#675: Internet Archive’s Brewster Kahle on the Future of the Decentralized Web

Brewster Kahle told me that the average of a web page on the Internet is 100 days before it either changes or disappears completely. Kahle realized that you can’t run a culture when you have no institutional memory, and so he started the Internet Archive in order to preserve our online cultural heritage that turns out to be extremely ephemeral.

But then the Snowden revelations came, which showed Kahle how the open web has been transformed into an engine of mass surveillance for governments. Then Cambridge Analytica happen, which showed how advertising platforms could be transformed into bespoke instruments of information warfare by hostile foreign nations. These issues of mass surveillance, privacy, & censorship illustrated to Kahle the dangers of the consolidation of power within centralized governments and corporations.

This motivated Kahle to do something about it. He saw how brittle online information can already be, but it’s even worse now with the rise of fake news, governmental censorship, and information warfare. Foundations including Mozilla Foundation, Open Society, Knight Foundation, MacArthur Foundation, and Ford Foundation asked Kahle what his “Moonshot for the Internet” would be, and his answer was to build the decentralized web.

The Internet Archive sponsored the first Decentralized Web Summit in 2016, and this second gathering in 2018 represents a critical mass of some of the most key architects coming together to build A New Internet™. The fact that this is the narrative focus HBO’s Silicon Valley was not lost on the crowd gathered a few weeks ago as creator Mike Judge was featured in the opening session talking about how fact meets fiction in his show.

But I had a chance to talk with Kahle about the underlying motivation for why he wants to build a decentralized web, how the Internet Archive wants to help create a web that’s more self-archiving and resilient to censorship, but also what he’s doing personally to support different decentralized web initiatives including building a decentralized version of the Internet archive at DWeb.archive.org.


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Music: Fatality