Network neutrality is the principle the internet must stay free, accessible, and unrestricted regardless of when or how you use it. In essence, net neutrality ensures all data should be viewed similarly when switching from cell tower to cell tower, not interrupted, accelerated, or blocked.
Telecommunications providers get a say in how easily or slowly those pieces of content find their way to your mobile, tablet, device, or TV. Supporters of net neutrality claim infringe freedom of expression by having fast access to other networks, not others.
Net neutrality supporters say Internet service providers (ISPs) should be forced to follow such antitrust laws, or other ISPs will start charging businesses to maintain favourable treatment on their networks, squashing all those who cannot possibly play. This could contribute, for example, to ISP users paying for watching content on Facebook and YouTube.
The web was established before net neutrality existed. With this awareness in mind and the reality that the internet market has shifted significantly since the early 2000s, many net neutrality critics contend that it disproportionately favours giants like Facebook, Google, and Amazon and cuts investment.
ISPs are no longer the only competitors, although it is generally recognised that these broadbands were known to play the market with their power. The current controversy is how much federal law may have to do with Internet surveillance, and whether economic development and market competition require it.
2021 will be a pivotal year for the web3 movement and for Elastos, the SmartWeb infrastructure project where I have the privilege of building as Global Lead Developer. The internet is changing as users move away from the hub-and-spoke model defined by centralised platforms to a peer-to-peer system where data is stored and accessed by those who generate it.
Decentralising data prevents censorship, de-platforming, database hacks, and opaque data sharing. It is the future of the web and the only viable solution to the problems that have hampered it for the past two decades, ever since the internet hit critical mass. In this article, I will lay out where I believe the internet is heading and the role Elastos will play in accelerating the transition to web3.
The internet began its journey 35 years ago as a decentralised network, with no single entity withholding access or controlling information flow. Over time, however, various entities – ICANN, governments, ISPs, social media platforms, and cloud providers, to name a few – came to usurp and exert significant control over the way the web works, resulting in choke points that are ripe for information leakage and censorship.
Since the turn of the century, it has become evident that for the internet to evolve, it must return to its roots, marrying new tech with the peer-to-peer data transmission that informed its origins.
Until Bitcoin emerged and provided the mechanism for routing data around the web in a censorship-resistant manner, however, there were no apparent means of creating a truly decentralised web. Blockchain, together with technologies such as public key pair encryption and file torrenting, developed the means to support a P2P web in which all users have equal rights and data resides with its owner.
Whoever controls data, controls the internet. By placing user data beyond monopolistic web giants, an egalitarian system can be created that is not only fairer, but more secure.
The SmartWeb describes the internet of tomorrow, in which billions of devices outnumber the billions of humans interacting with them, and where data is identifiable and fully decentralised. The Elastos SmartWeb enables data to become scarce, with users controlling how many copies may exist. Such a mechanism effectively resolves the double-spend problem for data – just as Bitcoin did for digital money.
For the first time in the internet’s brief history, we have the means to facilitate self-sovereign data ownership via an infrastructure that can operate at scale.
For the Elastos SmartWeb to materialise, there must be incentives for users to adopt it and for developers to build dApps upon it. As such, we decided to open-source our technology, enabling any blockchain developer to tap in and integrate its data-routing capabilities.
● Elastos Blockchain (Main Chain): A Proof-of-Work (PoW) blockchain similar to Bitcoin, but with two-minute block times and approximately 40 times Bitcoin’s capacity.
● DPoS Consensus: The consensus mechanism that controls the use of ELA, the native token of the Elastos mainchain. DPoS Consensus is designed to withstand 51% attacks. By stamping blocks with “finality,” DPoS nodes keep PoW nodes in agreement as to which chain is valid.
● Ethereum (ETH) Sidechain: The sidechain that executes Elastos smart contracts written in Solidity. The ETH Sidechain was chosen to maximise blockchain compatibility and enable the porting of Ethereum dApps to Elastos.
● elastOS: A mobile application for developers to create and launch dApps, called Capsules.
● DID Sidechain: A W3C-compliant blockchain for decentralised identities that provides critical data to dApps.
● Hive: A service for decentralised public and private storage interfaced by Swift/Java SDKs for mobile usage.
● Carrier: A decentralised peer-to-peer network that replaces the IP-based system and transports traffic between dApps and virtual machines.
There are a lot of moving parts under the hood at Elastos - that’s for sure. Put them all together though, and they form an unstoppable network for data ownership and transmission that is radically different – and, critically, more efficient – than anything the digital landscape has seen before. A truly open-source project, Elastos has over 140 public GitHub repositories and is a top 20 blockchain in terms of active development. Elastos is anyone’s and no one’s; it is as decentralised as the data network it powers.
From a technical perspective, the above provides an overview of what Elastos is. But what this infrastructure does and why it is a game-changer for web3 is a different - and grander - matter entirely.
The SmartWeb - also known as The Modern Internet - is a mission to rebuild the web from its foundation. The culmination of almost two decades of work, the SmartWeb supports the digitisation of information while enabling its generators to control the number of copies that exist, thus enforcing scarcity.
Data can be replicated at virtually zero cost, enabling artists, authors, and other creators to sell their work while retaining control over distribution and monetisation.
For data to be finite, it must be limited in its replicability. The Elastos SmartWeb imposes limitations on replicability by creating a system for enforcement of individual property rights.
The next core component of the SmartWeb addresses data security by providing individuals with the means to protect and withhold their data from third parties while establishing a marketplace for those who wish to sell proprietary data. Such a model ensures that the only individuals and organisations capable of sharing and reselling data are those rightful owners.
To decentralise the SmartWeb, we have moved away from the traditional client-server model and created a network OS in its place - one that enables devices to communicate directly with one another in a P2P model. We have replaced IP addresses with DIDs that are used for verification and authentication purposes. With no centralised servers controlling the flow of information, privacy and data security are empirically protected.
The internet is the greatest invention of our time. It is a powerful tool for aggregating the entire sum of human knowledge and shared experience, and at the same time, it poses the greatest threat to our collective liberties. If the web is to realise the promise that it was built upon, we need to have the fortitude to reclaim our privacy and our right to individual ownership and liberties.
At Elastos, we have created an open-source operating system for protecting these inalienable rights and enabling the internet to become a tool designed by the people that work for the people - a web that protects the rights of the many, not just a few. The onus is now on developers, web3 tinkerers, freedom lovers, and privacy proponents to take the next step: to begin utilising these tools to turn the SmartWeb into a tangible reality.
Protocols are adapting to the decentralised networks, and their goal of contributing to the transition from the existing centralised network is the core of designing a decentralised web. Alongside the open network, some advantages prove the need to shift. Initially, the internet was not planned for centralisation.
An open and stable network should not be regulated or operated by tech giants - this why a decentralised network is required.
The emphasis is also on research-based architecture implementations and how the present decentralised applications and protocols have implemented the methodology and used it to combat the centralised framework’s problems.
Some of the outstanding uses were file sharing, archiving, and file protection via a secure, control-free channel. Through evaluating different protocols, decentralised web uses became easy to depict and understand. The problem, though, is the introduction and use of the decentralised network.
As simple as recognising the need for decentralisation and that most developers are after it, it may be argued that the network is complicated and needs users to learn how to use it. The system’s nuances make it only beneficial to tech-savvies or owners, but it can prove an obstacle to the average citizen. There are also holes to get the open internet closer to users to connect without intermediaries.
The advantages this form of network architecture has to give are very enticing and will take over the internet’s future. The internet was intended to be transparent and decentralised, and one day the system would be embraced worldwide in the expectation of developers. The peer-to-peer network is the solution to the giant tech firms’ government surveillance and hegemony. Much human-relevant knowledge may also be stored in the unified system.
If the masses obtain online democracy, decentralisation might be the only way to do this. A network alone, giving users the privacy they want online.
Donald Bullers is founder at Tuum Technologies with interest in data rights and personal cloud computing, he advances teams developing software for an entirely decentralized internet using Elastos Web 3.0 technology. Donald Bullers contributes to the Elastos network.