An Attempt to De-centralize the Internet

I hope to minimize or even eliminate the barrier of the world-wide-web. The internet as we know it is like a centralized “virtual space” toward which all of our electronic devices connect to.

The alternative is to “de-centralize” the internet by focusing on the LAN (Local Area Network) as the primary unit, and connecting each LAN to each other directly, minimizing the need for any centralizing “virtual space.” Each device should connect to a LAN and communicate directly only with other devices on that LAN.

In order for one LAN to communicate with another LAN, this should be “view-only” or “read-only.” So imagine that each LAN is like its own website, and in order to “post” anything on a website, you must physically bring your device to the location of that LAN, otherwise you can only look.

Many questions arise, such as should we literally implement each LAN as its own “website” on the internet and just set it to read-only? This is similar to needing to create an account on a website in order to post something, although the difference here is that instead of creating an account, one must physically be connected to that LAN. (Perhaps it does not need to be implemented as a “website,” and it could be more of a small software client/utility, like a chat service. And then any communication between LANs would require real physical travel… A ridiculous scenario I am imagining is someone physically traveling from LAN to LAN carrying a USB stick.)

Maybe that is the key to the LAN movement! Instead of just creating an “account” to gain write-access to a webpage, one should need to be in a specific location. And not just the location that comes from, say, Apple’s Location Services. I mean location as in location associated with a particular LAN. And each particular LAN may boil down to a particular router or modem or cluster of routers located in a very specific physical place.

All of these implementation details should not distract you from the overarching goal of reducing the barrier of virtual space on the internet as we know it. I hope that the LAN movement can bring everything closer to a connection of pure hardware from device to device, with no central “virtual space,” and of course closer to a pure connection from person to person.

The internet should not be more than a message-delivering service. Unfortunately, it has become more of a replacement for the physical world, as if we are living in it and walking around in it.

All software should function like a “hole.” For example, I really like YouTube because it is essentially a hole. Even the name “YouTube,” a tube is a kind of hole. It is in the name. It is a kind of “software” that serves to transport “messages” (in the case of YouTube these would be videos). There is not very much “virtual space” because videos help bring you back into the physical world, and they tend to directly serve what viewers are looking for. There seems to be a direct transmission and opening between content creators and viewers so that everyone can proceed with their lives as normal without getting “stuck” in the virtual space of YouTube.

The better that the “hole,” functions, the less “virtual space” is created, the more physical space is preserved. If an application is not like a “hole,” it turns into “virtual space.” Most of what I would call social media is like this. It is virtual space; it is no longer directly transmitting messages from device to device, from LAN to LAN. It has its own centralized authority where every device is communicating only within this virtual space, and it is as if there is no “hole” in it for a device to truly send something to another device. It is too easy to get lost in the virtual space. If you are not careful, you may find yourself arguing with strangers in the comments section to some viral video on Facebook, only to realize that no one is really talking to each other; this “virtual space” in the comments section has become a blockage of real communication between people using electronic devices.

In the worst case scenario, you really are just talking to your own brain when you are using this “virtual space.” There is no “hole” to get your thoughts through to another human being on the other side of the internet; you are simply sending them into an echo chamber of virtual space. Maybe you will start Google-searching every problem in your life, until you diagnose yourself with 100s of diseases. This is what the centralization of the internet can lead to.

You could say that the internet as it currently stands acts as a “middleman” between devices on different LANs. The less interference, the less unnecessary “virtual space,” the better.

If the power of the LAN is reclaimed over the world-wide-web, you could say that we can reclaim our homes. I believe that much conflict we see in society could be easily resolved if they simply focused on their internal communication, such as within their own homes. If you live in the same house as someone, or maybe you are roommates and you share the same wi-fi, you should be communicating with each other more often than with most people you would find online. Given that we are already on our computers so much, it may help to at least turn these computers inward toward the other devices on the same local network. So we can still use our devices and do our work or play on them, but also communicate better with those around us while we are at it. And if we want to communicate with people outside of the local area network, we would be encouraged to physically travel to see people more, as opposed to simply being content with facebook messages and facetime with those that are further away.

Of course, you could still use an online messaging service like Messenger or FaceTIme to communicate with people on the same LAN, but having a dedicated service to only communicate within a LAN would be better.

The greater de-centralization of the internet, the greater will be the need for people to physically move. It is difficult to imagine what this would look like exactly. Perhaps I do not necessarily want to kill the internet entirely, and maybe the LAN Movement is more about how one approaches the internet. What if every website had an associated physical location or locations? You could visit the website from anywhere, but you could not update it unless you go to the location(s) physically. That might be the trick.

On the LAN, the devices would only communicate to each other through a LAN. Inter-LAN communication would be read-only. On the WWW or internet as we know it today, devices communicate to each other through a centralized “virtual space,” (DNS, “cloud” computing, etc.) and usually they do not communicate directly with other devices on the same LAN. This virtual space might still be necessary to “host” some data, but it should not be the central focal point. It should be as outside and decentralized as possible.

Calvin Tian Li

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