Fair warning, this is going to be a long post. A couple nights ago I had a lengthy discussion with my father on the future of decentralized internet, how it would look like, how its economics would work, and more. We came to a conclusion about a totally new incentive model that I would love to share with you all here in its entirety. I only ask that we all keep an open mind to new ideas–my only goal is the same as yours: to help bring about truly decentralized and fair internet infrastructure. I would also like to greatly thank MaidSafe and @dirvine and the core team, since I likely wouldn’t even be talking or thinking about this right now without them!
Before I share the new structure, I need to point out what is wrong with the current one, and how the domino effect creates one distortion after another, causing a big imbalance and mess.
First and foremost, we have the ISPs that provide the hardware to access the conventional internet. For this service, they charge the end-user $xx per month. The user pays this amount in order to gain virtually unlimited access to the world wide web. However, the entire monthly fee goes to the ISP and not the content creators, which is why the user connects to the internet in the first place. This is problem number one: the ISPs would not exist without the content creators (who mostly provide for free), and yet take 100% of the profits from the end user.
Next we have the content creators / innovators. The people who spend their time, effort, and money for creative purposes, and try to make a living off of it. They have a couple options:
a. Release their content for free and resort to making money off of the accompanying advertising, or even resort to selling the user’s private data. This can apply to musicians with youtube advertisements, journalists with ads in their articles, facebook’s free social service, etc. This is the predominant method and, in most cases, is not enough for sustainable living for the average creator.
b. Charge a one-time fee (like an iTunes download) or a monthly fee for unlimited access to your products (Netflix). In most cases, people will choose the free options, whether they’re free due to advertising or illegal methods (torrents). Unfortunately, in most cases content innovators are still scratching their heads trying to figure out how to make a living doing what they love. Which now brings me to…
The consumer. By nature, the majority of all traffic is made by consumption from the creations of the innovators/builders (the very ones trying to figure out how to make money!) And this makes sense if we think about it: a video or song is produced once and listened to countless of times (Gangnam Style, anyone?); an application is developed by one person, but used by many; an article is written once and spread throughout the world; or even a facebook comment is posted once and read by 500 friends.
The problem here is the vast consumption that is done for free (except, of course, to the ISP that doesn’t share with the content creators).
Similarly to an ant colony, there must be a careful balance to the entire structure, otherwise there will be major problems. Whenever someone consumes something for free, he is doing so at the expense of someone who creates something. This creates an imbalance that ultimately discourages innovation. Although the consumer may receive something for “free”, this mentality is actually what will require him to work at a loathsome corporate desk job rather than earning money from his own innovation, thus leading to his own misery.
So what is the solution to this imbalance? MaidSafe has brought us a long way in the right way of thinking. It enables the “farmers” to earn money from storing other peoples’ data, which brings us away from centralized server storage. However, another crucial piece of the puzzle is paying app developers based on their apps’ usage. A crucial component here is that the end-user does not pay the app directly: the payments are handled by the network, and thus the creator is getting paid.
But now we have to ask: where does the money come from that pays these content creators (and farmers)? This is where MaidSafe falls short: the money comes solely from other content creators through their PUT requests! I hope you are beginning to understand what I am proposing. A network is in imbalance if it’s based upon content creators funding content creators. This should be changed. It is for this reason I propose a few important ideas:
- Most importantly, that consumers, the GET requesters, pay money in order to restore the balance of consumption and innovation. If a user wants something (and also creates load on the network), he should pay for it. The payment would be to the network in direct proportion to how much he has downloaded and uploaded.
- Because the consumer is paying for downloads and uploads, they do not pay anything to the ISPs (i.e. an individual’s wifi router or ISP company). ISPs will provide direct, free, and unlimited access to the network, and in return, the network pays the ISPs accordingly. This creates a further incentive for ISP competition. How much they get paid for their service is another discussion.
- This way, all content and service creators get paid by the network, without any exceptions, for the use of their content (similarly to app builders). This is ultimately paid for by the consumers.
MaidSafe has brought things a very long way with its new system, but it is simultaneously dragging in the antiquated business models of the conventional internet with it, which holds the same travails for content creators. In my proposed system,
- All service providers and content creators will know that, no matter what, they will be paid by the users who need or desire their work. To be just for the end user. the user does not have to pay up front to the ISPs for access. If users don’t pay their fees, they are rejected by the entire network as a whole–not the ISP.
- ISPs would have an incentive to provide direct access to this network and provide fast and reliable service. More downloads/uploads on their service would mean more payments by the network. Existing ISPs would eventually want to join in.
- Consumers would want to join the network due to all the innovation and good service going on there. They would get unlimited access to the entire network and only pay for the amount of data they use, and the funds automatically get distributed to all the parts of the engine that allowed the consumption to happen: the ISPs, the innovators, and the computers that hold the innovators’ files–in other words, the entire chain! (Don’t confuse this consumption model with the current ISPs’ attempts to throttle data usage–that is very limited.)
Another important topic that would need discussing is how money is distributed to content creators. One solution is to have different categories of payments for different types of content, such as videos, news articles, music, etc. The price charged to the end user for each data access is calculated by the network by multiplying the price tag of each service and content involved in the download.
There have been many discussions here about how content creators can be compensated (such as a thread here), so I wanted to throw this out there. Some of you may be wondering how such a network could ever get off the ground (esp. if the conventional internet offers so much for free for consumers), but ultimately, I think that a) if the end result/idea is desired and perceived as good, and b) people are willing to make the reality happen, then c) the way to implement it will naturally follow.
I would love to hear some feedback from all of you!