Sharing information online can be as easy as speaking. “The Internet” is like watching TV, or reading the newspaper, but only much better.
It updates itself automatically, in real-time, with a huge amount of viewing options and sites available. You can educate yourself, learn, do business, make new friends, find lost friends, provide news, video, or content, shop, watch sports, etc. It removes virtually all limits based on geographic location.
It makes the world smaller, smarter, and more connected. It has helped every person who has used it become smarter, faster, better, in one way, or another. It is easily the greatest invention in the last generation, and most likely the greatest in the history of the world. And there hasn’t been any downside risks to using it to your heart’s content, until now. And this risk has been there for years, right under your nose, and you didn’t even notice it.
If you’ve heard of the name Edward Snowden, you’ve probably heard of all the issues with government surveillance and the unconstitutional access to your information. All of your information sent through Google, Yahoo, Facebook, YouTube, et al. are owned by them through use of their servers to store it. You probably had to sign away your rights to any privacy for your information through the ubiquitous “Terms and Conditions Agreement” you signed at one point, or another. Have you ever sat down and read that agreement? Has anyone? Would you understand the legalese if you did? Anything can be in those agreements, including agreeing to surveillance by pick-a-government-agency, and you wouldn’t know. Do you trust these companies? Should you?
The bigger issue is where does this information go, and who has access? Yahoo had to hand over any Yahoo user information in their servers that the NSA wanted earlier this year, or be fined $250k a day. Why does the NSA get access to your information without your consent? Isn’t that illegal search and seizure (A 4th Constitutional Amendment Right Americans used to have many years ago?) Isn’t it then safe to assume that any information put on “The Internet”, by anyone who uses “The Internet”, in the U.S. or elsewhere, is being taken by the NSA? Or any other outfit? For blanket surveillance purposes? Is that alright with you?
So the real question is: Who do you trust? Yahoo? The NSA or Government? No one? The third time is the charm, eh?
What has happened is that “The Internet” started out truly decentralized. Today, not so much. “The Internet” has become, through the scourge of big businesses collecting information online, a mostly centralized network. Through convenience, greed, and sloth, “The Internet” has become centralized with all user’s information gathered on a few key privately-owned servers. Great news for information poachers, kind of like how Mt Gox lost all your Bitcoin once it took them off the Blockchain’s security platform.
Yahoo/Bing/Google own over 85% of all Internet searches in the U.S. alone, forgetting the fact that Google is the most popular search engine worldwide as well. Facebook is a known provider of your information to the U.S. Government. You probably aren’t safe from information scavenging from “The Internet” wherever you are reading this article. The overwhelming majority of the information entered online is effectively owned by a few large corporations. If you want to contact someone online, your message is most likely filtered and collected by the site you used to communicate. And you may have agreed to have this done through your signing of the seemingly innocent, but deadly, “Terms and Conditions Agreement.”
American companies are subject to American government law, taxes, and the underlying coercion (Ok, the taxes maybe not so much.). So if the Government goes rogue on the ancient “Constitutional Rights” of its citizens, guess who pays for that? These companies, and their servers, have collected your data and become cherry trees, or fields to plow, for the agency du jour to choose from. Ethics, Constitutional Law, and the rights of the citizenry are outmoded concepts, don’t you think? Don’t answer that, since that thought might be the property of your local search engine.
A small Scottish company has been working on a solution to this issue since 2006, before Bitcoin was a gleam in Satoshi Nakamoto’s eye. MaidSafe (Massive Array Internet Disks – Secure Access For Everyone) feels that they have found the answer to another important question that no one has been asking, but really should have been all along. Since cryptography has proven so effective for online banking, Bitcoin’s Blockchain, and military secrets, why not make it work for your protection throughout “The Internet” itself? Make this trickle-down technology the new standard basis of information transfer throughout “The Internet”?
So I contacted Nick Lambert, COO of MaidSafe, to find out what he and MaidSafe plan to do about The Internet’s biggest problem that nobody else is thinking about. We talked about MaidSafe and SafeCoin, which will be the digital altcoin used to fuel the revolutionary mission. It has already seen some large scale exchanges with Bitcoin, with impressive results.
(Keep in mind that nine times out of ten, you will need to buy Bitcoin and then exchange it for any altcoin, like SafeCoin. It will be extremely difficult to use fiat currency to buy any altcoin, directly. Bitcoin is used, in effect, as the “Global Reserve Currency” for digital currency, just as the U.S. Dollar is used worldwide for international fiat currency exchange.)
Nick, what was the genesis of this idea for MaidSafe? What got you started on this path many years ago? It seems you are almost a decade ahead of everyone else when it comes to this problem. At least you knew there was a problem with “The Internet”. How?
The idea for MaidSafe came from our founder David Irvine. (Watch this video. It starts at 13:00, and is Part 1 of 2 where max Keiser interviews both David Irvine and Nick Lambert.) In an earlier business, having realized that small business servers were hard to use and expensive, David invented a product called eBoxit. eBoxit was a secure small business server that enabled SMEs to quickly and easily configure a complete networking environment within their office.
The process of creating this product led David to not only improving the way that servers worked, it also ultimately led him to the conclusion that many of the problems within network infrastructure were caused by the servers themselves. This led him to start to think about removing servers from the management of data, and the formation of MaidSafe in February of 2006. David spent most of the rest of that year developing a new, server-less network design. As is well documented within our marketing material, much of the inspiration and modeling of how to overcome the traditional approach came from complex natural systems, specifically ant colonies.
You have made a digital currency coin called SafeCoin, and it had a pretty good launch back in August. It incorporated Bitcoin and Mastercoin. Tell us how that launch was done successfully?
We launched an intermediate coin called MaidSafeCoin back in April of this year during a “crowd sale”. MaidSafeCoin will be exchanged on a 1:1 basis with Safecoin when the network launches. Participants in the “crowd sale” backed the project in either Bitcoin or Mastercoin, and we used the small property feature of the master protocol to issue MaidSafeCoins. All participation was recorded on “The BlockChain”.
The launch was not without its problems, but was ultimately successful, and I think this may be because the project caught the imagination of technology enthusiasts. It addresses many of the most important issues facing users today, that includes providing privacy, security and freedom online. We were able to get our message across in a way that resonated with users who I think respect that MaidSafe is working toward a strong long-term vision. This vision has led to a number of community supporters growing around the project. A community that is helping because they realize the world needs a network that is owned by no one, and prioritizes users rights, putting them back in control of their data.
Safecoin will be required to use services (such as storage space, VOIP calls, social networks where the user controls their own data…etc…) on the network. Therefore the value of Safecoin to all users will be the utility it provides when the network is launched.
So to be clear, what your company proposes is an all-new version of “The Internet”, an “Internet 2.0 – Encrypted Edition”, if you will. You are saying your system can provide that to the market in the future? When can this be completed? What time frame are we talking about here? What is your timeline going forward?
What MaidSafe will be doing with the SAFE (Secure Access For Everyone) Project is designed to effectively reimplement all web services. The SAFE network uses the existing Internet infrastructure (cables and routers), but removes servers and data centers on a new decentralized network. This is comprised of the spare computing resources of all its users. This is a network for the people, by the people. This new network will facilitate all the services that exist on the current Internet and facilitate products like decentralized storage products (like Dropbox). Also decentralized exchanges where peers can trade currencies directly with each other. VOIP (Skype) that enable encrypted voice, video, email, and text messaging services.
The time frame of beta launch is difficult to predict. You have to try and estimate how long it will take to fix the problems you don’t know you have yet. We are working toward an estimated public launch at the end of 2014. However, as I say timings are very difficult to predict and could change.
Regarding the development progress, we are working through a series of three test networks prior to the beta launch. We are currently transitioning from Test Net One (the implementation of the underlying network spread across 200 nodes in 3 continents) to Test Net Two (which will enable applications to be built on top of the network). This will be a much more exciting stage, as it will enable many users and enthusiasts to start seeing the network in action for the first time. These will be simple apps at first, but will become more complex as Test Net Two grows.
Test Net Three will enable us to implement Safecoin before we open up the network to everyone. We will shortly publish a more detailed roadmap that will enable everyone to follow our progress more closely.
Hypothetically speaking, as the genesis for this new protocol, couldn’t you be attacked or coerced, just like Yahoo was? Can’t forces threaten you and destroy this ideal in its infancy? This is why Bitcoin was decentralized from the start, and Satoshi Nakamoto has never been heard from since. Doesn’t the publicity also make a target, and endanger the mission itself?
Our situation differs from Yahoo in many ways. Firstly, all our code is open-sourced so if any person, group or company doesn’t like what we are doing with the network they can fork it and do it better. The decentralized nature of the network means that after it is launched it cannot be turned off, and if anything were to happen to MaidSafe the company, the network would live on.
MaidSafe has also set up some developer pods. This is with a view to ensuring that the knowledge of the underling code base (and the ability to maintain the network) exists [without] the company, removing MaidSafe as a central point of weakness. These pods are at a very early stage, but they currently exist in San Francisco and Montreal, and a Washington, DC pod will be coming online soon.
The publicity possibly does make us a target, but it is not possible to launch a new global network without telling people. The network requires users to provide their resources, third party application developers to make great apps, and involve all sorts of people with different skill sets, to help peer review the network.
Say someone wants to join you, donate their time, or their digital currency, to your vision of “The Internet” of the future. How can they get involved?
There are lots of different ways people can get involved, the following page details how: http://maidsafe.net/get-involved.
Images from Flickr, MaidSafe and Shutterstock.
Additional source: Julie Bort, Business Insider