On August 26th, 2021, we hosted Danny O'Brien from the Filecoin Foundation to talk about his new role there, and about how it fits into re-decentralizing the web: supporting Dweb efforts, and human rights and privacy around data and more.

Danny O'Brien is a Senior Fellow at the Filecoin Foundation, which he recently joined full time.

The Filecoin Foundation's goal is stewarding the governance of the Filecoin ecosystem, funding critical projects around it and advocating for the future of Filecoin and its stack of decentralizing tools: IPFS, libp2p, etc.

​The foundation team will also be building out the Filecoin Foundation for the Decentralized Web (FFDW), the charitable wing, whose activities include preserving and distributing the world’s knowledge, supporting the dweb community, funding related R&D, and educating the public about the benefits of a re-decentralized Internet.

Video & Notes

A few notes and paraphrased items from the live discussion.

Danny's background includes a long history with Web 1.0, Web 2.0, and the EFF.

At the EFF, he had "fingers in lots of human rights pies"

In the 2010s, got involved in a lot of efforts around protecting journalists and bloggers as a lot of things that were theoretical about suppressing speech online became real, including the Arab Spring. Time with Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ).

Came back to EFF in the Ed Snowden period, as data and tracking and privacy became a mainstream issue.

From theoretical, to real but only facing the people who are directly impacted, to becoming a mass market discussion.

"You kind of have to predict the future. You can't be reactive all of the time"

Recently joined the Filecoin Foundation. We are in another one of those moments, where it's important to redecentralize the web. Things are just shifting from the theoretical to the practical.

As well as Filecoin Foundation, also volunteer time with Filecoin Foundation for the Decentralized Web. If you're building decentralized tools, but everything else is still centralized, it doesn't help enough. So FFDW has a broader mission than the IPFS / Filecoin ecosystems, to work broadly on the decentralized web. Both a technical goal as well as a social mission, to decentralize everything.

Supporting Projects, People, and Policies in all different parts of the Internet and digital ecosystems.

The transition happens when you successfully attack the incumbent (centralized player) on their strengths.

On Zero Trust movement by Facebook and Google, it's really "one trust" – trust Google or Facebook, or Apple. We can do the same thing, with amazing cryptography magic:

They stole our revolution, now we're stealing it back. I don't want to miss good ideas just because Google, Amazon, etc. "licked them first".

Incentive crypto-economics is something that has arisen, to align many different agents and actors and organizations. This is not something that centralized services care about at all. The Filecoin Foundation's job, as the ecosystem grows, is to make sure there aren't failure modes around incentives and operation.

Read the Filecoin Whitepaper, it actually makes sense, it's not just someone writing LaTeX, it actually makes sense. It creates an incentive system for commons networks like IPFS, that keeps and maintains that commons. Name drop Ostrom (Governing the Commons PDF) – these people have done the reading.

This makes things like storage remarkably inexpensive, and we can compete with centralized services like Amazon S3 on price – as well as alignment on goals. With decentralized systems, we look to keep the system incentives aligned with the goals, back into alignment with the end user as well.

Right now, people have incredibly empowering technology at their fingerprints (from centralized systems), but feel powerless.

So the Filecoin Foundation is going to support things that empower decentralized efforts of all kinds. For example, the Bluesky initiative that Twitter is working on for decentralized identities. Such identities lead to distributed reputation, everyone needs storage, and all of this supports each other.

These are a few paraphrased notes of parts of the discussion with Danny. Please do watch the whole video to dig into the details and great conversation. Thanks so much for joining us Danny!

Find out more about the Filecoin project and Foundation at the following links:

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