Back in 2013 I predicted an internet that was no longer client-server oriented like the current, “HTTP” (Hypertext Transfer Protocol)-based internet, but an entirely peer-to-peer internet that no longer has the need of large government and central entities owning your data on the internet. I even went into it in detail in what I called “The Peer-to-Peer Society” that will exist in the next 50 years (that article is worth a read if you want to get your mental muscles excited!). Currently, the internet as it exists allows large companies like Facebook, and even government entities like your Drivers License division to store your data in their own databases that they have full control over, meaning you never really see exactly what information they have on you and you never actually have full control over the data they’re storing about you or the data they have access to. In addition, the current internet is limited bandwidth-wise, when we’re entering an era of multi-dimensional VR and AR and artificial intelligence that needs unlimited resources for storing and transmitting data for us to consume. The current internet model simply isn’t scalable enough to manage this. There is actually a solution available today, and many businesses are starting to implement it as a backend for their apps and especially content, and it’s called IPFS, or the “Interplanetary File System”.

Even today I shared an article about how Facebook is currently listening to your conversations through its Messenger and other apps (something I believe), and using that data to target relevant ads to you. We’ve already seen the Russians abusing this system to manipulate elections. We already see threats to the current internet models as the concept of “net neutrality”, or the idea that the internet should not be owned nor regulated by any government entity, are threatened by leaders such as Donald Trump and are already diminished in countries like China, Saudi Arabia and other countries where internet is throttled, websites are limited, and the access to information isn’t nearly as vast as the internet is capable. The USA has control over the vast majority of the world’s web traffic through regulation entities such as ICANN, which regulates who owns domains (the URLs you type into your web browser), and could shut those off for anyone or any country at any time (cryptocurrencies like Namecoin attempt to solve this problem). Let’s face it – the current internet model as we know it is broken, and doomed to fail. Net neutrality is impossible on the current model of the internet.

Enter IPFS. IPFS stands for “Interplanetary File System”, and is built to be an entirely peer-to-peer, fully-functioning internet that requires no “servers” to control data such as domains or IPs or where your data is stored on the internet. It is entirely peer-to-peer, and data is stored across a worldwide storage across billions of computers around the world. Instead of your information being stored on only one or two (or hundreds of) servers located in a single hosting location like Facebook’s hosting facilities, your information is stored on multiple computers around the world with vast duplication and redundancy so your data is never lost. And due to the sheer size, your data can be accessed from the nearest peer (computer) to you that has that data, which will likely be from a computer just down the road from you making transfer of data much, much faster. Not just that but you can actually transfer multiple parts of that file from multiple computers nearby at the same time, making transfer of that file even faster than a typical client-server download! It’s actually called “Interplanetary Filesystem” because it’s designed to be a working solution for when humans finally leave this earth, move to other planets, and we are no longer stuck downloading all our data from other planets – it can all be transferred from the nearest location in the universe! When I say this is the future it is TRULY the future! And Elon Musk will be our immortal God.

It gets better though. Now, add to this something like Ethereum, which uses a blockchain (I used to call this “The Chain” because in reality “Blockchain” was built for Bitcoin, not all the accompanying cryptocurrencies – see some of the articles linked above for background) to identify ownership of “things” in real life or virtual. Inside each “token” on Ethereum’s Chain, you can store little programs in a JavaScript-like language called “Solidity” that tell what’s owned by that particular token (to keep it simple at least). One of these things that can be done inside that token is identify contracts – so, for instance, if I want to own a car, rather than going through a central registration entity to identify ownership of that car with the government and get a car title, I can instead create a “smart contract” inside Ethereum that says I own this car, and I purchased it from X individual, and at that point, that car then becomes mine and is proven, without question, on Ethereum’s blockchain without need for a physical title from the government. This is currently being used to represent things like logins on websites, early access to launches, and even my friend Even Prodromou is using it to store “time units” to sell his time for Ethereum “tokens” you can buy using “EvanCoin”. (I find that so fascinating and genius!) I’m even seeing entire companies being built, and ownership distributed for those companies using Ethereum and Smart Contract technology!

Here’s where it gets cool – not only can you store simple things like ownership of vehicles and homes on Ethereum’s “smart contracts” – you can also store links to content an individual owns on the IPFS network. So let’s say I have identity information about myself – say my address, phone number, or text. Or maybe it’s a private video of my kids I only want to share with certain people. I can upload that to IPFS, get a special key or “hash” that identifies that content’s location, and then store that on the Ethereum blockchain to identify I’m the one that owns that content. If I ever want to transfer or share ownership of that content to someone else I just create another smart contract on Ethereum to transfer that to someone else or give access to them, and it’s established, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that the ownership has been shared or transferred. Imagine me selling you access to create a profile on my network in the form of an Ethereum token (this is called an “ICO” or “Initial Coin Offering” similar to an IPO on the stock market), you pay me for complete ownership of that profile and token on the Ethereum blockchain, and I use that to fund my company. Now do you see why the Stock Market is in trouble?

Already I’m getting pitched business plans from companies wanting me to help with their growth that are implementing pretty advanced versions of using IPFS in their well-funded startups. This is just the beginning. But it’s very real, and businesses are launching THIS YEAR on this new model of the internet! Business models are going to be disrupted. Entire economies are about to change. The internet, as we know it is about to change, and the entire world will change with it! You’ll see this happen rapidly, over the NEXT 5 YEARS. You better bet I’m riding this wave and you should too!

If you’re willing to stretch your mind a little, this video below is worth a little time to try and understand IPFS just a little more. It’s still a little technical, but the best I’ve found so far to explain the concept – see you on The Chain!

Image courtesy Tom MacWright, https://macwright.org/2017/08/09/decentralize-ipfs.html