The MaidSafe project announced today it has 500 developers signed up to build applications for its decentralized Internet platform. This follows the project's successful crowd sale that raised $6m in its first five hours.
MaidSafe has the ambitious aim of radically decentralizing all the web services that exist today, and is working on projects that include altcoin wallets, unlimited file storage and sharing applications, a decentralized music store, secure messaging applications and a decentralized altcoin and fiat currency exchange.
The idea is that these services will be free, not only from authoritarian shutdowns and seizures, but also hackers and other malicious attacks. On MaidSafe's planned network, all data is "shredded, encrypted and distributed to participating computers, or 'nodes', throughout the world".
Participate to earn
The SAFE network (Secure Access For Everyone) utilizes "a block chain-like technology" to distribute file storage and services around the globe so that no single file relies on a single server or provider to exist.
It also includes its own digital currency, known as 'safecoins', to facilitate the transactions necessary to use the network. Users allowing their machines to be SAFE network nodes can earn safecoins, and more passive users must spend them to gain access.
Developers who build services for the SAFE network will also earn safecoins. MaidSafe calls this funding mechanism "the first open-source business model that works".
Developers can code their safecoin wallet addresses into their apps and be paid by the network according to popularity.
MaidSafe says its platform removes risks that developers and startups often face by giving them complete freedom to innovate and control over their data. The network's peer-to-peer nature means that even authentication credentials are not managed by any central authority, and the exact physical location of data is never known.
The same benefits would apply to everyday users, who could store files and interact freely without third-party involvement.
MaidSafe has been around since 2006, longer than bitcoin, and has attracted its fair share of controversy in that time.
The recent, slightly convoluted, crowd sale of 'MaidSafeCoins' (a prototypical currency to be exchanged 1:1 later for safecoins) offered an exchange rate favouring mastercoin, allowing mastercoin holders to dominate the sale and shut out many bitcoin-holding buyers. Organizers had to step in and plead for order.
The company has also faced questions over whether the authorities would ever allow such a system to function properly, especially given the concerns often raised about existing networks that allow anonymous Internet use, like Tor.
Some popular websites block Tor users and there are questions over whether node operators can be liable for the anonymous traffic that flows through their systems.
Freedom is key
MaidSafe says locating individual files is impossible due to shredding and encryption, and that judging the ways users might abuse its technology is not within its purview:
"Just like Linus Torvalds isn't responsible for anybody who might be storing illegal files on a Linux OS hard drive, or just like Satoshi Nakamoto wasn't responsible for every drug purchased on Silk Road (or the links to child porn embedded in the block chain)," a project representative said.
New technology is bound to create new legal territory in any case.
"We're confident that when such mass adoption takes place, the law will adapt in a way that protects blameless parties."
"At least in principle, it wouldn't be much different than having one's machine compromised and used to power an illegal botnet," he concluded.