Fixing The Internet

Walter Isaacson wrote a blog post last week suggesting that the Internet is broken and outlining how he would fix it. I think that most of his suggestions are currently being built using blockchain technologies. Here is his list (in italics) and my reactions to it.

1) Create a system that enables content producers to negotiate with aggregators and search engines to get a royalty whenever their content is used, like ASCAP has negotiated for public performances and radio airings of its members’ works.

While not “a system to negotiate”, services like our portfolio company Mediachain‘s platform will provide much of the underlying infrastructure for this to happen.

2) Embed a simple digital wallet and currency for quick and easy small payments for songs, blogs, articles, and whatever other digital content is for sale.


3) Encode emails with an authenticated return or originating address.

While not blockchain based, standards like DKIM and SPF in the email sector provide some of this today. I am also excited about a blockchain based identity later like the one being built by our portfolio company Blockstack.

4) Enforce critical properties and security at the lowest levels of the system possible, such as in the hardware or in the programming language, instead of leaving it to programmers to incorporate security into every line of code they write.

Blockchain based applications can use the underlying security of the blockchain (using sophisticated cryptography) to achieve higher levels of security in their applications.

5) Build chips and machines that update the notion of an internet packet. For those who want, their packets could be encoded or tagged with metadata that describe what they contain and give the rules for how it can be used.

I am not sure you would need a chip or a machine to do this.

The bottom line for me is that we don’t need to build a new Internet to fix the issues Walter articulates in his blog post. We just need to continue to build new capabilities on top of our existing Internet. And, right now, the biggest potential contributor to those new capabilities is the blockchain.


Comments (Archived):

  1. LIAD

    Biggest contributor is “the blockchain”…With blockchain being defined in the generic shared ledger sense, as opposed to the specific btc / eth varieties?Seems we know the direction of travel just not which car we’re taking to get there.

    1. William Mougayar

      I think Fred probably meant “blockchain technologies” as a set.

      1. p-air

        this is a wholly useless term. everything has been chucked into this to the point of it being a senseless concept. public blockchains have little to nothing in common w/”private”/”permissioned” blockchains/DLT, all of which fall under this “blockchain technologies” rubric. the objectives of these are different, their architectures and design principles are different, their security models are different. the latter group will continue to be challenged by the notion that by claiming to “trust participants, but still need consensus”, which means they only “sort of” trust participants. this ambiguity in trust (not trusted and not trustless) will continue to create challenges until they come to grips that some trust really means no trust.

    2. jason wright

      At the moment we’re walking.

    3. fredwilson

      Maybe it’s a cocktail of all of them.

      1. p-air

        careful here, saying this is lazy (speech-wise, not implying that you’re lazy 😉 because very little has yet proven itself. where companies that have developed “private”/”permissioned” blockchains/DLT have at least made an effort to show a biz model predicated on enterprise software to help streamline existing business processes, the public blockchains have not been able show anything close to this. with the exception of bitcoin, i’m still struggling to see anyone demonstrate utility (or as Marco Santori eloquently put it in his post on Appcoins done right, “consumptive use”). i’m seeing increasing companies succeeding at showing utility off the bitcoin blockchains (Mediachain being a good example of leveraging the Bitcoin blockchain for timestamping). as for the 300+ Ethereum-based DApps, nothing of meaningful utility (as in people using the app) has yet emerged.

  2. Doug Gibbs

    But….It’s not broken!

  3. awaldstein

    To me, the biggest issue with the internet is that it has proven itself to be a very poor medium for true conversations that respect the nuance of debate.Easy to post stuff, but there are no platforms today that are humanized to be able to both handle aggregating large populations and sensitive enough to have true debates on.Maybe its not possible but this year has driven us to the bars to talk and engage, not to the web to discuss.

    1. Joe Cardillo

      I agree with you on this – seems like the security and identity architecture stuff is being addressed, but they don’t fix the parallel problem of how we discern signal v. noise.Our best attempts at this are still based on clicks, views, likes, favorites, and dollars that rely on the basic architecture which isn’t broken but use design and filtering that are.

      1. awaldstein

        We fix what we can figure out how to is the nature of tech evolution.My post was unusual for me as I have no real solution but community online failed this year to find a platform for meaningful exchanges around these items that obviously need addressing.

        1. Joe Cardillo

          Yeah, I came to the same conclusion, unfortunately. Some soul searching for both people who build the web’s platforms, and those who fund them.

        2. Drew Meyers

          “community online failed this year to find a platform for meaningful exchanges around these items that obviously need addressing”Maybe that’s because true community isn’t built online at all 🙂 Networks and weak connections are built online.

          1. awaldstein

            Not talking about where its built but speaking the the vitality of the platforms to be part of it.And they most certainly are!

      2. Twain Twain

        Clicks, views, likes etc is how Trump and his bots won social media.https://uploads.disquscdn.c…Signal > noise is a qualia > quanta problem but few are incentivized to focus on the qualia because we live in a “more data is better for Machine Learning” world.Even when there’s evidence that QUALITY of data actually improves ML efficiencies more than quantity of data.https://uploads.disquscdn.c

        1. PhilipSugar

          This is meant to be polite. If I were or worked for Trump (I certainly don’t) I would try and keep having people blame the results of the election on fake news, facebook, twitter, or the Russian government.It would guarantee me a second term. Fires up my base like bellows to a fire.History doesn’t repeat but it rhymes.In 1992 an unknown outside very flawed (with women) candidate beat an incumbent (only happened four times in the modern era) who was totally connected and hand picked been in Washington DC for 24 years, and had profited handsomely from being in the government.24 years later in 2016 an outside very flawed (with women) candidate beat somebody who was considered hand picked and had profited handsomely from being in the government for the last 24 years.Neither won by majority. The only thing that is common is the last name of the candidate in the winning and losing race: Clinton.

          1. Twain Twain

            The mechanisms of clicks, views, likes etc could have been exploited equally by Clintons’ team and their bots.My comment is about how bell curves and power laws don’t necessary enable signal differentiation in the way we initially assume — that’s why we have to think through how content gets surfaced.What is popular may not be what is quality — regardless of whether it’s Trump, Clinton or a cute cat meme.People often click on “like” just to indicate they’ve read something rather than that they actually like it.

          2. PhilipSugar

            What is interesting is how likes can be manipulated on Facebook. I see this with retailers all of the time. I’m sure Trump did it as well. Very interesting for the signal to noise ratio.

          3. Twain Twain

            As much as possible, I’m building humanistic systems to get us to better signal > noise where the machines understand us and our values.In all honesty, the values and concerns of those in the rust-belt and poor inner cities are just as valid and important as those in the gentrified metropolises and ‘burbs. The systems we build have to be useful for all, AGNOSTIC of whatever the political affiliations of the inventing team.The reason I call out the whole bell curve, power law, binary “likes” that can be gamed thing (by Trump/Clinton/cats) is because they’re just some examples of how we (technologists, economists, investors et al) have lost sight that EVERY SYSTEM HAS TO BE DESIGNED FOR PEOPLE, and we are not just the sum of a set of numbers. https://uploads.disquscdn.chttps://uploads.disquscdn.chttps://uploads.disquscdn.c…The noise thing happens because the systems can’t tune into people’s sensitivities and sensibilities about things, and they should be able to.

          4. Twain Twain

            As context, I’m purely interested in working out how clicks, views, likes etc. change the shape of Bell curves and whether the height of the curve (a popularity vote) provides adequate insights —Especially wrt Natural Language Understanding by the machines.Whoever won, the way that click counts, “context” and the ability of the machines to interpret news would be of interest to me.Simply because I’m developing signal:noise filter tools. This is agnostic of Trump, Clinton, the dancing cats.https://uploads.disquscdn.c

          5. Twain Twain

            Politicians resonate with voters in ways that the TECHNOLOGY CANNOT COUNT. https://uploads.disquscdn.c…In terms of the science of Information Theory and as it relates to Natural Language Understanding (spanning fake news, stock exchange reports, Amazon Echo knowing that Drake refers to a musician rather than to a male duck etc.), the question is: “How do we design for qualia and quanta in such a way that it tunes the individual’s personal preferences of signals they’re seeking.”If the count of a click isn’t as helpful in tuning those signals, then we’ll have to invent new scientific tools.That would be the case for the Blockchain as much as for HR reviews (which sometimes uses stack ranking which gets us to bell curve) as for S&P ratings which also gets us to bell curves.

          6. PhilipSugar

            This is a great picture and quote. As I said I understand your point and do not disrespect your thoughts which are very well formed.I just think (and that is with my gut) that there are many people that just have no understanding what happened, and why it will keep happening. Their efforts to change things only make things worse if they care about changing things, and they can’t understand this.

          7. Twain Twain

            I totally agree with you that many people have no understanding what happened, and why it will keep happening.I also agree that the motivations for wanting to change systems has to be rooted in something other than, “My candidate didn’t win, so the system must be wrong.”Parking aside who won/didn’t win, the bigger question is: “How would enabling the machines to QUALIFY information and to understand natural language and our values improve economic risk management and democratic representativeness?”That’s something which gets us to asking, “Does the blockchain and the Internet enable those functions? If not, why+how did that happen and what needs to be built?”

          8. ShanaC

            it also delegitimizes his presidency and if he does any more to bother his base, he’ll lose badly.

          9. PhilipSugar

            I don’t know. You know I work with tons of blue collar workers out in the flyover states. I don’t seek out politics but since I dress worse than the people that are doing the work, drive an older pickup truck than they do, know how to do their jobs, have a legitimate interest in them and their skills and tip well, they love to talk to me about anything as we work (and yes I work with them not watch over them).Since I have so much stuff and companies I work with one almost every day. They find me interesting because I don’t match any pattern they are used to, and they find it bizarre that I will have somebody like Joe Biden come to the office to say hi, but I make sure they are the point of interest (remember the cleaning lady picture). They know I am the boss and owner, but yet I’ll get down in the ditch and help move Schedule 40 sewer pipe.From the pool winterizer, the boat and truck mechanic, electrician, plumber, HVAC, Lumber yard worker, landscaper, bricklayer (all who I have had working with me since the election, they are energized on Trump. That is not a political statement just an observation.They think nobody has cared about them. They know he is flawed. But they think they have had people push down politically correct views on them and not care one single bit about how hard and honest they work. They know people look down on them.

          10. Kirsten Lambertsen

            “They think nobody has cared about them. They know he is flawed. But they think they have had people push down politically correct views on them and not care one single bit about how hard and honest they work. They know people look down on them.”So, I get the part about “They think nobody has cared about them.”But I don’t get the connection between their hard and honest work and so-called political correctness. How is being asked to treat marginalized people with respect connected to feeling over-looked? If anything, wouldn’t they feel a connection to other people who’ve felt passed over for so long?It’s hard not to be reminded of Lyndon Johnson’s comment, “… give him somebody to look down on, and he’ll empty his pockets for you.”Keep in mind, I grew up in a flyover state, in the 1970’s. I’m intimately familiar with the mindset there. I also spent a year of my adult life poor and on Medicaid — it gave me more empathy for marginalized people, not less.Help me understand this: “…they think they have had people push down politically correct views on them and not care one single bit about how hard and honest they work…” How is being politically ‘incorrect’ an answer to their problems?

          11. PhilipSugar

            Again, I am not being political I am just being observant.These are not my views.They think that people care more about whether a transgender person feels comfortable than serving their needs.They think that people in colleges think they need a “safe zone” yet don’t care if they break their neck working.They think that people want to make sure they don’t drink a big gulp or smoke (and at least half do) because they know what is right for them.Being from Texas Lyndon Johnson was also an asshole genius. He was a true asshole. Making people take notes while he was using the bathroom is deplorable. Getting an Alabama Senator to vote for the Civil Rights act, genius.

          12. Kirsten Lambertsen

            Ha! Great comment about Johnson.I appreciate the effort to help translate the mindset. And I totally acknowledge that you’re not taking any kind of position.Thanks, Phil 🙂

          13. PhilipSugar

            Always enjoy discussing. Johnson was by all accountants not a polite or politically correct person about African Americans.He lived and represented a state where schools were segregated when he was in office (I know my mother was a teacher)He yet passed the Civil Rights Act, Voting Act, and bullied Edgar Hoover into turning attention from prosecuting “liberal communists” to going after the KKK. He forced the integration of Alabama University.Those were facts. He used tremendous energy and political capital to get those done. My parents used to go to his BBQ’s he was famous for in Texas. He was not without flaw.He was so vain every single person in his family had the initials LBJ.Lady Bird, Lynda Bird, Luci Banes off the top of my head.

          14. Girish Mehta

            Jon Stewart’s comment at the 15:00 minute mark.@MsPseudolus:disqus…

          15. Kirsten Lambertsen

            Good share! Thank you 🙂

          16. Girish Mehta

            You’re welcome. Merry Christmas.

    2. William Mougayar

      I agree, but isn’t that an implementation challenge? The Internet as it is could support what you have described, but someone has to build that capability.There was something launched by the co-founder of Jawbone, called that had an intent of sorts similar to your vision, but it’s not clear if they are moving forward with it.

      1. awaldstein

        I’ll check them out–thanks!Yes a huge problem but we will find an answer cause what we have now ain’t working as it needs to.It will get fixed and honestly if I was FB or Twitter, i would think long and hard about this. It is a human, behavioral and market need. This could be their kryptonite if they can’t broach it.

        1. William Mougayar

          yup- FB and Twitter have a platform to start with, and they could add something to it.

          1. awaldstein

            This is something they should –and for Facebook I bet they are–addressing. Twitter as much as I love it is sorely like Candide, bouncing around looking for itself.

    3. jason wright

      I’m doubting that debate can ever work at crowd scale. When a numbers threshold is breached proxy representation takes over.

      1. awaldstein

        Dunno–I don’t think its insolvable and I don’t believe scale is the issue. Even here on Disqus, the debate on challenging topics was a fail.

        1. Matt Zagaja

          And the other issue is that people do not go into conversations online with the goal of learning from one another, they go in with the goal of winning, of persuading the others. When two people go in with that same goal, nobody ever wins. People do not reason or discuss their way to new political views, experiences are how they learn and change.

          1. awaldstein

            While I agree that the situation is sure exacerbated by the friction of this year, It is not my experience that you can make that generalization about human behavior as motivated solely by dominance not exchange.This was a tough one of course but that is why the debate was so essential and so obvious of platform fail.

          2. jason wright

            yes, 2016 was not a vintage year. we move on.

          3. awaldstein

            We used to care about vintages now we care about the people who do great work regardless of the shit storms they are surrounded by.But it sure wasn’t!

          4. jason wright

            i’ll drink to that. Merry Christmas Arnold.

          5. awaldstein

            Back at ya Jason!

          6. ShanaC

            sometimes persuading is more necessary than learning.Take climate change, for example

          7. Drew Meyers

            Debate, discussion, dialogue.We need more dialogue.

    4. Matt Zagaja

      I’ll disagree but most of the excellent conversations are happening in walled gardens: private slack teams and private e-mail lists.

      1. awaldstein

        Hopeful comment and I trust you are correct.

        1. Drew Meyers

          “most of the excellent conversations are happening in walled gardens: private slack teams and private e-mail lists.”Yup, agreed. And secret FB groups. Anything “public” just gets spammed/ruined by marketers and trolls.

          1. awaldstein

            As a broad based community builder i need to reject this Drew.I’m a marketer by trade, a popularizer of culture and a broadener of niches.Never thought of myself as a spammer that is ruining the world;)I’m a storyteller with the market as my canvas.Best of luck to you in 2017.

          2. Drew Meyers

            “Never thought of myself as a spammer that is ruining the world”I never said you were one of the spammers/marketers ruining the world — just that there ARE marketers/spammers who largely ruin everything public, that reaches any sort of critical mass. There’s no “trust” that exists in public, which is why the vast, vast majority of great conversations/insights occur in private/secret groups. Most people are only comfortable having deep discussions within trusted environments. Just my 2 cents.Happy holidays.

          3. awaldstein

            Have a good one!If you are right then we are in for a tough year. The idea that discussions of any depth can only happen within closed groups makes change really hard.

    5. Rob Underwood

      I generally agree and find myself using social media less and less because of the poor quality of discourse.The trolling is also a big issue. Very timely case in point — I have a friend named Daniel Goldstein who lives in Brooklyn (he’s this guy –>…. But he is NOT the Daniel Goldstein from Brooklyn involved in the Ivanka Trump / JetBlue thing from yesterday. That of course has not stopped him from being mercilessly attacked on social media for the last 24 hours by trolls all over the country.That said, I think AVC – right here – is an example of productive, constructive discourse that can take place on line.

      1. awaldstein

        +1000 on avc

      2. Rob Underwood

        This sums up what my friend Dan is putting up with today just for sharing a name – remember, he has nothing to do with the Ivanka / JetBlue thing. Just has the name and home city:(Apologies for expletives in screen shots here, btw): https://uploads.disquscdn.chttps://uploads.disquscdn.c

        1. Drew Meyers

          It’s unfortunate, but I don’t think there’s anyway to avoid this — without requiring real identities + giving people the filters to only show conversations from people in their own social networks (aka people they actually know/care about).

          1. Rob Underwood

            I am one of those who think posting anonymity on the internet needs to go – i.e., anonymity of what you write and contribute.To be clear, I am distinguishing anonymity from overall privacy. I believe people should be able to read and browse anonymously content that is provided for free (obviously if content is behind a paywall, you’ll not be anonymous).But the anonymity that powers trolls — the ability for people to viscously attack my friend Dan just for happening to have the same name and hometown – has got to go. There is a good reason newspapers didn’t/don’t allow anonymous letters to the editor. Twitter is the platform I think where this is presently this is the biggest problem.Of course there must be exceptions for when someone needs to post something highly sensitive, when someone is providing a tip about government mischief, etc. But I don’t think we’re getting much out of a bunch of folks hiding behind screen names like “DeplorableJackAss321WithMommyIssues” harassing people who can be identified in the real world, like my friend Dan.The asymmetry is not ok. I think if people knew that their comments could be tracked back to spouses, families, employers, and home addresses, they’d think twice before spouting off more bile and inanity.

    6. fredwilson

      Video might help. Seeing the person you are taking to generally leads to more empathy and civility

      1. awaldstein

        Agree, helps a lot.Truth is that there are very few skilled enough at writing and really listening to bring nuance into the conversation without it.That and it is just so easy and at times tempting to be an ass online.

      2. ShanaC

        actually, I am wondering how vr will change the empathy game on the internet. If you are yourself, you are a lot harder to discount, compared to anon face

        1. Drew Meyers

          I think VR has a good chance of causing less empathy, not more. Why?There’ll be no “friction” to those experiences. And I struggle to believe it’ll replace the informal social contracts associated with in person interactions.

          1. Vendita Auto


      3. Twain Twain

        Millions of years of evolution means we can pattern recognize and respond to micro-expressions of emotion and, in AI, we (specifically Apple’s acquisition Emotient) can now do this:*…It took from Ekman’s work in 1976/78 to build up the knowhow corpus for companies like Emotient, Affectiva and MS’ Cortana to do this in the 2010s.We’re 8 years into Satoshi’s white paper but the Merkle Tree structure for Blockchain has been around since 1980. Invention to implementation takes time.The problem for the existing Internet and Blockchain alike is that neither has the right tools and frameworks to get us to the machines understanding our Natural Language and values.The W3C’s proposals for EmotionML certainly won’t get us to an empathic web, wherein the machines can interpret our emotions.https://uploads.disquscdn.c…Meanwhile, emojis also can’t cut it because they get us to bell curves and power curves (of the type that’s about popularity counts rather than enabling us to qualify and differentiate values).So the four bases of:* democratic representation;* civil society with decision-making distributed in the hands of many rather than concentrated in the few;* qualification and quantification of language, cultures and values; and* primacy of humans over the machines (to prevent them from taking over and destroying Humankind)are what a people-oriented Internet must deliver.ISAACSON=========I read Isaacson’s suggestions about chips and internet packets differently.At the moment, we get online via PC / laptop / mobile hardware. We transmit and exchange our information via mouse / keyboard / video / voice interfaces.Let’s imagine a scenario where chips — containing information that we want to share with (or withhold from) the Internet — are embedded in our clothing / coffee mugs / glasses / steering wheels / trees.We’re in full ownership and control of our encrypted information via these chips. We don’t have to pull our mobiles out or lug a laptop around to get online.But, again, a core requirement — regardless of whether it’s the existing Internet or blockchain technologies is: THE CHIPS, MACHINES & SOFTWARE MUST BE ABLE TO UNDERSTAND OUR NATURAL LANGUAGE AND VALUES.

  4. William Mougayar

    Definitely, blockchain technologies as a whole are playing a role in re-decentralization the web and giving it back to the masses in fair, equitable, open, accessible ways.Along with “fixing the Internet”, you need to read about Tim Berners-Lee’s initiative Web We Want. It describes a good vision.The challenge with WebWeWant, Walter’s article and what needs to happen in order to move the needle further, is that everything needs implementation muscle power and adoption by users. To get the Internet we want fixed, we need to move off from the Internet that we don’t like.

    1. p-air

      John Perry Barlow had a wonderful vision as well:…. Decentraiization is a strategy not an end state. When the object of companies is to grow at all costs, recentralization becomes a business imperative regardless of the noble start to create something decentralized to combat incumbents.

  5. William Mougayar

    The one thing that I don’t get is when a service or site or content are blocked based on an IP address location. That flies against the openness objective of the Web.

    1. Twain Twain

      LOL!Walter Isaacson, Sir Tim Berners-Lee and others would cry if they dive even deeper about how broken all systems are — not only the Internet.https://uploads.disquscdn.c

    2. Girish Mehta

      You might need to change a couple of tyres while traveling at 80 mph. That, and some Duct tape should do the trick.

    3. Drew Meyers

      Duct tape fixes all

  6. Twain Twain

    I’d argue that if we project out the end-optimization of Blockchain technologies … They’d still NOT be the best composition for the Internet.Blockchain is still a “mathematical simulation of human transactions” whereas we really need the Internet to be a “biosynthetic culture of human interactions.”The distinction is important because the mathematical version seeks to do a “one size fits all” way of value allocation:https://uploads.disquscdn.c… : principally 0, 1.In a biosynthetic culture, the context and nuances of values and priorities would be weighted differently.

  7. jason wright

    On top of? Not in the underpopulated spaces in between the overcrowded points of monopolised aggregation?

  8. pointsnfigures

    Decentralization is big. It’s because decentralization allows individuals to have choice. When individuals have choice, markets are made. All of a sudden, the rules of free market microeconomics are applied and more people get more service at cheaper prices.Bitcoin/Blockchain is much bigger than people think.

    1. Girish Mehta

      Agree on Blockchain technology.

    2. awaldstein

      I need to go skiing in Aspen soon to take advantage of the Cannibus Shop across from the St. Regis to understand even lightly the idea of a decentralized market or community.Aggregation is a behavior reflex for connections and commerce. It is wired into us.Without groups there is no culture or society.Draw me a picture of a decentralized community.

      1. pointsnfigures

        The stock market

        1. awaldstein

          market yes–good one–community not at all.and what moves the world not just its dollars are where community and markets come together.human scale and connection.Just can’t draw a picture of a decentralized version.I get it of course. I just don’t see it as a direction to pine for.

          1. pointsnfigures

            Almost any supply chain, especially in food

          2. awaldstein

            ok–back when i had a company called Moai we had an auction algorithm that we sold through Accenture to embed in supply chain portals.played in this space.why does decentralization help at all?

          3. pointsnfigures

            https://www.cryptocoinsnews… This should help. Aussie wheat farmers and blockchain. Think about all the skim on payments through the process and the fiefdoms that are set up. The beautiful thing to me about the internet is the ability for producers to be veryclose to users-eliminating some layers of brokerage. Also should decrease WIP in supply chain which results in huge efficiency

  9. Hu Man

    Impressive that you have viable responses for the whole list.

  10. Kirsten Lambertsen

    Add to that list:Buy it once, own it everywhere, for digital content.If I buy it on Netflix (or Spotify), and Netflix (or Spotify) loses the rights, or goes out of business, I have a ‘receipt’ that proves I own it and can use that receipt to access it on any other service that offers it.

      1. Kirsten Lambertsen

        Did it fail? I do think blockchain and decentralization is what will make this concept possible, because the idea of another service that might go out of business being the sole record holder of my receipt would diminish the proposition a lot.

        1. Rob Underwood

          It’s still around but struggled for adoption across the board. Like most standards that are developed and shared among big corporations, there were lots of little compromises made and in aggregate I don’t think it’s ever lived up to its original hype. See… (“…with the notable exceptions of Disney, Google, and Apple.” may be all you need to know).

          1. Kirsten Lambertsen

            “(“…with the notable exceptions of Disney, Google, and Apple.” may be all you need to know).” Indeed.

          2. Drew Meyers

            Yup.. You need all the big players to play nice, and if even one of them doesn’t — then the service is largely useless to you as a consumer who chooses to (or has to) use that service.

        2. charlieok

          I’ve bought movies only on ultraviolet-honoring sites, and been pretty happy with it. One thing that stood in the way though was that, like most people, I’d reach first for rental. Then I’d think “I’m happy with it after renting, now I want to upgrade to a purchase”. But there was no “upgrade” option that would credit you for the money already spent on the rental. So the incentive to buy isn’t really there unless it’s something for kids to rewatch incessantly.

    1. ShanaC


    2. Matt Zagaja

      I think the concept makes sense but not in the context of Netflix, where you are not buying an asset but rather just buying access to a library of whatever they have available at the time.

      1. Kirsten Lambertsen

        I think that’s what the industry would like us all to switch our mindset to. None of us actually own a copy of any content. We just have to buy subscriptions to all the current licensees or owners in order to have access to anything we want to consume.But my husband and I are collector types. We have a gigantic DVD collection, and we rewatch our DVD’s all the time. We own far more films and TV series than we do music.It’s a great set up for the industry. I’d say it has its pros and cons for the consumer. But I think you’re right. The horse is probably already out of the barn. The idea of a personal movie or music collection is probably on its way out.

  11. iggyfanlo

    I believe Albert Got the “a system to negotiate” right when he (and others) described a consumer data union… The problem with paying content providers is that the supply of content has dropped the market value dramatically… so that value (attention+data) consumer > (content) producer… just as the largest data/media companies pay ad blockers to get thru their “wall” and reluctantly and implicitly agree with my inequality, our public benefit corporation Ourdata ( is trying to become that consumer data union

  12. scottythebody

    The “packet” thing is intriguing. Not sure what level of atomicity would be useful or interesting there, but certainly such a metadata “rules” system is applicable to more than a packet. I’m thinking of things such as identity, activity, location, context, etc.

    1. scottythebody

      and I agree that the assumption we need machines and chips to do this is maybe a temporary implementation detail he thought of, but not necessarily a necessary step. I guess some of the better privacy protecting and strongly-authenticated mechanisms are currently in hardware (such as Secure Enclave, Apple Pay, and TouchID), so that is maybe where he is coming from.

  13. Sebastian Wain

    Beyond talking about the blockchain, I think what is broken in the Internet is the discovery of resources. If this is fixed, even by a tiny amount, there will be a revolution in discovering new music, videos, apps, etc (and ideas). The long tail is indeed the invisible tail.

    1. Drew Meyers

      You think?More discovery and more time spent wading through endless music, videos, apps, etc doesn’t sound like a good thing to me. Surely, there’s better things to do than spend more time staring at our screens?More “discovery” doesn’t solve any core problem, imho.

      1. Sebastian Wain

        Better discovery doesn’t mean more time spent. It means that the number of resources you consume could be better distributed beyond the top hits. When you use Google you are using a discovery tool already.

        1. Drew Meyers

          I’m not convinced “discovery” (or lack thereof) is the reason top hits take majority of eyeballs/revenue.

          1. Sebastian Wain

            This is proved by logic (e.g. proof by contradiction), otherwise you would be saying, for example, that when you search in Google and there are million results, the results you see in the first page are ALWAYS more interesting for you than the ones in the tail.Anyway, I am not saying anything new, this is studied as…Also, regarding your “More “discovery” doesn’t solve any core problem” statement, It does. When you search for technical solutions, you are saving money if you find the solution early on.

          2. Drew Meyers

            But Google is already good enough, no? It generally gives good results. What’s needed that they don’t deliver?I still believe, regardless of what discovery mechanisms exist, that the majority of people will find their way to the same solutions via word of mouth.We likely have to talk real specifics, within specific industries/verticals, to have a real conversation about this. Talking in generalities across all industries probably won’t lead to any insights/solutions.

          3. Sebastian Wain

            Nobody discusses that Google is the best search engine but this doesn’t mean that they can find the correct answer for complex queries/concepts.It is easy to speak specifically about this. A new mobile game is launched but it doesn’t appear recommended in the first page of any app store. It is very easy to check that what I am saying is truth, you can even check other Fred’s posts/threads like this one:

          4. Drew Meyers

            “It is easy to speak specifically about this. A new mobile game is launched but it doesn’t appear recommended in the first page of any app store.”Not sure what this proves. Just because a new game is launched, doesn’t mean they SHOULD appear in the first page. It should be hard to get to the first page.

  14. ZekeV

    Everytime I read about a new global DRM system with micropayments, I think — that is just Xanadu again. WI makes the same mistake as Ted Nelson and Jaron Lanier. Problem with Xanadu was not lack of tech such as blockchain to record assets / do micropayments. Problem was fundamental mistake about human nature, failure to understand enormous value of permissionless speech.

  15. Twain Twain

    I’d agree with Fred that the functionality Isaacson proposes are largely covered by blockchain technologies.Still, there’s other functionality that blockchain technologies can’t enable. That functionality being related to AI and its abilities to understand us, our language and our values.

  16. Ryan

    RE point 1…Jobs had some comments about that around the 40 minute mark of the following video.

  17. kidmercury

    as the demand for governance continues to grow the rise of private internets will grow also. mobile apps with app store gateways, complete with all sorts of rules on who gets in, are already a private internet of sorts. blockchain may play role here, but private coins will help a lot here as they will allow the exchange rate to be managed accordingly and will allow for intervention (for better and worse) with the system breaks down.

  18. Ryan Shea

    Great post by Walter and great follow up by you Fred. The blockchain is extremely applicable to his suggestions, even more so than you described.The key is we need to fix how identity and content work on the Internet. Here’s a post I wrote on how I’d approach Walter’s suggestions:

  19. Muneeb Ali

    The current Internet is really good at delivering data. Can re-use all the pipes and protocols already deployed for data delivery. So we don’t need a “new Internet” in that sense. How ownership and security works needs to be completely redesigned. So that’s the new part on top of the existing infrastructure.

  20. creative group

    CONTRIBUTORS:There are Reddit Users (Chris Bresee, the 17-year old Vermonter who founded the project and goes by the name “Wolfeater” on the site) created a subgroup called Darknet Plan or Meshnet who are targeting a way to build a mesh-based version of the Internet not subject to Government interference or censorship. (Those Nationalists support the movement don’t want any resistance in posting their racist, mysogist or xenophobic views)So many companies are dependent financially on the Internet they would do everything in their power to convince users there is no need to migrate to a new platform that actually disrupt their cash cow. Do existing companies keep their names they registered on www. ? There are more concerns than the problems to resolve on wishlist.

  21. Dave Pinsen

    Re 1): there’s also Brendan Eich’s Brave browser, which blocks ads and trackers but has a payment system to support content publishers:

  22. ShanaC

    I still don’t get bitcoin. I get applications of bitcoin, but not bitcoin.*sigh*

  23. marcoliver

    I am not convinced that ‘fixing the system (internet)’ would solve the problems we have. I’d rather focus on ‘fixing the people’ who operate the system. This, at least, guarantees equal rights.

  24. Matt Zagaja

    I’m not convinced that the issue is that paying people for content or software is hard. This problem has been solved by Apple, Amazon, and Google already. The problem is that people have had their price expectations lowered by large companies discounting their wares.

    1. Drew Meyers

      Agreed.Content marketing has degraded the value of content for the masses since every company on the planet now simply believes it’s a necessary marketing expense.

  25. Vendita Auto

    Xmas gift for those with or have health probs “The China Study” changed my mindset by offering me better odds. One cannot deny statistical percentages I recommend the read based on understanding the options nothing more or less.

  26. jason wright

    I must take issue with Walter. He was the man at CNN, an organisation that willingly and collaboratively acted as a front to allow corporations and governments to anonymously distribute their messages as ‘news’ to the masses.

  27. Michael Elling

    I was disappointed that Isaacson didn’t point out in the Jobs biography how vital the iPhone was to resurrecting equal access, which the Republican administration had killed off under Powell (setting up the major wave of consolidation among telcos and cablecos post 2005). Similarly he is missing some of the basics for inter-network network effects in his solution(s) that most here and elsewhere miss. Blockchain is simply a tool; it is not a new order.

  28. Thees Peereboom

    And, too eliminate spam, etc, make every email cost BC 0.0000001 (add decimals at will).

  29. Linda holliday

    We’ve always seen Citia as a part of this healthier ecosystem –at the user touchpoint. Digital cards combined with blockchain transactions = your item #5?

  30. PhilipSugar

    That’s another good point. Both Clinton’s won the most votes. See my comment below.I think you’d be stunned if you surveyed your bakery workers (and that would be completely inappropriate) who voted for who.

  31. PhilipSugar

    You too brother.

  32. PhilipSugar

    I have it blocked on all of my devices. Mainly because I take calls from literally all time zones.