Honestly, for a while there, I thought the movement for a decentralized web was quietly fading away. There wasn’t a followup to the 2016 Decentralized Web Summit, and hardly anyone outside of a television sitcom seemed to be talking about these ideas, much less building alternatives.
Well, I am here to happily admit I was wrong. Truth is, it takes time to build software that might change the world. The second Decentralized Web Summit happened at the beginning of August, again in San Francisco. I didn’t go, but followed it intensely from afar. The sponsoring Internet Archive promised “working code” as a theme, and it delivered. The summit opened with a “science fair,” where 70 different projects showed off what they’d been working on, and there were enough people to walk around and see the presentations!
Wendy Hanamura of the Internet Archive reported that 800 people registered for the conference. I don’t know what expectations organizers had, but that sounds like a lot of people to this observer!
Time to follow Mozilla
It’s really exciting to see how heavily involved folks at the Mozilla open-source browser project are with solving the problem of decentralization.
Before the Summit began, the Mozilla Hacks blog for developers started a series of posts “Introducing the DWeb.” Since then, every Wednesday the blog features a developer of a decentralized project describing the project. As of this writing, three projects received exposure:
- The Scuttlebutt secure social network
- WebTorrent, making the web more resilient
- Serverless web browsing with Beaker. This is a great project, by the way.
Mozilla Chair Mitchell Baker also gave a keynote address at the Summit, “Revitalizing the Web.”
I am really looking forward to a version of Firefox that supports the decentralized Dat protocol that Beaker uses.
Where was the tech media?
Startling that more mainstream journalists weren’t there. Vanity Fair profiled Tim Berners-Lee the week before, but as I write this, there were no reporters like Dan Gillmor and Kevin Marks writing stories for Fast Company as in 2016. I could be wrong, of course.
In the meantime, I can point you to a pair of good conference summaries:
Computing.co.uk: A nice summary from John Leonard
More summit resources
As you can see, a lot happened. As I watch more video and otherwise catch up with what happened in San Francisco, I’ll keep reporting here. I’m also looking forward to playing with MIT’s Solid protocol, which I almost didn’t mention!
In the meantime: You can pretty much watch the whole conference in bits here. You can also spend some time following the #DWebSummit hashtag on Twitter.
Two more keynotes to bring to your attention:
- Cory Doctorow always gives a thought-provoking talk, this one focusing on the question of “big tech.” I would have loved to seen any interaction he had with Tim Berners-Lee during the summit.
- Host Brewster Kahle (founder of the Internet Archive) gave a laid-back talk about how we got ourselves into this mess, and how we can get ourselves out.
This is all to say that I am more confident that we may be at the dawn of another age on the Web than I was six months ago. I’ll still be writing about it, here and elsewhere.
Were you at the Decentralized Web Summit? What’s the most important thing I missed? If you weren’t there, do you wish you had been? Thoughts on the prospects of decentralizing the web on a mass scale are also appreciated.