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In one of the most memorable presentations from Consensus 2021 in late May, “You Are Getting Manipulated Online! Here's How Crypto Could Help”, Amy James, Co-Inventor of Open Index Protocol (OIP) helped explain another aspect of Google’s questionable practices and, better yet, a potential solution.
James and co-presenters Dr. Robert Epstein and Devon Read presented a case for the ill effects of Google’s monopoly on search -- citing an unregulated ability to influence people with search results and a crushing state of monopoly coming from the size of their index.
James explained that Google’s index is too large and not open-source -- so anyone entering the search space, or anything that uses indexing and searching such as a video platform or social media platform, either has to deal with Google to use their backend or will be hopelessly outmatched by the data that Google has already amassed and now hordes.
OIP and PIN Network are working on test cases to create expand their open-source blockchain layer with a comprehensive record of metadata -- something that would allow Web 3 users to track the actions of entities like Google and all the same time provides an index new tech players can use to power new search and social-based platforms. Effectively, OIP’s goal is to level the playing field, allow new tech companies to compete, and create accountability from everyone including tech giants like Google.
We interviewed James after Consensus 2021. Her responses are below.
How will an open metadata layer level the playing field with tech companies? How will it serve the user?
An open metadata layer allows anyone to resell a publishers content according to their terms, either as a platform or as an individual influencer, and it allows anyone to audit the terms of a given record - as a result, there will be real competition between platforms to put compelling and interesting content in front of audiences interested in paying for it, without the incompatibility problems and inefficiency waste that stem from the walled-gardens model.
Right now, platforms compete with each other based on the content of their index which means that the user has to chase the content they want from platform-to-platform and they have a terrible user experience. With an open metadata layer, platforms will have to compete based on how well they serve users, not based on their content since they will all have the same access to the content.
Users gain trust because the system is transparent -- they can avoid the headaches of the walled garden model and instead can support the creators and platforms they like and have confidence in where their money is going.
How long do you expect the adoption cycle to be? Is an open metadata layer on blockchain a logical continuation of Web 3?
Web 3 will mean users' data and anonymity is protected by default, processes usually done by centralized data centers are instead done by open networks, deep fakes are the source of funny gags but not real threats to information dissemination, and creative content producers can earn a real and reliable living. And yes, to achieve these goals absolutely require a unified and open metadata layer.
Because of the way these web 3 networks are designed, as they grow, they’ll become more consistent and more rewarding to their users -- leading ultimately to a growing pile on effect until it's just the default way to run a business online.
Sir Tim, when describing the early days of building the World Wide Web used the analogy of a bobsled team that has to work really hard to push their sled for quite a while, exerting enormous energy to get it up to speed, but eventually, its own momentum starts to take over and they start jumping in and the ride takes off.
Are there any near-term use cases you can discuss for the network? What do you see PIN as being ideal for, using its meta data layer?
The most near-term use case that we’re helping to build is a news platform for Al Bawaba, MENA's largest independent news platform. By using OIP on the PIN blockchain, they get both censorship resistance and micropayments so that they can be self-sustainable without depending on the tech giants' good grace. PIN's metadata layer is ideal for any kind of public data - scientific and academic data, property records & public records in general, all types of digital content like videos and music. If it's on the internet and should be public, it is ideal to use OIP on PIN Network.
In terms of collecting data -- will you work directly with publishers for more input? What are the advantages to the publisher?
Yes absolutely -- we have already been getting input from publishers as we've built OIP, and will continue doing so. Creators and publishers will also have a significant stake in the ongoing governance and future development of the OIP spec.
OIP is a figurative David taking on Goliath tech. It’s hard to argue with the clear crushing monopoly big tech like Google currently has. Clearly, U.S. regulators don’t know how to deal with the changing influence of platforms like Facebook and the dance of Big Tech Companies looking to preserve their power and regulators who are facing possible threats to free speech and an orderly, truly representative system of democratic government.
What OIP is addressing is an existential threat to our society -- what happens when private companies know too much and therefore get too much power. The question remains -- what publications, states, and organizations will get involved next to help OIP build from the ground up an index that can challenge the index Google has been building since 1998.
Amy James is the co-inventor of Open Index Protocol, an open-source specification for a persistent worldwide index, and CEO of Alexandria Labs, a company building Web 3 products and services. The spec is currently in use by Caltech, Overstock subsidiary Medici Land Governance, the State of Wyoming, MENA's largest independent news platform & many others. Open Index Protocol’s mission is to be “the technical solution to the problem of walled garden platforms monopolizing the web.”
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