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Source Network: Rebuilding the Free Internet

// January 24, 2024

There was a dream that was the open web. A dream suffocated in the crib by the creeping powers of centralization who remembered, just in time, that knowledge truly is power.  

Sociologists call this the Information Age for a reason. Whoever controls the flow of the world’s information, controls the world itself. Just as the printing press was heavily censored for centuries following its creation, with protestant tracts having to be smuggled under the cowls of renegade preachers, so the internet has been landgrabbed, walled, isolated and controlled - its primal state neutered by those who are afraid of what communication freedom truly means, and by those too blinded by commerce to understand how vital it is.

The First Internet

The word internet, from internetwork, itself a portmanteau of ‘interconnected’ and ‘network', has in its roots the very essence of decentralization. The early internet, spun up on American DoD computers, expanded through academic institutions, and later established as the World Wide Web by Sir Tim Berners Lee on the lab computers at CERN, was always visualized as a decentralized suite of computers passing information freely between one another. It was a way to share, explore, and grow the foundations of human knowledge, protecting the structures of free society.

Its distribution was its strength, a powerful antidote to the threat of nuclear armageddon, a way of spreading out the infrastructure that stores the crucial data on which to run then-modernizing societies. Its creation was the birth of our modern epoch - the ultimate communication tool to underpin a rapidly digitizing society. The free trade of information is then an exponential route to society’s advance—a digital printing press to break the ancient structures of power and control that the ignorant tamed.

The Centralization of the Internet

Until, of course, it wasn’t. Soon came the age of the ISP. Where central servers began as a way to manage the colossal rate of requests for data for experimenting college kids in Ivy League dorms. Soon the realization hit that whoever controlled the servers, and the access to them, could censor, permit, and tax the exchange of information on the world’s information superhighways. It was here that ‘Big Tech’ was truly born. 

Companies like Microsoft and AOL were quick to expand, commercialize, and control access to the internet. With the backend structures they created, it was easy for the world’s governments to step in, as we see in the Great Firewall of China and Russia’s recent attempts to partition the internet and isolate its own citizenry. Nowadays, we’ve reached apex centralization. 

This is not to purely rail against these companies. Without them, internet access to everyone would be nowhere near as widespread as it is today. Yet there is a mundanity to evil. Google quietly dropped their corporate manifesto of ‘Don’t Be Evil’ when they realized, despite all intentions, they already were. The internet is now controlled by a cartel of companies who control - and harvest - the world’s data. 

Why Decentralization Matters

This means that, in blunt terms, they can shut off your enterprise at any time. If you store your data on the cloud, as efficient as it is, there is no recourse if they decide to delete your company in a few clicks of a button. If your secrets are stored on a central server, it’s bad news for you if that server gets breached.  If your access-control is defined by a corporate AI, then one day you may wake up to find you weren’t who you used to be. Don’t be ridiculous, you think - contract law would never allow it! Well, it always depends on who they come for first.

It’s in finance and money where the fightback started. Its tangibility and immediacy are useful catalysts to spurring action. Nakamoto and his gang of anarcho-cypherpunks developing a distributed financial system, envisioned first as simple cash, recaptured the spirit of the original internet, with its upkeep maintained by a global community of communities. Of course, if you’re reading this, we probably don’t need to tell you about Bitcoin.

Upon that narrative the crypto movement enjoyed its first decade of growth. Banks are obvious central powers to even the layman. They control your money. They decide how you get to spend it. Governments have the backdoor access key to ensure you spend it how you are allowed to. 

Upon this compelling counter narrative, the idea of decentralized systems, managed through access-control tokens that could be issued without permission and which are uncensorable, became mainstream. The world supercomputer, the Infinite Machine of Ethereum, came shortly after. Now, the concept of decentralized applications is becoming mainstream, and the inexorable growth of development in Web3 goes on.

Why Decentralization Is More than Just the Blockchain

However, merely using decentralized access-control tokens and immutable accounting using a blockchain is not enough for a truly decentralized internet. Make no mistake, it’s a fantastic start. Yet a truly free internet requires truly free infrastructure. A truly free internet means owning your own data, decentralized secret-keeping, access permissions with no central custodian, and servers with no kill commands or backdoors built in. 

It’s only with this infrastructure that blockchain protocols and decentralized applications can be truly decentralized. It’s through Source Network that this decentralization is occurring. Our quest, our OPEN Quest, is to restore the internet to its prelapsarian state - an open, free state - where each individual connects to a network where no one entity controls the flow of information, or raids the data for their own nefarious or commercial ends. An egalitarian community of individuals in mutual harmony creating the essential hub through which our race of techno-sapien evolves. An interconnected network of souls meeting at the Source.

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