More and more people are diving into blockchain technology lately, but primarily because of high earning potential. This makes many developer communities want to break off and focus on rebuilding the Internet.

Blockstack's cofounder, Muneeb Ali, sees the blockchain as a brilliant invention intertwined with endless speculation, pumps, scams, and more. He claims the perfect time to focus on the technology is when cryptocurrency prices are down because that market state lets developers focus – when prices are rising, this attracts the wrong crowd and the whole market gets a bad name because of all the “look at my decentralized this and that, invest now”.

Blockstack removes trust pain points from the network and uses the blockchain to secure availability of critical data like identity, discovery, and storage. It arose from experiments on Bitcoin's blockchain, i.e. the first Bitcoin fork – Namecoin – on which the first version of Blockstack was built. All the developers who worked on this decentralized web powered by the blockchain were friends who were trying to solve some problems. Problems caused by highly centralized institutions built on top of the up until then decentralized layers of the internet.

After Blockstack released their first browser last year, Ali said:

“What we are focusing more on is building the core infrastructure, the network for Blockstack, but also the developer tools around how developers can actually start building applications.

“We want to integrate with as many browsers as possible, and in our latest release we actually integrated with Chrome and Safari, instead of like making people download a standalone browser.”

The lowest layers of the Internet are somewhat decentralized. The TCP/IP transport layer where connections are made is one such layer. The biggest centralization happens in the topmost application layer where the federated domain system is and big service providers like Verisign.

In Zooko's triangle, you can only have three key attributes for domain names: decentralization, security, and human-readable names. Only two can be achieved at the same time, but the blockchain presents some new solutions.

“Imagine a public key which anyone can generate as a name but it's gibberish; you can share your public key and nobody is going to remember it, but it does have other properties, it is decentralised. On the other hand, Twitter has human readable names, but then Twitter the company manages the name space.”

For a long time people thought that you couldn't have human readable names in a decentralised way, but then it turned out that it's actually possible. Namecoin implemented that in 2011 and then we implemented a system where people can register human readable names in a fully decentralised way in 2013/2014.”

Namecoin solves this problem in a way, but other approaches exist and are being developed as well; like IPFS.

All this has its advantages and disadvantages – decentralized name systems are a difficult technical task which demands many compromises, but Blockstack opted to tackle them head on by researching multiple compromises at once and giving developers the option of choice.


If you found this article useful or interesting, please consider donating to keep our operation running.