open source protocols maintained by non-profit communities to proprietary services operated by large tech companies. As a result, billions of people got access to amazing, free technologies. But that shift also created serious problems.
Chris Dixon is a general partner at Andreessen Horowitz, a venture capital firm that invests in crypto and other technologies. Prior to being an investor, he founded the tech companies SiteAdvisor and Hunch.
Millions of users have had their private data misused or stolen. Creators and businesses that rely on internet platforms are subject to sudden rule changes that take away their audiences and profits. But there is a growing movement—emerging from the blockchain and cryptocurrency world—to build new internet services that combine the power of modern, centralized services with the community-led ethos of the original internet. We should embrace it.
From the 1980s through the early 2000s, the dominant internet services were built on open protocols that the internet community controlled. For example, the Domain Name System, the internet’s “phone book,” is controlled by a distributed network of people and organizations, using rules that are created and administered in the open. This means that anyone who adheres to community standards can own a domain name and establish an internet presence. It also means that the power of companies operating web and email hosting is kept in check—if they misbehave, customers can port their domain names to competing providers.
From the mid 2000s to the present, trust in open protocols was replaced by trust in corporate management teams. As companies like Google, Twitter, and Facebook built software and services that surpassed the capabilities of open protocols, users migrated to these more sophisticated platforms. But their code was proprietary, and their governing principles could change on a whim.
How do social networks decide which users
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