What true data ownership looks like

In today’s digital universe, it’s nearly impossible for us to exist online without giving our data to Facebook. Beyond having a treasure trove of our photos, private messages, friendships, and personal interests, Facebook has become the default way to login to our other online services, from dating apps to Airbnb. They know we are locked into their platform for as long as they control both our friend networks and access to other products and services.

After yet another revelation that Facebook breached our trust, #DeleteFacebook trended among many of us. Without other viable social networks, the only power many users felt we had was to delete our profiles. But in order to create lasting change, the conversation needs to be about much more than Facebook and their missteps. We need to talk about building a new paradigm for social networking altogether.

Rather than one social network dominating all of our interactions, imagine having your data stored with you, and not the servers of a centralized intermediary like Facebook. No longer siloed within Facebook’s walls, you would be able to use this digital identity across different applications, having explicit control over what parts of your profile you provide to each app. You can message friends and coworkers, write documents, make payments, and store personal information like you do with today’s Internet. But this time, you’re not beholden to the service you’re using. Instead of renting a profile on Facebook, you own your photos, friendships, and messages as you move from app to app. That’s the promise of the burgeoning decentralized Internet.

Armed with a technology infrastructure that allows for user-owned identity and information storage, a vibrant community of developers are forming the foundation of a social network ecosystem that allows our digital identities to be fully secure and portable. They no longer need to worry about manipulating or selling your data — as the data lives separately from the applications, and permanently with the users. They can just focus on the experience that users will interact with.

And this concept isn’t just an abstract one. We’re already seeing significant momentum among developers, who are building the first incarnations of photo-sharing applications (similar to Instagram) and decentralized microblogging platforms (similar to Twitter). BlockX, a team of developers, are currently building a fully decentralized microblogging platform where users can fully own their posts and follower lists.

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A shift to a new social network structure certainly won't happen overnight, and it may not look identical to Facebook. But enormous progress has been made in decentralized computing, and the time is right to tip over the balance of power. The next step is to assemble a group of willing users, who are interested in being at the forefront of Web 3.0: an Internet that reverses the power dynamics of the Web 2.0 era, and puts people truly in control of their digital lives.

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