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The Decentralized Web: Locking the Web Open

The term "decentralized web" evokes a range of reactions. It might sound like a utopian fantasy cooked up by Mike Judge for the latest season of Silicon Valley, or your first thought might be something more akin to, "Isn't the web already decentralized?" Add in an overhyped buzzword like blockchain and the reactions get even more polarized.

But the problems are real. From personal data being stolen in situations like the Equifax hack, to governments censoring dissenting speech online, to Cambridge Analytica using our Facebook data to manipulate our votes, the central points of failure and control of the existing Internet have never more urgently needed addressing. The decentralized web, broadly defined, is a set of projects striving to do just that.

This session will attempt to untangle the still nascent space of the dweb for attendees, assuming no previous knowledge of the topic. I'll also be challenging some of the common assumptions of those more familiar with it, like whether blockchains are even a necessary component. We will begin with a history of the foundational protocols of the web, and highlight existing familiar examples of decentralized and peer to peer technologies like email and torrents. We will then explore numerous currently active projects like DAT & the Beaker browser, IPFS, Web Torrents, Mastadon, Blockstack, Ethereum, and more. We will talk through how each of these projects is unique, and how they are addressing hard problems like scaling, security, digital sovereignty, naming, governance, censorship, etc. We will also do a brief demo of how you can start building with some of them today!

The final part of the session will explore what the role of a CMS might be in a decentralized web, and how a few projects are approaching lowering the barriers to entry and improving the UX such that anyone, technical or not, can contribute their own creativity and vision to make the web what we'd all like to see.

Attendees should expect to walk away with a broad understanding of the state of the decentralized web today, the challenges it faces, and how to get involved.

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