On today’s episode we’re going to be talking about the ongoing war on p2p exchange, a Filipino safe haven for ridesharing companies, cryptocurrency and earthships, the Ethereum Olympic release, and last but certainly not least, Kyle Drake joins the show to talk about Neocities and the permanent web.
Content for today’s episode was provided by John Light and Kyle Drake
Music for today’s episode was “Curbside Killers” by Pskov
Episode Transcription by P.H. Madore
Today’s episode is brought to you in part by Bitseed.org and the okTurtles Foundation.
Bitseed has started accepting pre-orders for version 2 of their dedicated bitcoin full node hardware. With Bitseed, you can easily run a full node and support the bitcoin network – just plug it into power and a router, and within a few hours it will have a full copy of the bitcoin blockchain. You can learn more about the device and place your pre-order by visiting Bitseed online at bitseed.org/shop.
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With those announcements out of the way, let’s move on to the news.
SF Housing Crisis
Our top story today comes to us from San Francisco, where the city is ramping up a fierce propaganda campaign against people who share or rent their homes through online platforms such as Airbnb, 9flats, and VRBO. A recently released Board of Supervisors report studying the effects of these marketplaces on the local housing market has led local politicians to take aim at the people using these services, with San Francisco Board Supervisor David Campos “asserting that the report proves Airbnb is a ‘significant contributor to the housing shortage’ that is pushing low- and middle-income families out of the city,” Times Magazine reports. Of course, this kind of thinking completely ignores the decades of failed government housing policies which have led to this shortage, completely passing the buck from where responsibility should really be placed, which is in the hands of city officials who have for years blocked new construction which would have eased the pressure on continually rising housing prices. This is Economics 101, supply and demand. Not enough housing + increasing demand = higher prices. Why hasn’t the market responded by building more housing? Because the city has continually put up roadblocks to such construction, likely to the benefit of existing landlords who benefit from these higher prices. This is crony capitalism at its finest – if San Francisco is to reclaim its diverse and creative spirit and remain liveable for anyone but the richest of the rich, this city needs to rid itself of the short-sighted politicians who are either economically illiterate, corrupt, or both, and let the market do its job of regulating prices and serving demand for housing in the city.
Ridesharing remains under attack
Peer-to-peer ridesharing apps such as Uber and Lyft also continue to face political challenges around the world as politicians and regulators try their hardest to enforce local transportation cartels and protect the cozy monopolies secured by incumbent cab companies. The Associated Press is reporting that the New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas has sent state regulators a letter asking them to require these companies to drug test their drivers the same way cab drivers are tested. The state’s Public Regulation Commission has since voted on regulations that allow these companies to operate, rules which are separate from existing cab regulations and which do not include a requirement for drug testing for all drivers, instead requiring drug testing only after there has been an accident.
After Kansas state legislators voted to force Uber to carry out background checks on all of its drivers and carry additional car insurance, a blog post on the company’s website says that Uber has “ceased operations throughout Kansas.” Uber went on to say that the Kansas government has, “destroyed hundreds of Kansas jobs and thousands of new earning opportunities in the coming years. Drivers who opened the app to make a living, and riders who opened it to get a ride, were both denied the freedom to do so.” This comes after a long string of legal attacks against ridesharing companies, including criminal charges filed against Uber employees and executives in South Korea, police raids on Uber offices in China and France, and outright bans throughout several regions of India. Each of these incidents demonstrates the danger posed by the central points of failure in peer-to-peer marketplaces, those being the platforms themselves. I look forward to the day when these transactions can occur on a truly peer-to-peer basis, removing the need for companies like Lyft and Uber to literally put their lives on the line to build technology that enables people to make a living driving or conveniently find a ride.
In somewhat more positive news for the ridesharing market, Uber reports on its blog that the national government of the Philippines has enacted a new Trasportation Department order called Promoting Mobility, which “aims to modernize and improve transport services to the commuting public by recognizing new forms of transport solutions that can have a significant impact on reducing congestion while creating thousands of new opportunities for drivers.” David Plouffe, Senior Vice President of Policy and Strategy at Uber, said, “Today, the Philippines has officially become the first country to create a national dedicated framework for ridesharing. This first-of-its-kind order is a shining example of how collaboration between government and industry can advance urban mobility, create new economic opportunity and put rider safety first.” While this move by the Filipino government to embrace ridesharing platforms is welcome, and certainly much better than the hostile approach taken by the other governments mentioned earlier, I am weary of one-size-fits-all frameworks, whether at the national, regional, or local levels. My concern is that they’re just going to create another kind of cartel, one which maximizes the proprietary network effects of the incumbent ridesharing platforms and makes it difficult for startups, cooperatives, and independent entrepreneurs to compete and serve their local markets. Riders and drivers alike should be wary of government regulations touting tolerance, and maintain vigilance to ensure that people aren’t just replacing an abusive relationship with incumbent cab providers with an abusive relationship with ridesharing monopolies. Overall, this move by the government of the Philippines is a step in the right direction, and I’ll be keeping an eye on the situation to see how it develops.
Listener Duane wrote in to tell me about an idea he had about a way that the Earthship community could leverage peer-to-peer cryptocurrency technology. For those who don’t know, earthships are a kind of building that is made out of dirt and recycled materials, designed to be resilient and self-sufficient. Duane says that the earthship community often engages in disaster relief efforts, and suggests that they can use cryptocurrency to enable people from all over the world to contribute to these efforts in a way that is secure and low-cost. I think this is a great idea, especially if the people engaged in disaster relief efforts have access to local exchangers who will trade local currency or disaster relief goods for cryptocurrency. As cryptocurrency becomes more widely accepted, and as the exchange infrastructure becomes more decentralized and more widely available, this will be more and more a reality and people will be able to use cryptocurrencies to bypass bureaucratic institutions and get relief funds right where they’re needed most as fast as they can send an email. Thanks Duane for sharing this idea!
Ethereum Olympic release
Finally, we have news from the Ethereum team that the final pre-release “proof-of-concept” version of their much anticipated distributed applications platform is now available. This “Olympic” release features testnet GPU mining and full support for smart contracts. The Ethereum Foundation is also offering four categories of prizes for people who help stress test the network. Winners of the prizes will be immortalized in the genesis block of the first official Frontier release of the Ethereum software. Tune in to the next episode of P2P Connects Us to hear an interview with the founder of Ethereum, Vitalik Buterin.
[John Light] I would like to welcome to episode 18 of the P2P Connects Us podcast Kyle Drake of Neocities. Kyle, welcome to the show.
[Kyle Drake] Thank you, it’s great to be here.
[John Light] So Kyle, what is Neocities?
[Kyle Drake] Neocities, okay. Back in the kind of early days of the Internet, the kind of principle way that people communicated with each other was by making web sites. And so there was a lot of sites like Geocities and Angelfire, and they were like free website hosting services, and you learned how to do it, and had like a lot of creative control over what they were putting on their site.
Now, this was back when, you know this is back before CSS existed, right? This is why, you know, most of the sites back then looked terrible, because there really wasn’t a way to make sites, and there wasn’t like, the mechanisms allowed to make it so that you can actually make sites that look pretty. And so, and you know, a lot of people, so a lot of people made sites that were pretty crappy looking. So we kind of have this idea that, oh, well, this is, this is the old Internet, you know, this is stupid, it’s going away. And, you know, all of these kind of free website hosting companies got shut, basically shut down, or like kind of fell out of favor.
And then we replaced it with social networks. Social networks, to me, are like, are a very unpleasant thing. I actually really don’t like social networks. You know, it’s like, I used to be able to get an entire web page to be able to do anything I wanted. Now people put themselves online through these kind of like centralized services that give you a text box that you type something into, and you know, they have this kind of premise, oh, you take a picture of yourself eating a ice cream and post it to your wall or, you know, profile or whatever.
And, you know, all the sites look exactly the same. So they’ve got this kind of East Soviet apartment block thing going for them. You know? Like, you can’t really design your Facebook profile. You know, like, it’s just they give you the layout and you’re done. Like, you can’t even change the way content’s arranged, you know, so, for example.
[John Light] You get cover art, and that’s about it.
[Kyle Drake] Yeah, well, yeah, I mean, you get, they control your presentation of your content. And the thing is, is that, there’s a bias associated with that. You know, Facebook is, you know, kind of came out of like some dorm roommates at Harvard and if you look at Facebook, it kind of reflects that personality. The content’s arranged in such a way that a frat boy would be interested in.
These aren’t the things that I would want to display to people as like the first thing that they see about me, you know? I finished up working at a start-up and I had some time and I was just kind of, you know, figuring out what to do next, but you know, really didn’t want to get back into doing another start-up, you know, or a social network, or whatever. You can only have so many photo sharing apps, you know, like, I really think that we’re at the limit. I really think there’s only going to be one or two, I mean, Facebook and maybe one other.
[John Light] Peak photo sharing app.
[Kyle Drake] Yeah, oh, yeah. I mean, that’s the thing, it’s like, it’s like, there’s those, and everybody else is just trying to make, you know, a photo sharing app lite that has like one special thing that it does. And you know, so they can try to flip it over to Facebook or something like that.
[John Light] Justin Bieber’s on my network!
[Kyle Drake] Yeah, yeah, you know, I mean, it’s just, the whole thing is just ridiculous to me and so I, you know, I was going through my old, my old websites that I made. I have like, I don’t have all of them actually, I’ve lost some of my websites forever. But I have some of them on my back-up drive and I was kind of like looking at my old sites and I was like, wow, that was, that’s actually really cool, I mean, that’s a nice little, fun little site. And I wish, you know, why can’t I make, why doesn’t anyone make sites anymore, right?
So that’s how I got the idea of, you know, let’s bring back website creation. Let’s bring back free home pages. You know, like the idea of you just, you get a space and you can do whatever you want with it and you can arrange the content in any way you want, and then I took that, and I combined it with some kind of modern technology. Like, for example, we do things like scrub for videos and MP3s to stop us from turning into Megaupload, basically. And so I kind of took those like, you know, took those things, put them together and made Neocities, which is kind of like, yeah, it’s kind of like the modern Geocities, essentially.
I’m trying to bring that idea. Not as like an anachronistic throw back, you know, as in like, oh hey, let’s just put a bunch of under construction GIFs on our site or whatever, and play Limp Bizkit MIDI files and stuff like that, you know?
Like, but to bring it back with the notion of, hey, this is actually better. You get more control over what you do. The HTML renders like very well forever. I mean, there’s still web pages that are 20 years old and they render fine on a modern browser.
[John Light] Yeah.
[Kyle Drake] And make it so that you can, you know, arrange the content in the way you want and you know not just make it about you. Have like a less narcissistic experience with creating something that isn’t necessarily just about you, it could be about anything. It could be about fixing a specific kind of bike.
It could just be your personal site. You know, like it could be anything. And that’s what’s cool about it is it like, it gives you that kind of creative control to be able to make things. And now that we have modern technology, like HTML5 and CSS, it also renders very beautifully. And if you want to move it to another site, it’s really easy to just click. I mean, literally on Neocities, you click one button, it downloads a zip file of all the files, and all you have to do to make that work is just paste it into any other web host. You know, the way you back it up is just to copy all the files.
So, you know, as opposed to like a back-end that’s going to become obsolete after like five years or something like that, you know?
So, you know, that’s, that’s kind of what really made it interesting to me, to bring it back. And, you know, so there was that component of it which is like bring back creative control. There was another component of it that was, Okay, we’re bringing it back, but like the most important thing we need to do is not make it look like A. We want to not have, you know, we’re trying not to flip this to some random company that’s just going to like, you know, shut it down or try to dump advertising on it or whatever. You know, we want to develop a trust relationship with people that are making sites on Neocities.
The second thing that we want to do is we want to make a system where their sites stay up forever. We like the idea of making sites that don’t go down. That are, at a bare minimum, backed up somewhere. And always displayable. Sites stay up forever. I’ve been working with someone down in the Bay Area, his name is Juan Benet, who’s working on a project called IPFS or the permanent web. And he has created a system that will allow us, will allow the entire Internet to have a new version of HTTP that allows for permanent websites.
And this is one of the most exciting things I’ve ever seen in my career as a developer, if not the most exciting thing. In fact, I might even like it more than Bitcoin is how much I like it.
[John Light] Wow that’s a lot of like.
[Kyle Drake] Yeah, so, you know, when I started working on Neocities, I think a lot of people thought, oh, this is an anachronistic, old thing, blah blah blah. But here’s the thing. When Bitcoin came out and, you know, I did a talk about how, you know, a pretty popular talk about how, oh yes, Bitcoin is a commodity money, it qualifies as one, you know, the only difference between it and gold is that it’s, it’s, you can transport it at the speed of light to any computer on the planet Earth. You know? That’s, that, you know, it doesn’t have a physical presence, as in it’s not a big hunk of gold that sits on your desk and that you have to somehow get through customs or whatever.
But really what Bitcoin is it’s a distributed database that works with trust-less peers and then underneath or rather on top of that is a ledger and that ledger is what kind of creates the commodity money of Bitcoin.
The distributed database was the real innovation there. It was the ability to make a trust-less network. And I knew kind of from reading that that, that distributed database was the real innovation of Bitcoin and it really was the main innovation. And so I’ve been kind of, you know, when I created Neocities, there was this idea of, this is going to create a system, eventually, the Bitcoin, the kind of the underlying database technology.
[John Light] The block chain, right?
[Kyle Drake] Yeah. Well, not necessarily the block chain but just like the kind of distributed database underneath. Like, that notion. Like, I knew that somebody was going to take that idea and build a way for us to make, to distribute files in such a way that it will never, that it will rearrange, that it will allow for us to have like permanently resource-able sites.
[John Light] You described IPFS as kind of something that seems to be taking the distributed database technology of Bitcoin and kind of applying it to the web. Could you explain in a little bit more detail if possible, like what is IPFS? Can you ELI5 IPFS?
[Kyle Drake] I’m going to try introducing kind of like setting up the problem before describing IPFS as a technology. Just to kind of give a context for why this is important and like what this is actually trying to solve because I think it’s really important like to kind of set up the story behind this really quickly. So bear with me for a minute, I promise this is worth it.
[John Light] Sure.
[Kyle Drake] Yeah. I don’t know if you’ve ever seen it, there was this, there was this kind of British art historian, his name was Kenneth Clarke. And he made this show, this like 13 episode, hour long show on the BBC in like 1967 or something like that called the Kenneth Clarke Civilization. And it was kind of the precursor to, the Cosmos, or, you know, the show done by Carl Sagan.
He basically talks about the notion of civilization and what makes a civilization, and, you know, he kind of goes through and talks about how, you know, during the dark ages of, of, of, of the middle age, there was, you know, there’d be like these kind of Vikings that would go around and they would like conquer things and like kill people and steal all of their stuff and then bring back the loot on their big boats. And, you know, the argument that, you know, the Vikings were, you know, people would say, oh, the Vikings were civilized. They had books. Or they did do some stories and, you know, they had art, and they, all this stuff.
And what he kind of said is, you know, this isn’t civilization. You know, what this is, is a culture. So he defined the difference between a culture and a civilization. The difference is that people like the Vikings, they didn’t really write books. You know, they didn’t make books. They didn’t build kind of large architectural things. You know, they weren’t like the Romans and they built like these big kind of temples and like civic centers and cities. Because to them, you know, they were just looking at the next, they didn’t look into the future past the next battle or you know the next kind of, you know, place to conquer or like, you know, place to, the next kind of voyage. The next exploration. They weren’t like, you know, they didn’t think into the long term.
And so like, you know, the Vikings were a culture but they weren’t a civilization. And he defines a civilization as a people that have a sense of permanence. So, you know, you wouldn’t write books if you weren’t, you know, or build temples or build cities if you didn’t have this context of I’m building something that’s going to last thousands of years.
And I thought that was a really interesting thing to, to hear about because if you think about it, the way that the Internet’s set up right now. The way that the web specifically is set up right now is that it really is, you know, we really are kind of building on this notion of, we have a culture. You know? Tech is not a civilization yet, it’s a culture. And the reason why is because, you know, we really are in the purview of conquerors. You know, we talk about the conquerors. You know, Google, Twitter, Facebook, and this kind of, you know, attempt, ongoing attempt to kind of take control of the web and use it as like a way to, you know, basically monetize it, and figure out a way to like profit off of it.
You know, get the spoils, you know, get all the loot, you know, get the spoils of war and take them back on our ships, and then you know build like an epic-ass Burning Man display or whatever. You know, that’s kind of the nature of tech right now.
Like, and, and, and, there’s not really a notion of like, you know, there’s not a lot of people that are building a civilization within the web. It’s all this kind of temporary stuff. And HTTP is, you know, the web and HTTP are kind of, you know, they are kind of like the most important thing that binds everything together. You know, you know HTML is kind of becoming universal. Not only just universal mark-up language but it’s really becoming the language of our culture. It’s how we express ourselves. You know, because when you make a website, you can quickly save it and then you can send the link to anybody in the world, and anybody in the world can instantly look at that site. That’s a very powerful form of expression, you know, because before, you know, you had to kind of get a book and get it published and then get it distributed all over the world. Be able to translate it. And it was this very long, kind of drawn out process.
And so, you know, the web and HTTP really enabled that. But there’s a fundamental with the design of HTTP and the fundamental with the way that we use the web today. And that flaw is that the way that HTTP is designed, or requires fixed locations. So, for example, you know, when you use a web browser to look at like a website, it looks up the IP address. And the IP address is like a single computer somewhere in the world. Like the way IP is designed, that’s always going to be true.
You know, you can change the location of the IP address, but you’re always hitting like a server that’s run by a central resource. And so, one of the problems that you have is, you, well, for example, this is kind of going from Kenneth Clarke’s Civilization to one of the like stupid-er components of the old web.
You know, the other day I was, do you remember the Mister T versus like something crazy. Do you remember this? Does this ring a bell to you? There used to be these like sites where they were like Mister T this pop culture thing. So, you know, it’d be like a web page that was, it was Mister T versus like the band Hansen. Or, like, you know, Mister T versus the people in the movie Hackers or something like that, right? And there was like a ton of these sites. And they were really, you know, they were all bad and cheesy, but they were really kind of funny. I don’t know, I enjoyed them as a kid, you know?
And, you know, I found this site, I kind of just Googled for Mister T versus X or whatever, and I found this page on Angelfire that’s still there and it’s like a link to like sixty or seventy of these things and none of the links work, right? They’re all dead. Right? Like half of them point to Geocities and of course Geocities doesn’t exist anymore, so if you click on them you just go to a dead site that doesn’t work.
The problem is, is that, when you, the way that the HTTP is designed is you link to other kind of fixed resources. And over the course of, you know, ten or fifteen years, we’ve found that these resources go away. The HTTP is an ephemeral system. It has no notion of like really lasting for a long time. It’s kind of like any historical documents, any ancient kind of scrolls or writings that weren’t carved into stone or put on papyrus scrolls don’t exist anymore, and the reason why is because the medium that they put that stuff on doesn’t, it doesn’t exist anymore. Right? Like it, it basically, like only lasted a couple of years before it kind of dried up or, you know, burned up or whatever. You know? It just, it’s gone.
And so, you know, the only reason that we have any knowledge of antiquity is because they happened to put the information in a way that lasts for a long time. HTTP doesn’t work like that and so we’re slowly losing all of the content that we create for HTTP just basically disappears. So that’s like one major problem, is that HTTP doesn’t work for a long time. It only works for a short amount of time.
The consequence of that problem is that what we’ve seen is a move into highly centralized services. You know, the original idea behind HTTP was that everyone would have an HTTP server and then they would like kind of communicate with the other HTTP servers. But we don’t have that these days. You know, what we have is, you know, we have Google.com. You know, we have one site and then we have like hundreds of millions or billions of people using that site.
And, you know, so the web is very, very centralized right now. And of course that centralization creates a lot of problems. For starters, it creates a central dependency on a company that may or may not be there in ten years. You know, these companies come and go. You know, another problem is that, you know, it allows them to take control of all of the stuff that’s happening on the Internet. And, so, you know, these are really big problems because the whole point of the web is that it’s supposed to be, you know, kind of decentralized and like give people a venue for expressing themselves.
When I built Neocities, you know, I made free web site hosting, but again, what I did is I kind of inherited that problem because of the technical problems with the web. If Neocities went down, all of the sites would go down. And so, I wanted to try to, you know, figure out if there’s a way that we can fix that problem.
The problem is, right now, is that we ask for a file. So like, you know, you go to Google.com/cat.png. Like, that’s not a real link, but, you know, if the cat file isn’t there anymore then it, then it’s just gone forever. Like, you’ll never find that file again unless they put it back there. Now, from cryptography, when you take a file and you run a cryptographic one-way hasher against it, you know, like a SHA256 hash or whatever, you get back a fingerprint of that file. So I could take that cat.png and I could like run it into SHA256 hasher and it would spit like a big, kind of long string of like alphanumeric characters. It’s actually binary but you know we translate it so we can actually copy and paste it and stuff. And that hash is always going to be the same for that file forever.
So if we were to not ask a geographical location for a file that we have no way of proving that it’s the correct file that we’re looking for, what if we made a system where you can take that hash and you can use that hash to find the file again? If you did that, you would create a system where you could use a distributed hash table and hundreds of millions of nodes and ask the nodes for that hash. You could say, I want to find this cat file. And if you’re able to do that, even if it didn’t exist at Google.com/cat.png, you could still get that file.
That is the basic notion of what IPFS is. Like, the permanent web. It takes a lot of kind of the shelf technologies that exist today. Like, for example, distributed hash tables which is like kind of what we use for like, you know, creating like distributed decentralized networks. You take things like BitTorrent, which allow you to like kind of see the specific file and prove that it’s supposed to be that file.
And then you take things like Git, which is like kind of a version control system that people use for source code management. But you can actually take that, and if you put all of those together, you create, essentially, a giant, decentralized web. You create a, you know, a way for you to make websites that, as long as it’s being, somebody on the network is holding a copy of that site, you can retrieve it at any time.
What this does is it creates, instead of having like one central server with like millions of people using it, with no way to verify that the content you’re getting from it is the stuff you’re looking for, you create a system where you can webs, where there is no servers anymore, essentially, right? Like, where the nodes become the servers. I mean, there’s no client-server context anymore. It’s just nodes that are, you know, that are, that can be also hosting the content.
And so the whole notion of centralized servers for H, for websites, essentially breaks down and you get this just large distributed network that can, you know, as long as there’s at least one person on the planet earth that’s hosting some content you’re looking or a website you’re looking for, that website will always be accessible.
So that’s a pretty radical thing because it makes it so that you can create a web that is essentially permanent. Even if like half of the nodes dies, you know, go down, or you know, a lot of people lose interest, or if, you know, I don’t know, if some like, you know, barbarians come and start burning books or whatever, burning people’s computers, you can still have, as long as you have a couple copies of all of that content you’re looking for somewhere, you will always be able to access it.
And so, this is essentially what IPFS does, is that it creates a kind of. I mean, you know, it’s hard to describe what it is using like existing terms. It’s like a giant Git repository that works for all content, that distribute, that uses like kind of like a you know, a BitTorrent-style like distributed network to be able to transfer files over. And it does it very quickly.
To me, this is conceivably a way to replace HTTP. And I actually, that’s what I think it’s going to do. I think that this technology is going to replace HTTP for this reason, because it’s going to last longer. It’s going to be a more sustainable, longer-term system that makes it so content can’t go away.
[John Light] Is your website going to be one of the first websites using this or are there already people using this technology and it’s already working?
[Kyle Drake] So, this technology was, by the way it was developed by Juan Benet. They have a company called Protocol Labs, which is kind of like the group that’s working on this implementation. They have an alpha release right now and it works quite well. Yeah, it’s pretty early still, but I love this idea and Neocities is going to become, we’re going to implement IPFS and, in effect, we’re going to be the first site that does. We’re actually really going to be the first production site that uses IPFS kind of baked in by default into our system, which means that every single site on Neocities will have an IPFS hash that allows people to retrieve.
Well, first retrieve it using IPFS from our IPFS nodes that we’re going to run, but also allows them to pin that information to their local IPFS node which means that even if Neocities goes down or we go out of business or whatever, the IPFS hash will always remain there and as long as there’s at least one person that has a copy of that information, those sites will still be accessible.
So it gives us a way to like make it so that our users can essentially become part of the hosting solution. They can become. They essentially become little servers that can, that host the content just as easily as we can. So that’s kind of step one. IPFS hashes are step one of this process.
The second step is to make something that’s more human accessible, because obviously IPFS hashes are these big long things. They’re not like mem, they, they’re actually kind of like Bitcoin addresses, right? Like, they’re, they’re like, you know, these long kind of strings, you don’t remember them, it’s, you can’t.
So the second step of this is very similar actually to the way that kind of Bitcoin keys work. So the first one, the IPFS stuff is, let’s call it immutable data. So if you hash the cat.png, it’s always going to be cat.png. Like the image is always going to match that hash. So you don’t really, I can’t like change that hash. It’s always there. And it doesn’t go away. That’s kind of part of the notion of being permanent is that what you’re looking for that hash that represents the file and as long as that doesn’t go away, that information is essentially permanent.
So the second part of this is called IPNS, as opposed to IPFS. What IPNS does is it adds a immutable resource to allow you to have a, a hash that is always pointing to the IPFS hash that you want it to. So for example, when you create, when you run an IPFS node, it generates a private key, right? And they derive a public key from that private key.
That public key is then hashed, which is what a Bitcoin address is, right? A Bitcoin address is just a hash of the public key and we call it the pub key hash. This has a very similar notion. Each node ID has what’s called a, a pub key hash. And what you can do is you can use that pub key hash to point to content specifically and prove that you’re the one that signed it. So you use your private key and you use it to sign that your pub key hash is going to point to a specific IPFS address.
And so what that does is it gives you a way to use cryptography to create a immutable resource. So it says, you know, this, okay this hash will always point, you know, if I want to know what this, is the latest version of this site, I will ask this, you know, I will look up this IPNS hash and then it will tell me where I can find the content I’m looking for as an IPFS hash.
But I know that that IPFS hash is the correct one because the IPNS, the pub key hash, has signed that link, that reference. So that gives you the ability to, you know, point to new things. So this is, this might be a little complicated right now, but I mean, basically, the idea is that the IPNS pub key hash is put into a DNS text record. And so basically you can go to like, for example, my site on Neocities is KyleDrake.Neocities.org. If you’re using something that utilizes IPFS technology, it would look up that record, that DNS record used in the name servers, and then get the IPNS pub key hash that it’s looking for and then use that to find the IPFS hash that it needs in order to load the site correctly.
So that’s how you get the ability to make like a specific site, you know, like that not just to point to a specific IPFS hash but to basically point to any IPFS hash you want to and say, this is my site. This is where I want you to go. And then you can update it whenever you make a new version, because the IPFS hash changes every time that you update the information, the content.
This is kind of cool because it gives you an archival system, right? Like, those IPFS hashes never go away. So even if you make a new one and you point to the new one with your pub key hash, the original versions of the site are still there as long as somebody is serving them.
[John Light] Which isn’t really totally unreasonable, right? Because, I mean, if you think about normal web browsing patterns, like how much data are we actually downloading through our whole, like our lifetime history of web browsing, it’s probably, like maybe with the exception of videos and stuff, it’s probably just a few gigabytes of like HTML and CSS and stuff. And so, you know, if you can maybe assume that like videos are being stored by people with like a few terrabytes worth of hard drive space and then everything else is just being stored by people with normal amounts of like, you know, a few hundred gigabytes or something like that on their laptop hard drive, it suddenly becomes a lot more realistic to imagine that people would just be caching like all of the websites they’ve ever looked at, and that, even archival copies of some of this stuff is going to be out there on somebody’s hard drive that’s plugged in online.
And of course, hard drive space itself is just continuing to get cheaper and cheaper over time.
[Kyle Drake] Yeah.
[John Light] So, so this seems like totally realistic that this kind of system would work. But it sounds like there are a couple different kind of implications that would fundamentally change, you know, how information is distributed on the Internet in obviously positive ways, in a lot of positive ways as you’re kind of describing. But I kind of want to look at it from another angle, as well, to kind of get your take on this idea that data can’t be deleted.
Now, the European Union has come out with this concept called the “right to be forgotten.” And we can debate about whether or not there is a right to be forgotten, I don’t think that there is unless there’s actually an ability to be forgotten. And even then it’s not necessarily a right. But you can’t say you have a right, unless it’s actually possible for you to exercise it.
And so in a world where data is permanent, what does that mean for people who have private information that ends up on the Internet and they have no way of getting it down. Like, whether it’s celebrities that get their personal pictures hacked or whether it’s, you know, somebody who has some slanderous or libelous like untrue statement posted about them on the Internet. Or, you know, some data broker that compiles a profile of somebody that’s totally, you know, inaccurate. Like, how do you think that these kinds of issues are reconciled in a world where things are permanent?
[Kyle Drake] IPFS doesn’t create that problem. To me, you know, like when information that’s kind of controversial gets introduced online, even with today’s web architecture, you know, the piss is pretty much in the pool. You know, if you have like a photo that gets leaked or whatever and everyone wants to see it, and you want to get rid of it. You know, that photo’s everywhere. You know, it’s going to be all over the Internet. It’s going to be in other countries. You know, it’s going to be.
You know, that, that problem is, is really, it’s a problem that’s independent of the technology, you know, it’s a cultural problem that, you know, I don’t think that, IPFS makes that better or worse. I think it’s the same problem. In terms of like actually addressing the kind of morality of that, yeah I don’t know, I mean, I like the, I don’t, personally I actually am kind of a private person. I don’t actually use social networks very much.
Again, I don’t really like them. I have, I’ve recently been switching relationships with – a lot of my friends that I used to communicate with via social networks, I have been not. I’ve been making a point to, you know, use e-mail or to communicate with them over like encrypted chat or, you know, but most importantly I’ve been spending more time actually just hanging out with them in the real world, because to me the Internet is an absolutely lousy way to socialize with human beings. You know?
There’s subtle nuances to hanging out with somebody that you just don’t see when you’re online. And so, you know, I don’t think the web is very good at replacing human relationships. You know, and I think it’s kind of weird that that’s what we spent, kind of, you know, we’ve been becoming so entrenched into these social networks. I don’t, I see it as a very ephemeral thing simply because it’s not as good. It’s not as good as actually just hanging out with your friends.
But in terms of the morality of it, you can have a right to be forgotten, of course, but I don’t know how you, it’s like how do you prevent people from distributing content that you don’t want distributed, I mean even if it’s illegal. The thing is, it’s illegal in a specific country, so they’ll just find some random country where it’s kind of, you know, developing still, and they don’t have really have a lot of rule of law, and so you can just have, you know, you can just host whatever you want, and you know, nobody will stop you because the government doesn’t care.
I like the right to be forgotten because, like I said, I’m a private man. I wouldn’t want a bunch of information about me being leaked all over the Internet that is not information I’d like to share with people publicly. But again, it’s, I’m not sure how you solve that problem.
When you’re anonymous on the Internet, there’s no concept of attaching your private persona to the thing that you’re working on. And one of the big changes between the, kind of the Geocities Internet and the modern Internet is that all of the social networks that we use have this notion, or, you know, most of them anyway, have this notion of us attaching our real identity to our Internet presence. This has been a very interesting development because essentially it’s turned us into narcissists because we have this kind of context of, okay, this is who I am in the real world and this is my public personality, right?
So we do things like, we, you know, we groom our Facebook walls so that, you know, our friends think that we’re cooler than we actually are, you know, like, we start, like self-censoring to make us look we’re somebody that we want to be rather than somebody that we actually are. That’s what celebrities have to do, you know, like, that’s what Madonna has to do, you know, or whatever. You know, like these kind of, like big time celebrities, and what social networks with real identities are doing is kind of like turning us into celebrities in a weird sort of way, you know, like, because then we have these kind of split personality of like oh this is who I am in the real world and this is who I am on the Internet. And there’s something very like narcissistic and like kind of anti-social about that notion. You know And again, it just like kind of, kind of highlights the inauthenticity of online networking today.
[John Light] I mean, that’s like public life in general, right?
[Kyle Drake] Yeah.
[John Light] You look at public figures and it’s like, I mean, they’re, that’s, whether it’s, whether it’s celebrities or whether it’s like the executives of a company or whether it’s, you know, a political figure, you know, they all have their persona that they put on in public where they’re like, maybe they’re diplomatic or maybe they’re actually more extreme or, you know, but then, like in person they might be, or in their private life they might be a lot different. Or just more expressive or more reserved or, you know, like, it seems like that’s just a function of public life and it seems like more people just so happen to be experiencing that phenomenon of living in public in a way.
[Kyle Drake] Yeah. And, and the thing is that, you know, if you were to have an anonymous Internet presence, then, you know, if somebody leaks some private information about you that’s like, oh this guy’s name is Kyle Drake, and you know, here’s, here’s a picture of him, like, you know smoking a cigarette and then like throwing the cigarette at like a pre-schooler or something like that. You know, if it was, if it was on, if you had an anonymous online profile, I mean, it would be like, well, okay, some random person on the Internet out there in the world is a dick. You know?
But they wouldn’t actually be able to like really attach to you in any meaningful way. One of the things that these kind of social networks enable is Internet bullying, you know? Where, like, you know you can basically go on their Twitter wall and just start attacking them, you know? And this has been a really big problem on Twitter especially because there’s been a lot of situations where like, you know, for example, an accusation – I don’t want to try to get into too many specifics, but there’s a lot of examples out there. Where like one person like accuses someone else of doing something that’s really fucked up and then, the entire, you know, before any judicial review comes into play, before any evidence gathering comes into play, people just go and just attack these people, you know? Like, I guess Gamergate has kind of been an example of this where like, you get a lot of like people like, you know, threatening to kill people and stuff like that and, you know, being, just like, sending all these like death threats and just being crazy. And, you know, again, it’s like this weird combination of like the Internet just bullies on something without actually really understanding if they’ve done anything wrong or not.
To just try to like scare them or freak them out or whatever, and, you know, that’s a really scary development. Because, you know, again, it’s, it’s like this is the kind of stuff that was once reserved for like really high-level celebrities. And it’s like, now it’s like, any person that’s online that has a real profile, like their real name attached to something, has that problem.
So to me, like, to me, like anonymity is like the biggest solution to that problem. And I’ve always kind of missed the anonymous element of the old Internet. You know? And, you know, not just because it gives you that private life, you know, that we’re losing to these social networks, but also because when you’re, when you’re anonymous on, in representation with a project you’re working on, it enables kind of a blank slate of, like, pure technocratic merit. So for example, like, let’s say there’s a site on Neocities.
Which, by the way, Neocities does not require real identity. You can just create an anonymous site. You don’t have to put your name on it or your physical, you don’t have to put a picture of yourself on it or anything like that. You can if you want, but you don’t have to.
What if somebody makes an incredible site on Neocities and it’s really loved and it’s really useful, it’s really resourceful, and it doesn’t have your face on it, or your name, or where you live, or anything, it’s just there and it’s useful. Think about it this way. You go to this site. You don’t know who made this site. It could be a man, it could be a woman. It could be of any, you know, of any I guess racial background or cultural background or nationality or creed or anything, right? Or it could be a 12 year old in his mom’s basement.
All these kind of like preconceived notions of like, you know, identifying the credibility of the content based on the person that’s working on it falls away and you just have the content which people can then judge. You know, so there’s something very kind of like, egalitarian and technocratic about that, about being anonymous, because, because people are judgmental.
Like, people judge people based on their age, based on their sex, based on their race. When you’re anonymous, that doesn’t happen anymore, and so, you know, I like the idea of anonymity online. And again, it really would – if we were more anonymous in our lives, if we were more private, it would cause less of these kind of, you know, or like these private data going public scandals because it would just be random people in the world, there wouldn’t be a way to like connect to them immediately on the Internet.
Which I think is kind of the core of the problem. You know, I don’t think it, you know, we’re never going to be able to get rid of content on the Internet that we don’t want on there. I mean, we can try, we can try our hardest, but it’s always going to be there. But you know, I think really it’s just the idea that, like we should be online, have public identities and be instantly accessible to anyone on the planet and not have any controversies associated with that, I think, is an unreasonable thing. I think that we’re going to continue to see the problem until we, frankly, stop putting our like, our name, location, and how to reach us. Like available in a single search to anyone on the planet Earth. You know? I think it’s just, you know, that’s what’s going to fix that problem if it is a problem.
Otherwise, yeah, I mean, we’re just going to have to get comfortable with it, because it’s going to keep happening.
[John Light] And so, on a technical level then, I guess there are some privacy implications on the side of the browser, the web browser, where, you know, right now you request some resource on a server and it gives it back to you but pretty much only that server knows that you’re requesting that resource.
Like your ISP does too, like if you’re not using a VPN and if you’re using Tor, maybe just an entry node knows that you’re requesting that resource. But like it’s a fairly limited set of parties that know that you’re requesting this resource. But in an IPFS system, you’re basically like knocking a bunch of random doors and you’re like, “Hey, can I get this resource? Hey, can I get this resource? Hey, can I get this resource?” Until you find the resource that you’re looking for.
Do you think that it would become like a thing that somebody just sets up nodes that listen for popular resources and like keep track of all of the things that people are looking for?
[Kyle Drake] Oh yeah, absolutely. I mean, you definitely can. I mean, you can figure out what hashes people are looking for. Well, so I want to say quickly, too, it’s not, you don’t have to knock on every door until you find the content. The way that it kind of distributes itself is it uses this thing called the, I’m going to say this wrong because I’ve never said it out loud, I just read it in academic papers, but it uses the, the, the Kademlia DHT, or distributed hash table. And I’m actually looking at the white paper for IPFS right now, and it can, you know, it takes 20 network hops to ask a network of 10 million nodes whether it has a specific file or a hash or not.
So, you know, the way that it’s designed is it’s very efficient. The look up mechanism is very efficient, and you don’t have to, you know, bang on millions of nodes until you hit the thing you’re looking for. You know, and I, and so that, you know, it’s not that bad. But yeah, there is a notion of, so, there’s two things that, you know, that are about IPFS that are kind of important to mention. The first thing is that all hosting on IPFS is voluntary. So if you don’t choose to host a hash on your machine or haven’t cached it by recently looking at it, it’s not available to anyone that’s looking for it. So it’s very unlike Bitcoin’s block chain in that way, where you know with the block chain you’re required to host the entire thing.
You know, you don’t have a choice in what you host. It’s also different from Tor in such a way that, you don’t have to distribute information that you don’t want to. With Tor, you’re required to transfer whatever content’s coming through. I mean, you can block the IP address, but like there’s no notion of saying like I only want you to share this particular content through my node.
Now, a lot of people are going to complain about that. They’re going to say, you know, oh, well, but, why not just use Tor then? Well, IPFS isn’t designed for anonymity. That’s not really what it’s trying to solve. What it’s trying to do is create a distributed resource to make it easy to kind of look up information.
I think that that is a very specific and focused problem to solve and so, you know, there isn’t really a notion of anonymity baked into it. I mean there is, it does use cryptography to communicate with the other nodes, right? So it’s not just like sending plain text data through the web. It does use cryptography to kind of maintain an encrypted connection, but that said, it doesn’t, how do I describe this? It doesn’t, it’s not like Tor where it’s like you could use it and then nobody would know that it’s your node that’s looking for information.
But what, I think, you know, that’s not a problem. Because what you can do is you can still use things like Tor to access this information. I mean, there will be an anonymity layer that’s kind of baked on top of IPFS for people that want that and, really, it’s not unreasonable to use Tor for the same thing. I mean, you could actually just. In fact, today you could use it using, because IPFS has like a HTTP gateway that kind of translates between IPFS and like, you know, HTTP, so that you can use IPFS sites in a web browser.
And it works quite well. You could just that gateway with Tor to achieve the same level of anonymity.
[John Light] So you could have a Tor hidden service hosted on IPFS?
[Kyle Drake] Well, yeah, I mean, I mean IPFS is just a distributed hash table that you use hashes to query objects. And you know, those objects can be anything. They can be files or they can be special objects which are called directory objects that are then used to reference files that are attached to it. That’s, you know, that directory object is kind of what makes it work for websites.
So you know, and IPFS has an HTTP gateway that comes with the alpha release of the program. Because it works right now and you can use that with a web browser to retrieve content through IPFS. So like, that works right now. That’s not really new or anything, it just works. You could run a Tor client and use it to connect to a IPFS node somewhere. If it’s using the HTTP gateway, you can retrieve the content through Tor just as if you were accessing just any old HTTP server on the Internet.
So, I mean, you can actually use it with Tor right now. I mean, you could, you could just start using it with Tor. In the future, I’m sure, if we did switch from HTTP directly to using IPFS, which I see happening in the future. I mean, I think browsers are just going to start implementing IPFS into them directly. You know? There will be some version of Tor that’s like specifically for IPFS work, but again, I don’t think that anonymity like, should be baked into IPFS because that anonymity comes with costs.
It comes with the loss of voluntary control over what you’re providing and hosting. It comes with some political implications that you have to think about.
[John Light] Yeah, it seems like they’re not mutually exclusive goals, but they’re certainly different.
[Kyle Drake] Yeah.
[John Light] The way I’m thinking of it, like I’m not totally sure that Tor would really play well with IPFS if your goal is anonymity, just because there are all these trade-offs that you’re making using both systems. So I see, if, I, it seems like a different kind of anonymity system would have to be deployed or a different combination of existing anonymity systems if people want to really protect their privacy when they’re using something like this.
Because I mean, it’s not too much different than using BitTorrent and so, you know, for most people, I guess, using BitTorrent if they want to protect their privacy from their peers, then, or even their ISP, then a VPN is good enough if they, you know, trust the VPN server. But then, I mean, there’s still other issues that maybe need to be taken into account if people are really trying to go for like true privacy, true anonymity there.
So, so I guess what I’m interested in learning then is kind of like what is left to be done with IPFS. Is this something that you’re starting to transition to today, or is this still like an aspirational kind of thing?
[Kyle Drake] Well, like I said, IPFS, if you go to their site, which is IPFS.io, I believe, they have an alpha release that’s been implemented in Go. And it works. It’s actually working technology that exists today and is working.
Now, it’s not working perfectly. You know, the IPFS side of it is pretty solid, but the IPNS side for like making immutable resources is still kind of in progress. There’s still like some kind of bugs and stuff to clean up there. These are all kind of like, you know, just scrubbing, scrubbing the boat kind of things. Right? Like they’re just like, you know, little like, you know, speed ups and cleanings and optimizations. But the actual, like, protocol, like the, the, kind of the white paper is solid. And the implementation of the white paper is now pretty solid.
So, you know, to me, this is not an aspirational technology. It’s very stable at this point. Even now with the alpha it’s still quite stable. Once they kind of fix all the bugs and kind of clean up the last minute things and implement some of the, you know, the, kind of, you know, anti-attack code and stuff like that, this is going to be a very functional resource.
Neocities is not, like, I’m not using IPFS to replace our current storage system that we have for Neocities sites. I talked with Juan about that, who’s, by the way, a really awesome guy and really brilliant and I hope you get to meet him at some point. I mean, he’s worthy, he’s worth having an interview with too, I mean, he’s just a really brilliant guy. Even he’s like, don’t, don’t replace your file system you’re storing Neocities sites with IPS, IPFS, you know, we’re just not done yet.
But, you know, what I’m going to do for now is I’m going to start, every time that somebody updates their site, I’m going to start pushing those updates to our IPFS node and then storing the IPFS hash in our database that we have for each site and using that to provide a link to people that are interested in using the service, for now, to kind of get people’s feet wet and get them interested in the technology. And to kind of start adding a little bit of, to just start kind of showing people like hey, you know, this technology is not, like, it’s not vapor-ware. This is a real thing and it works.
[John Light] So you’ll be mirroring your web sites on IPFS, then, basically.
[Kyle Drake] Yeah.
[John Light] Not replacing your infrastructure but like supplementing it.
[Kyle Drake] For now, I’m going to be supplementing our infrastructure with IPFS. In the long-term, I want to completely replace our infrastructure with IPFS and IPNS. I actually want to make – essentially what Neocities is going to do is just directly generate private keys for each of the sites on Neocities and then we’re going to use that to create immutable IPNS records so that each site on Neocities essentially gets its own key and can use that to update their own site.
And so what that allows to do long-term is it means that even if Neocities goes down, we can give the private keys to our users and the users can continue to update that immutable resource even if Neocities doesn’t exist anymore. So essentially what we’ve done is we’ve made it so that these sites can basically exist forever, not only as like a viewable resource, but they can also be changed forever. The users can use that key to update their Neocities, even if we don’t have a server anymore, right?
As long as there’s some server on the network that has a copy of that, of that information, that site will remain up, essentially forever. It really changes the game, right? It makes it so that we will be able to make Neocities sites that can outlive Neocities itself.
We’re removing our users’ central dependency by making it so that if, you know, it is possible for them to publish to our, to their site, even if we don’t exist anymore. That’s radical stuff, you know? And I think that’s what IPFS implies. Like, I think that’s what it’s going to do, is it’s going to detach our dependency on these central services and make it so that we don’t need to have a central hosting environment anymore, with millions of sites and millions of dependent users. It means that we can kind of decentralize the web.
I think that that makes a lot more sense than the direction we’re going in right now, because the direction we’re going in right now is centralization. It’s taking the web and it’s putting it into these giant, monster, like Skynet databases that are run by giant companies like Google.
We’re taking hundreds of millions, if not billions of humans and we’re dumping them into these centralized systems which are, you know, using, essentially using us as worker bees to generate profit. You know, they don’t have our best intentions in mind. They don’t have the future of the Internet in mind. You know, they’re conquerors, they’re Vikings, you know, they’re not here to form a civilization, they’re here to build a culture and to take things.
The whole point of the personal computer was to decentralize computing power. The personal computing revolution was about taking these like kind of central mainframe computers that were, you know, used to like calculate nuclear attack outcomes and decentralize that power so that individuals have that power. And the idea behind that was that those individuals would then have the power to improve our world.
If you judge all of the developments since the personal computing revolution with that, you start to kind of have a good pattern for realizing whether the technology is a good idea or a bad one. For example, Bitcoin, to me, is not a revolution. Bitcoin, to me, is an extension of the personal computing revolution. It’s just a component of it.
The cloud services industry, like this idea of like taking all of our stuff and moving it to “the cloud,” to me, is a massive perversion of the personal computing revolution. It is a problem and it is not a good one.
So when you take things like IPFS and you make it so that anyone can publish to the network, even if they don’t have a central server or whatever, but without having the problem of like sites going away when a single resource goes down, which is what the problem with HTTP, you create a system where with we decentralize the web and that’s a system that’s in line with the personal computing revolution. You know, taking power that’s being centralized like with Google, like with Facebook, taking that centralized power and decentralizing it is the most important thing that we need to do in order to build a civilization off of the web rather than just a culture. And that is what IPFS can potentially do.
[John Light] Hear, hear.
[Kyle Drake] And that’s why I’m really interested in it. So we’re going to do it. We’re going to build it.
[John Light] That’s a really great explanation. So I became familiar with you and your work at Neocities, actually originally through your work on the open source Coin Punk project. This was a Bitcoin wallet that was kind of funded by the Bitcoin Foundation for a while. I believe you recently deprecated the wallet, so you’re not really working on it anymore.
[Kyle Drake] Yeah.
[John Light] But would you say that some of your understanding or ability to grasp onto the benefits of IPFS are informed by your work with Bitcoin and other distributed technology?
[Kyle Drake] Yes, absolutely. I would say that my work with Bitcoin has strongly influenced my ability to understand and comprehend the technology behind IPFS, and also to understand the implications of it. You know, what’s interesting about IPFS is that, you know, when it uses private keys to sign immutable pub key hashes, it’s essentially working in the same model that Bitcoin is, and it has a lot of the same positives and problems. So for example, if an attacker gains control of your private key, they can then start pointing it to resources that you don’t want them to point it to, you know.
So I think hacking in the future will be, you know, stealing IPFS private keys, essentially.
[John Light] That’s what we have hardware wallets for.
[Kyle Drake] Yeah. Well, yeah, I mean that’s the thing is it’s a lot of the same problems, right? Like, I think like if you, if we did use IPNS for publishing like really critical content like, you know, for example, the New York Times, I think what we would probably have is something, you know, where we split up the keys in order to be able to, you know, like, have like a Shamir Shared Secret, where like you need like three out of five people to sign something before it will like, you know, multi-signatures and stuff like that, you know?
[John Light] Yeah, like threshold signatures.
[Kyle Drake] Yeah, yeah. So, you know, it’s a lot of the same problems and I mean, one of the, one of the reasons that Bitcoin is such a great informer of, of, of that is that, you know, there’s no, you know, attackers love to hack into Bitcoin because they can steal money. You know? And so, you know, that’s created this like extreme example of how we’ve been, of, of, of like the problems associated with using private keys to store and to manage important things.
[John Light] Yeah, it’s given an incredible financial incentive to figure out how to properly secure these things.
[Kyle Drake] Yeah. Yeah. Now, now, it’s funny too. I mean, the thing about IPFS is that, and in fact he mentions it in the white paper briefly, Juan does. You actually can build a cryptocurrency on top of IPFS. I mean, at the end of the day, essentially, what it is is a big distributed file system. A big distributed object database, essentially, if you put a, you know, you could implement a ledger on top of IPFS that essentially allows you to create a cryptocurrency.
Now, the nice thing about IPFS though is that it’s incentivized not just by people that want to use that currency, but it’s incentivized by everyone that wants to use the web. It becomes a lot easier for people to, for example, run a node that represents a cryptocurrency that’s built on top of IPFS. So, you know, I definitely foresee some pretty interesting cryptocurrencies coming forward in the space.
One of the things that The Protocol Labs is kind of working on is a, it actually, they actually are working on a cryptocurrency and it’s called FileCoin. And FileCoin is a very interesting idea. The idea behind FileCoin is to create a currency that incentivizes people to share content, or to store content.
So, essentially, FileCoin would have a proof of storage system as its like kind of way of mining FileCoin. And so the more data that you help to persist, the more file coin you get. And you can either, you’ll be able to either exchange that FileCoin for money, you know, like for Bitcoin or for US dollars or whatever. But you’ll also be able to use that FileCoin to compensate people for hosting information.
That’s still pretty early work, but they do have a white paper for it, and the idea is to create a system to encourage IPFS nodes to host data in a decentralized manner. And so long-term, you know, that could be used potentially to create a incentivization for people to store data, and obviously, if you incentivize people to do things with money, they tend to be very good at doing it.
So I think that’s a very interesting project and I think long-term that could be potentially how we use cryptocurrencies and IPFS to kind of persist storage forever. And, and, you know, help to incentivize that process. So very interesting stuff.
[John Light] Yeah. It’s going to be really interesting following along with this project. I know it already has been so far just watching it since it, you know, pre-alpha. Now they’re in their alpha stages. Now websites like Neocities are considering hosting some of their infrastructure on it. It’s definitely going to be really interesting the evolution of this technology.
So, Kyle, I really want to thank you for taking the time to come on the show and talk about your journey in learning about IPFS and, and deciding to turn your website into one of the first truly peer-to-peer distributed websites.
For people who want to follow along with your journey, where would be the best place to do that for now, until, of course, we have these immutable file hashes that people can point to?
[Kyle Drake] Yeah. The best way to kind of follow Neocities is just to follow, just go to Neocities.org. You can make a site really quickly. I mean, it just takes a minute to sign up. You know, we just ask for like four things before sign up, and then our blog, we’re going to, you know, as we start developing, integrating the IPFS technology into Neocities, we’ll be doing blog posts and stuff like that, so, you know, being able to like kind of, you know, we’ll do a big announcement when we launch the IPFS stuff and you know hand it off to journalists and stuff, which, you know, may or may not be interested.
We’ve had, we’ve actually had a lot of trouble getting journalists interested in Neocities just because, I don’t know, again, it’s just like, they don’t have a, they don’t have a kind of story angle because it just kind of looks like a Geocities throw back or whatever.
But, you know, one of the things that IPFS kind of has is this notion of permanent storage for static sites. So Neocities has gone from being an anachronistic old thing which I’ve been trying to get rid of, I’ve been trying to like remove that kind of base understanding of it, but it, and it becomes a very, very cutting edge, very modern tech company. The notion of storing static content that will last forever becomes like the bleeding edge of tech.
And so one of the things that I’m hoping is that, you know, with us working with IPFS more, is that we start to kind of finally get journalists and reporters to kind of that, you know, that ah-ha moment where like they realize oh, this isn’t just an old thing, this is the future of the web, you know?
Which is what I’ve been trying to tell them for this entire time but, you know, it’s just been, it’s very difficult to kind of kill that, that, that, you know, that, that anachronistic nature of, of the old Internet. It is the only place for static sites. So like I’m trying to denostalgize it and I’m very excited about IPFS because not only does it kind of dispel the rumor of like, oh, well, old sites look bad, or whatever, because they were amateur.
You know, that’s not true, because now we have modern technology like CSS and stuff, you know. But now, now I can also persist the content forever using like new technology, you know, modern kind of distributed technology, so, you know, I’m hoping this finally gets through to people and it’s like, oh, no, this is not an old school throw back thing, this is the future. You know? This is going to be around when the websites, when the social networks are gone. You know? That’s what I want to distill to people and I’m hoping that this finally kind of sends the message through.
[John Light] Awesome. Well, we read you loud and clear here at P2P Connects Us. Thanks again, Kyle, for taking the time to join the show and I look forward to following your journey towards turning Neocities into a fully peer-to-peer distributed website.
[Kyle Drake] Thank you. I’m looking forward to it.