„If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” is a more than adequate motto chosen by GET-D‘s organisers to give character to this event, a conference aiming to explore the status, possibilities and challenges of the decentralized web. In its first edition, GET-D took place between the 17th and 19th of September in the amazing Agora Collective space in Berlin-Neukölln.
Decentralized web is a relatively new topic for many, as it is my case, and completely unknown by the vast majority of the internet users. If you belong to the latter group, let me explain briefly what I understand behind this term: The internet that most of the people use today (let me call it mainstream web) is structured in a centralized manner and a huge percent of the information is stored in big data centres and routed through servers owned by gigantic corporations. This makes possible that we all enjoy great services such as our favourite social networks, search engines and cloud storage services but has several negative implications such as poor inter-operability between information sources and, as you might already be aware of, governments accessing your private data.
As an opposition to the current infrastructure, the decentralized web proposes a much more democratic approach, where logic and storage is more balanced across the nodes of the network. Going back to GET-D’s motto, this idea also supports strongly the principles of collaboration. Because, in order to make things work, every node needs to work with the others. Last but not least, the re-use of resources (being digital information or physical assets) is also one of the main benefits of this approach.
What can we expect from a new and decentralized web?
As part of GET-D’s programme, we had the opportunity to discover very interesting projects that bring a new perspective to aspects of our current digital lives. To mention just a few, we enjoyed the presence of the folks developing Mail Pile, a free, add-free and Open Source email client that you can run on your local machine or server so you actually have total control of your data. Or Leihbar, a platform that tries to shift our consumer society towards a sharing economy. Leihbar envisions a network of boxes spread through the cities, where users can have access to all kind of products for particular occasions: from a projector to watch a movie, through tools for fixing your bike to an inflatable boat to enjoy a day at the lake. This way, we do not need to buy stuff that we are going to use just from time to time, we share it with others.
Internet of things (IoT) is also a hot topic nowadays. We are seeing how all kind of devices are becoming connected to the internet. Cars, public infrastructure or even coffee machines are now capable of interacting with the digital world and between them, in a de-centralized manner. At GET-D, a couple of IoT-related projects were presented: Starting with RiotOS, a free LGPL-licensed operative system for those devices the IoT is being built upon, or Gatesense, a project which encourages the community to imagine and shape the future of this field. With such a vast amount of devices generating tons of information, initiatives are also being launched to help us managing it efficiently. It is the case of Jolocom, a distributed visualisation tool which helps users make sense of complex connections between persons, projects, sensors and devices from the Internet of Things.
Hackaton: After theory it comes coding
I personally enjoyed the hacking sessions. Parallel to a series of interesting presentations and hangouts with folks working on decentralized web projects around the globe, they shaped the 3 days we spent at GET-D. Together with other participants, I worked on a project I would like to introduce here. Portable Linked Profiles (PLP) are set of components which offer an easy way for users, organisations and venues to create their public data, and most important, host it wherever they want. Thanks to its modular design and its Open Source nature, developers can create applications on top of PLP. This applications (named Browsers) would be something like our Open Knowledge directory which aggregates and maps contact information of individuals and organisations working on Open Knowledge worldwide. Expect more details about this on our blog soon.
Stay tuned for more GET-D
This first edition had already very good outcomes and the great thing is that there will be more to come. The topic of Decentralized web is still in a young state and more research, discussion and implementation is still needed. As we could experience, such an event offers a perfect environment for this and we are looking forward to attending next editions of GET-D.