01. DWeb meetups
How do I join a DWeb Meetup group?

Go to our "Nodes" page and see if there is a DWeb Node in your area. Most members find us through Meetup.com as well as other platforms such as Eventbrite. You can sign up for one or all of the DWeb meetup groups. Especially now during the pandemic, our nodes are meeting virtually, enabling anyone to participate.

What if there is not a Meetup group in my area?

Even if there is no node in your area, we have been holding virtual meetups, socials, and gatherings during the pandemic. So sign up on our email list and we'll let you know about the next virtual meetup. Also, be sure to check out the Calendar link on the Events Page. This community calendar lists events hosted by a wide-range of DWeb communities, from Secure Scuttlebutt to Redecentralize.org to Simply Secure.

How do I get involved?

DWeb is a space for builders and dreamers, activists, and artists to come together to build a better web. Our focus is less on hyping a new product than it is on sharing lessons learned, in ways that are accessible to a broad community. So consider sharing your project and the path you are taking at one of our "Lightning Talk" meetups. Just write us at dweb@archive.org to let us know you want to share your experiences.

Not a technologist? We need many types of skills to build a movement. Check out our Wish List on the Get Involved page and volunteer! We need writers, event stewards, coders, moderators, you name it

What does it take to start a DWeb Node in my area?

In our experience, it just takes one person who is willing to convene a community that share an interest in the Decentralized Web. We formed our first meetup group on Meetup.com and soon hundreds of interested community members started following us and attending.

First, I'd read the DWeb Principles. Do these resonate for you? We span many sectors, for-profit and nonprofit, many continents and professions. But at our core, we believe in a set of principles and values that drive the technology we are building.

If after reading the principles you are still interested in starting a node in your area, write to Dweb@archive.org and we can start talking.

What other events does the DWeb publicize?

On our events page, click on the Calendar link. This calendar is community-created and moderated. There is a form to submit your event to be included with some guidelines about what is appropriate for the DWeb Calendar.

When the pandemic subsides, will there be in-person DWeb events again?

Yes! Nothing replaces the serendipitous meeting of people, face-to-face. But we've also seen how we can reach more people more equitably via virtual events. It's been amazing to connect our members in South Africa, India and Brazil, together with our friends in Berlin, Toronto and Austin, TX. So we imagine our future gatherings will be a hybrid of in-person and virtual connections.

What about DWeb Camp in 2022?

When the shutdown occurred in San Francisco in March of 2020, we were just about to announce our second DWeb Camp scheduled for that summer. It's our hope that by the beginning of 2022, we may be able to gather again at the beautiful and restorative Mushroom Farm on the coast of California.

Perhaps we will need to schedule smaller, more local events and connect them online. Stay tuned, and stay safe.

02. General about the decentralization
Why create a Decentralized Web?

The way we code the Web shapes how we live our lives online. Ideally, that code should protect user privacy, freedom of expression, and universal access to all knowledge. Instead, centralized points of control make it easier for governments that are so inclined to censor and surveil people, and for private companies to collect, share and monetize more personal information than many users would like.

A goal in creating a Decentralized Web (DWeb) is to reduce or eliminate such centralized points of control by building alternatives where many players are involved in the building, hosting, and maintenance of networked communication. That way if any single player drops out or tries to control the entire system, the network can route around them. Such a system could better help protect user privacy and ensure reliable access. The DWeb could even make it possible for users to buy and sell content directly, without having to go through websites that now serve as middlemen that collect and sell personal data in the process.

Why does it matter?

Online activities are now an important part of life for much of the world's population. The original vision of the World Wide Web was to empower users, but many users now complain that too much power and user data is concentrated in the hands of too few corporate and government players. This has made it easier for those in control to conduct warrantless surveillance, feed the public disinformation, and impose censorship.

The current internet ecosystem creates honeypots of valuable private information. This enables state-sponsored or criminal hackers to scoop up personal data and the passwords of millions of users at a time, and to use that information to create false identities, steal money and more.

There is also the issue of lost digital data. Over time, huge amounts of creative content — essays, musings, personal messages, photos, videos and other data — have disappeared when commercial entities have shut down or have merely changed their protocols. The average life of a webpage now is about 100 days before it's changed or deleted.

The Decentralized Web aims at least to mitigate, and ideally, to reverse or correct many of these trends by putting control and ownership of data back in the hands of those who create and use the web.

How do you build an alternative? What are the components of a Decentralized Web?

A new Decentralized Web requires decentralizing many technical layers of the stack — a decentralized way to store and retrieve files, a decentralized log-in system, and peer-to-peer payment methods.

Decentralized databases could allow information to ‘live' in many different places, so information cannot easily be blocked or erased. The Decentralized Web should also have a time axis, preserving past versions of the Web and making them accessible, similar to the function the Internet Archive's Wayback Machine partially serves now.

A distributed authentication or identity system (proving you are who you say you are) could end the need for centralized usernames and passwords. Public key encryption could protect privacy, so users could have more confidence they weren't being spied on.
While peer-to-peer payment protocols would allow direct exchange of funds between users and creators

How will a Decentralized Web change a user's online experience? Do we all have to relearn everything?

The hope is that new Decentralized Web components will gradually be integrated into new and existing servers over time. The goal is to make the individual user experience as smooth, if not seamless, as possible, while leading them to a better, safer online experience in which the user retains ownership and control of their own data.

So that's how the Decentralized Web can make life better. How might it make life worse?

Any technology is a tool, and many tools can be used constructively or destructively. The same technology that protects users from central surveillance, might also protect criminals and hide their activity.

That's one issue. Another issue is if information is stored in decentralized ways — say, with bits of each file stored on multiple computers around the world, and/or embedded in a blockchain — how do you ever truly get rid of information you no longer want to have online? Especially in Europe, where new laws provide for a ‘right to be forgotten,' that could be a major concern.

Is a blockchain the same as the Decentralized Web?

Blockchain is a technology. It's a technique for representing information that allows anyone to make statements in public on that chain, so that it is seen and confirmed by everyone who is participating in that system. Blockchains allow you to have a public ledger of the transactions that have occurred, as well as who conducted those transactions. That's an extremely powerful thing.

One company that uses the blockchain is Ethereum, which allows multiple users to agree to store and verify data on their computers, and in exchange for doing this, they get value in a cryptocurrency called Ether. This is different from Bitcoin, says Ethereum's creator Vitalik Buterin because, as he said at TechCrunch SF 2017, "with Bitcoin, the protocol is in service of the currency, but with Ether and Ethereum, the currency is in service of the protocol." That is, the currency provides an incentive for its holders to store small bits of data that can help create a Decentralized Web.

A challenge, Buterin says, is that a blockchain is vastly less efficient and more costly, in terms of using energy and computing time, than centralized Web offerings. Approaches that could make blockchain more efficient might do so at a cost to privacy or security, while efforts to increase privacy and security could further reduce efficiency. These are challenges for developers and builders of blockchain-based protocols to work out.

There are many decentralized protocols that are not based on a blockchain. But in the overheated publicity over blockchain technology, the public has started to conflate blockchains and the Decentralized Web. The two are related, but not synonymous.

If creating a Decentralized Web is a decentralized effort, how does it all come together? Who's in charge?

Creating common coding standards or protocols would allow independent developers to go off and create their own component parts that can fit together in various ways. Think of it similar to the way Lego pieces can be assembled and reassembled. This interoperable approach worked for the original World Wide Web. Common standards allowed developers to contribute, without having to go through a central authority for approval. As long as new websites or apps used the standards, they could go online and become part of the Web.

How does net neutrality relate to the Decentralized Web?

Net neutrality is the principle that no data online is advantaged or disadvantaged, in terms of access or flow. The closer you can get to net neutrality, the better it is for a Decentralized Web. It would be difficult, if not impossible, to have full Decentralized Web access under an authoritarian government that controls and censors the internet. For example, a state could cut off access if it sees a user trying to use Decentralized Web tools. China, in particular, has already proven adept at slowing or stopping internet connections and blocking access to VPNs and other tools meant to circumvent surveillance and censorship.

Even non-authoritarian governments may demand a backdoor to conduct online surveillance. The end of net neutrality in the United States could make it possible for an Internet provider to slow access to DWeb tools and websites. That's the bad news. The good news is that increased efforts to control the Web may motivate developers and builders of the Decentralized Web to work faster and more creatively to find workarounds.

Will the Decentralized Web replace the current Web, be a parallel and separate entity, or exist as an integrated part of the existing Web?

It's impossible to know what will happen in the long run — quite possibly some combination of all three. In the short-term, component parts of the Decentralized Web are already starting to become available online, via the existing Web, and may eventually be integrated into browsers. For example, Protocol Lab's IPFS has just been built natively into the Brave Browser, making it possible to use decentralized tools more seamlessly from the current web.

How does the Decentralized Web scale up so enough people are using it to make it more than just a niche interest of a small segment of Web users?

Some revolutionary technologies are adopted quickly, others more gradually. World Wide Web creator, Tim Berners-Lee, said in his 2014 TED talk that adoption of the World Wide Web went from five percent of the world's population in 2000, to 40 percent in 2014. The hope is that the promise of the Decentralized Web, to provide users with more control of their online experience and data, and to better preserve data online overall, will rapidly draw people to adopt and use Decentralized Web tools.

Aren't big online companies going to push back against this, since it will affect their business model of monetizing their users' data? How will social media and other internet companies make a profit?

Big tech companies may well push back because their current core business model of monetizing user data will not work well in a Decentralized Web environment. But it does not need to be a zero-sum game.

It's likely that other business models will emerge to take advantage of the opportunities offered by the Decentralized Web, much as companies have, over time, found ways to profit from open source endeavors. For instance, in 2019, Twitter founder, Jack Dorsey, announced he is funding a small team called Blue Sky to "develop an open and decentralized standard for social media. The goal is for Twitter to ultimately be a client of this standard."

Ok, sign me up. How and when can I get onto the Decentralized Web?

Some apps and programs, built on the decentralized model, are already available and you can sign up and use them at will. But the Decentralized Web, as an ecosystem, might not be fully functional and integrated for another five or ten years.

Remember how it felt to use the early World Wide Web? Apps and features came and went. Some of it was buggy, and some of it was revelatory, and users helped developers figure out what needed to happen and how it could better come together. Expect another era like that, building on what we've already learned to create a better Web for everybody.

Attending our monthly DWeb Virtual Meetups is one way to meet builders and allies and learn more about how to get involved. Our "Voices" section also features the latest articles about the evolution and challenges the DWeb faces.

What is the significance of the Decentralized Web Summits of 2018 and 2016? What was the outcome you were hoping for?

The second Decentralized Web Summit, which took place August 1-2, 2018, brought together 1000 people interested in building a better Web. The Summit included the creators and builders of the original Internet and World Wide Web, plus other developers of cutting-edge decentralized protocols and representatives of civil society, academia, human rights and governments from around the world. It's our belief that technology alone cannot change society; it takes laws, policies, market forces, and the right set of values to make meaningful change. So we have been convening people from many sectors to consider how to build the Web we want and deserve.

The first Decentralized Web Summit was produced by and held at the Internet Archive in San Francisco, June 7-9, 2016.

"The first Decentralized Web Summit was basically a ‘Hey! Did you know this is possible?' It was a call to action," says Brewster Kahle, founder of the Internet Archive. "The idea now is to try to get some coordinated effort to move this forward. There have been great advances in this direction over the past couple of years. People are starting to show real working code and real projects. They're building whole technology stacks that are more decentralized, in large part fuelled by the excitement of the cryptocurrency systems. The altcoins and Bitcoins are proving that interesting and complicated systems are starting to work out there."

Have a question of your own?
Let us know via community chat or by emailing us at dweb [at] archive.org.