Note — Jul 24, 2022

Towards Data Neutrality

Guest post by Jacky Zhao at Reboot on internet platforms, massive data, moats, interoperability (or lack thereof), data-neutrality, non-blockchain options, and his own proposal. We often find ourselves in a discussion that seems to be ‘blockchain, yes or no.’ Zhao sagely answers that it’s yes for some things and no for others, showing why some types of application (“data-intensive or real-time applications (e.g. file sharing, games, collaborative text editing)”) need a different kind of decentralized underpinning than what the blockchain can provide. You can skip over some slightly more technical details if you want, but the underlying “ideal world” principles he mentions are important to ponder.

These services almost entirely depend on making sure that only they have access to that valuable data. Interoperability, on the other hand, means you no longer have a data moat, or a privileged hub position in the network. […]

In an ideal world, instead of being forced to accept package deals we cannot customize, we get modular, interoperable, local-first software which we can stack to a global scale. Apps and platforms in this model follow the Unix philosophy: expect the output of every program to become the input to another, as yet unknown, program. […]

In an ideal world, there is data-neutrality. Much like how the Net Neutrality debate strives to maintain the separation of the content and connectivity markets, data neutrality strives to maintain the separation of data and application markets. […]

In an ideal world, we focus on local-first software that works independently of large platforms – at the end of the day platforms should be used to support efficiency of collaboration at scale, not to gate users from moving their data for the sake of retention.