Decentralized Web Summit summary


Last week I attended the Decentralized Web Summit at the Internet Archive in San Francisco. I was also part of the planning committee for the schedule and topics. As an organiser, I helped facilitate a discussion on security during the builders day (which was invite only and took place one day before the public days) and moderated a lightning talk session on the last day. As a rep for MaidSafe, I attended the builders day and got to meet a bunch of extremely interesting people as part of it (and tell them about/update them on SAFE), was on a panel about security in decentralized networks on the second day (and hosting 1-hour booths to discuss SAFE on each of those days) and finally hosted a 90 minute workshop on the last day.

It was an exciting, yet exhausting week. Glad @frabrunelle was there to back me up at times, too. So thanks for that Francis.

The workshop was fun but it mostly was me describing the network consensus. I did show some basic launcher demos at the end but will aim to integrate that more in the future. As far as I could tell, the group who came seemed really interested in talking/asking about the design of the network. I think I would have seen a more general crowd had the session taken place in the afternoon but overall, the design seemed to sink in pretty well and folks walked away with reasons to research more for themselves and check out the launcher more. I also gave short demos during the “science fair” portion of the first two days which essentially allowed people to ask questions and talk about specific projects.

I went to the Freenet workshop which took place right after the one I did and installed it on my Mac. It was cool to meet more Freenet developers. They’re really a great group of intelligent people and have really interesting experiences with building a dark net that we could probably learn from. We should hire them all. :wink:

I walked away with better knowledge and understanding on a couple things: what properties SAFE brings to the greater community of decentralized technologies and importance of the human element when building these systems. To the first point, there are relatively minimal attempts at a fully autonomous network to provide data and node integrity properties and also not too many focused on anonymity. The ability for the network to not only manage itself in terms of keeping connections and relay data but also make sure that data is, in fact, continuously stored on the network is unique. There’s a ton of projects which are bittorrent + bitcoin (or some dht + blockchain variant) which is a worthy avenue to explore but as a result, there’s a lot of overlap of features and will inherently include scaling problems of blockchains and Sybil vulnerabilities of standard dht implementations. Some alternatives to autonomous data integrity I see are incentive based (Storj, keep paying data host nodes) and trust based (a la friend to friend style in Freenet and Tahoe LAFS). Regarding anonymity… I really only saw SAFE and Tor representing that priority at the event.
To the second point about the human element… I basically heard some horror stories from Freenet about the worst of the worst kinds of people using Freenet for sharing the worst imaginable things. This is not to say the foundation of a decentralized web requires preventing this, but rather that technology literally cannot prevent this and social strategies are required to block or filter this sort of content with the help of third party tools (ie. blacklisting).

There was a ton of interest in the realm of content addressing and more and more people understanding the natural solution to locating data within a decentralized web is to search via content hash rather than a location where data is stored. Most projects are using this method and if you haven’t heard about Van Jacobson’s named data networking which is essentially building a standard for this sort of thing to replace IP.

Finally, I think there’s a lot of potential for collaboration with the Internet Archive community. They are extremely interested in the concept of reader privacy which is currently dependent on using Tor to access their archives. SAFE will certainly be able to provide a viable alternative to this and I really look forward to have this be a major use case. There’s already a few tools on which seem relatively trivial to also give an option to reading from a decentralized network such as SAFE.

Photos from the event here:
Videos here:

Some articles about the summit:
New York Times – "The Web’s Creator Looks to Reinvent It"
EFF – "Locking the Web Open: Dispatches from Morning One of the Decentralized Web Summit"
The Next Web – "The Inventor of the Web thinks we need a new one that governments can’t control"
Business Times – "Tim Berners-Lee wants to reinvent the web"
Gizmodo – "The Web’s Creator Now Wants to Unfuck It"
The Inquirer – "Sir Tim Berners-Lee: Internet has become ‘world’s largest surveillance network’"
Breitbart – "The Inventor Of The Web Wants To Give Power Back To The Users"
Fortune – "Here’s How Two Visionaries Want to Fix a Broken Internet"
Boing Boing – “How we will keep the Decentralized Web decentralized: my talk from the Decentralized Web Summit” <-- Edit: Highly recommended


Great work @ioptio. I saw that place (Internet Archive) once in a Dutch documentary and it looked like an amazing venue. Great you had all the interactions with other devs and other projects. And also great that Launchers and accounts could be showed to people. There was a great post on reddit/r/ethereum a few days ago called: The often overlooked importance of UI/UX designers and we should indeed not overlook what a great job Maidsafe is doing in this area. It seems like one of the first cryptoprojects that doesn’t bug people with terminals and loooooong addresses that needs a copy and paste to some (for most people) hidden side of the OS. It’s good to show the ease of use to people. Great work :thumbsup: :thumbsup: :thumbsup:.


That’s why I watch this project so closely :slight_smile: Freenet users were deanonymized by authorities. I have a dream of live bittorrent (meaning, not just data at rest) + no-specific-relays-onion-routing (or other anonymity protecting p2p live sharing). ZeroNet (which also presented there IIRC) like you said, just says to use TOR. We know that TOR is not very scalable do to its reliance on relay/exit nodes. That’s mainly because they want to allow any TCP connection over it so people have fears of running exit nodes. I am disappointed there isn’t more work happening in the anonymity space.

Yup, internet archive dev was on an HN thread I was on recently (I am the top comment), they talk about their cooperation w/ IPFS.


Thanks for your write up. There are uses of this technology which do terrify me. Its very important that the majority of the Safe Network is used by normal people doing normal things, with only a minority of people using it for activities of the worst kind. It will be a race to cultivate legitimate wide spread use I think. Otherwise the Safe Network might simply be associated be criminal activity.

It’s like with anything in reality. Its just a mirror image. Time and societies and their norms and values define what is supposedly bad disgusting or ugly, or accepted and established and mainstream. It doesnt need a Freenet or a maidsafe or younameit to cultivate unacceptable behavior. After all these are only facets of humanity. Things dont get invented on telephone lines, nor on this thing called internet or on the world wide web nor on Freenet or maidsafenet, nor on torrents, usenet, ominous darknets or your next favorite buzzword.


It’s a mistake to be apologetic about such possibilities, because it is letting oneself be intimidated by busybodies.

The mass media will sensationalize SAFEnet, like they sensationalize everything, because that’s what they do: they sell low-grade entertainment in the guise of “news” to the mass of gutless mediocrities who never made an original judgement in their lives, whose default response to any new situation is to look around and ask how other people are reacting to it.


This is not about what people say about SAFE… it’s about what they do. People will do horrible things (like they do elsewhere) and it’s no apology to want to prevent this (edit: or at least make as difficult as possible) on SAFE.


Be careful. Enforcing morals through code is a very slippery slope. Through social structure is a preferrable approach.

…social strategies are required to block or filter this sort of content with the help of third party tools (ie. blacklisting).

Be careful at which level you are talking about here. We’ve already had a discussion around greylisting and authoritarian pressure/coersion to prevent what a group of people may deem “horrible”.

Application level? Sure. Go for it. Network level? If its not secure for them, it’s not secure for anyone.

What exactly did you have in mind when you said

…prevent [these horrible things] (or at least make as difficult as possible) on SAFE.



I try to keep in mind that the “normal” in for a specific culture, country, social group or for a specific period of time, is usually the “horrible” for another culture, social group or time context. There are certainly some universal consensus, but I suppose this is a very tiny minority of cases.
Basing content control on these very specific cases is, in my opinion, a very dangerous way that leads precisely to the opposite of what I think is one of the core goals of the Safe network : protecting freedom of speech.

Mass media will invariably focus on the specific minority cases, because, as the vallets of the dominant power in place, and as @bluebird said with much insight, this is what they are paid for.
The reactions that will follow are disconnected from the essence of the problem , and are just epidermic reflexes programmed by social engeenering. Despite it presents ifself with a made up image of promoting freedom of mind, the current dominant system ( and the other ones too ) benefit from a very tight control of thought and are not willing to let this go.

To me this is where the real difficuliy resides. Promoting , facilitating or allowing real freedom of speech without falling in the widely open traps of the mass communication tools.

Namely, it begins by learning to understand the Other. Which may well take a few centuries, and tools such as the Safe network to begin with :slight_smile:

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@ioptio how aware were the people in the summit about Maidsafe?

I think this part is key.

When alternative P2P network enthusiasts ask me, “how is it different from network X?”

I say, “it’s better…”

This naturally leads to mass adoption. Nothing complicated, they just want to upgrade. The burden of proving those two words (it’s better), requires me to “show” them the vault, the launcher, the APPS. And then something clicks… like magic.


That is why I consider that spending significantly more on marketing is redundant and therefore wasteful.

Great effort and thanks for the update.

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I didn’t have anything exact in my mind nor was I suggesting anything to be built into network code. If you read my original post, you’d find I said the contrary.

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Anyways… let’s keep this discussion around the original topic. If y’all want to dive more into discussions about technology and morals, there’s other threads for that.

I’d be interested to hear a short summary from @frabrunelle’s perspective. Not to put you on the spot or anything. :stuck_out_tongue:


I’d venture to guess 70% of people I talked to had at least heard about SAFE… but these are decentralization enthusiasts so it only makes sense.

Not only that, it psychologically anchors them the idea that it is better.
And for the ones with defiant personality, they will challenge you to prove it.
Both cases, they will actively listen to you and therefore they will remember it better.
Excellent! :slight_smile:


Or just use it, in a multitude of ways: make your assets judgement proof, pay no taxes, live where you want, have absolute freedom of association, make the world a better place in ways that some people would abhor, live forever and explore the universe. Sovereignty on steroids.


Good resources,thanks for the information

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Only what we do with the power the network provides will enable a situation that may free us from states and taxes but it’s simply wrong to suppose it magically provides a tax free zone. That idea can lead people off a cliff. Taxes and the liability for them do not end with the transaction and you can get into a situation where the burden of proof is on you with some tax master standing over you barking orders with penalties including incarceration stacking up.

@smacz Code is a reflection of people’s ethics. Ethics will override morals if there is enough ethical development in the person. There may be exceptions but probably not for code that is meant to have a real impact on the world. It’s almost never going to be neutral in its impact or true intent.