Five Defining Features to Build the New Generation Internet
For the next generation internet to transition, a number of critical features must be implemented.
Recent geopolitical events, such as President Trump’s order to ban TikTok and WeChat in the United States, have exemplified the imperative of decentralization. The next generation internet will empower individuals to own their data, exchange their wealth, and control their digital footprint — all without being subject to the whims of politicians and tech giants, which have historically weaponized the web for their own gain.
Content-addressable storage, or CAS, such as IPFS, eliminates reliance on path addressing, such as that of URLs. Content addressing can prevent malicious behaviors such as file path attacks and content manipulation.
Peer-to-peer routing for communications: Internet communication must adopt peer-to-peer protocols such as dynamic hash tables and must be supplemented by a variety of decentralized communication protocols like email and onion routing (Tor). An additional goal is to avoid single-point attacks on communication lines.
Personal cloud computer: The so-called client/server model of the current internet involves a client using someone else’s computer (the server) for intensive, computational tasks, such as managing blogs with heavy traffic or video on demand. In this process, the client gives up control of data to the server. Building a personal cloud computer, or PC2, that is as powerful as any public cloud, such as an elastic cloud computer, represents a major paradigm shift for the new internet. Such a transition may also be referred to as server-less computing — no server, no meddling.
Private hardware and virtual machines in public clouds are used as private miners to deploy decentralized relay and cache services — i.e., software components that can be replaced — for dynamic extension of the capabilities of PC2s. Randomly selected miners provide computing power and are not affiliated with content-related or vested interests; they make money for themselves subjectively while objectively protecting user data privacy.
Network OS: The internet needs a network operating system that implements end-to-end encryption, storage, computation, activation, scheduling and search functions for PC2 virtual machines. Such a network OS is critical to facilitate the separation of computing and communication. It will ensure that applications cannot directly select communication protocols, thus preventing routing protocols from being changed at random, stopping hackers from attacking applications, and denying application software the ability to erode privacy and deliver viruses.
Common consensus holds that all applications must directly connect to the TCP/IP protocol, but that is not the reality we live in. More than 40 years ago, the UNIX programming paradigm allowed applications to directly access the Internet Packet Switching Network, which is the root cause of almost all vulnerabilities in today’s internet. Eventually, we will see Virtual Circuit and Packet Switching protocols unified into an end-to-end encrypted solution that combines the best of both worlds.
Decentralized identity: Because the internet needs to connect a diverse array of individuals, institutions, companies and countries, functions such as decentralized identity, content deposits, incentive tokens, profit distribution and digital goods will be required. Blockchain technology is the only tool that can support these functions for the internet’s next generation.
I am confident that the efficiency and user experience of the new internet will match that of the current mobile internet. The core technologies of storage, communication, computing and blockchain constitute an internet computer, and the emergence of a unified network OS is the key to its realization. The next generation internet will be more secure, more egalitarian and more user-centric.
By RONG CHEN