Longread: what will it take to re-decentralize the web?

In 2016, the Internet Archive convened a decentralized web summit to discuss ways to make the web less centralized and thus less vulnerable to censorship, corporate abuse and "shadow regulation" (I gave one of the keynotes).

Researchers at the MIT Media Lab's ​Center​ ​for​ ​Civic​ ​Media​ ​& ​Digital​ ​Currency​ ​Initiative have published a long, very readable overview of the problems of centralization and the technical, economics, legal and social impediments to solving them. They cover efforts like Mastadon, which aim to replace the centralized, winner-take-all systems with decentralized, federated ones, as well as blockchain technologies, distributed infrastructure like Freedom Box.

We offer case studies of the following decentralized publishing projects:

* Freedom​ ​Box​, a system for personal publishing

* Diaspora​, a federated social network

* Mastodon​, a federated Twitter-like service

* Blockstack​, a distributed system for online identity services

* IPFS​ ​(Interplanetary​ ​File​ ​System),​ a distributed storage service with a proposed mechanism to incentivize resource sharing

* Solid​ ​(Social​ ​Linked​ ​Data),​ a linked-data protocol that could act as a back-end for data sharing between social media networks

* Appcoins,​ a digital currency framework that enables users to financially participate in ownership of platforms and protocols

* Steemit,​ an online community that uses an appcoin to incentivize development and community participation in a social network

Defending​ ​Internet​ ​Freedom​ ​through​ ​Decentralization: Back​ ​to​ ​the​ ​Future? [Chelsea​ ​Barabas, Neha​ ​Narula and Ethan​ ​Zuckerman/The​ ​Center​ ​for​ ​Civic​ ​Media​ ​& The​ ​Digital​ ​Currency​ ​Initiative MIT​ ​Media​ ​Lab]