the Internet without relying on expensive ground infrastructure or government subsidies.
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Juan C. Guerrero

A blockchain and crypto enthusiast, who also loves to write and teach about politics & free markets.

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The internet is not perfect. It can be censored, surveilled, and controlled by a few private corporations or governments. However, there have been projects that have attempted to correct this and others that are laying the groundwork for achieving it.


When we talk about decentralizing the internet, we usually only think about the layers of software, but we often forget about the infrastructure itself. In the end, no matter how decentralized your blockchain and your Dapps are, to access them you have to go through an ISP.


One of the most famous attempts to decentralize the internet infrastructure was FireChat. It was an app for mobile devices that allowed people to communicate without an ISP connection or cellular service by using Bluetooth and Wi-Fi signals. The app became popular in Hong Kong during the Umbrella Movement protests in 2014, when it helped protesters communicate with each other without being monitored by authorities.


Another example is Starlink - a project for building decentralized satellite networks for connecting rural areas to the Internet without relying on expensive ground infrastructure or government subsidies. Even though Starlink is centralized by being owned by a private entity, this project is paving the way of what a decentralized internet infrastructure could be.

Another point in favor of Starlink is that is owned by a freedom and decentralization advocate that we all know, Elon Musk. Elon's recent purchase of Twitter was driven by his desire to make the platform open-source and decentralized. This has shown that he is a true advocate for freedom and decentralization. Thus, we could expect Starlink to be the project that will decentralize the internet on a global scale, or at least set the groundwork for new, truly open and free alternatives that might be driven by a DAO.


On the other hand, we have FireChat, an app that enables people to chat without using the internet, cell towers, or wifi. It uses bluetooth and wifi to connect devices. The idea behind it was to create a chatroom for people who don't have access to a data plan or internet connection.


It has been used by protestors in Hong Kong, who were protesting the proposed bill that would have allowed extradition of suspects from Hong Kong to mainland China. They used FireChat as a way of organizing protests and communicating with each other while avoiding being monitored by the Chinese government.


The way in which FireChat works is by creating a peer-to-peer mesh of devices and it uses the chips and technology available in the mobile devices we already have. A peer-to-peer mesh networking means that it does not rely on centralized servers to provide or relay network traffic, so it can work in a lot of different situations when there is no ISP or we want to avoid connecting to one.


WiFi, 5G, the internet itself, and other advancements or concepts like FireChat show that we are getting closer to more affordable ways of decentralizing the internet. I see the decentralized internet in a similar light as the idea of decentralization in general. There are many applications that can be built on top of a decentralized platform, such as government itself or better solutions to day-to-day necessities of humanity that are currently being provided by private entities for profit. With a really decentralized infrastructure, we can have all those solutions in a democratic and decentralized way.



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Juan C. Guerrero HackerNoon profile picture
by Juan C. Guerrero @juancguerrero.A blockchain and crypto enthusiast, who also loves to write and teach about politics & free markets.
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