The Web of People

When I explain the Internet of People, a totally new concept, some people try to compare it to what they already know: the Web. And probably it is not a bad idea to do so in order to get a first understanding of the concepts behind it.

The Web is a cyber-space created by web servers, a software whose main function is to deliver documents (web pages) once requested by a web browser (or any other App). These documents are formatted in HTML, a language that allows hyper-links to be placed within the content in order to link documents from the same web site (or external web sites) together, thereby forming a web of linked documents.

Behind web servers there are usually companies (not people) that run those web servers and connect them to their internal systems. In many cases these companies consider the Internet as one of the channels to interact with their customers, while for others, it is the only channel. Many platforms connect people to each other through their web services, and usually their model works like this: people are connected to a web server run by a company, interacting with their internal systems and databases, and these systems are designed to relay the communication between people creating the illusion that people are directly connected to each other. What really happens is that the company providing such a platform acts as intermediary, and people can interact with each other because they are part of the private network of users of that platform. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, eBay, Uber, Airbnb, etc., all work in this way.

In this previous model, companies are in the center, and people are users of their platforms and are trapped into private networks which they don’t control.

The Internet of People redesigns all of the above, creating a new model where people are in the center and companies are secondary. The central piece of software here is the Profile Server. Similar to the Web Server, the Profile Server also hosts information, but not general purpose documents as in the current web, it narrows it down to only profiles. Any App (already existing or new) can upload user profiles with all its properties and any App can search for profiles users need to find. Each profile type has a pre-defined format that allows different Apps of the same type to interact with it. Profiles can also be linked between each other, with cryptographic proofs from the owners of two linked profiles. That proof confirms that there is a relationship (of any type) between them and that both agree to be public. This creates a parallel web, a Web of People.

But this isn’t just an interlinked directory of profiles, it is much more than that. Behind Profile Servers, there are no companies with their system or databases, there are people with their own mobile devices and laptops. This means that if you find someone on the Internet of People, you can connect to their device and interact with them directly with no company in the middle. This opens the door to a new type of Apps: Person to Person Apps.

Is this new Web of People going to replace the old Web of Companies? Absolutely not. In cyber-space there is room for both companies and people. Most people-to-people interactions will shift towards the Internet of People, since in many cases companies are redundant middlemen taking big cuts in transactions. People-to-Company interactions will continue going through the old web.

We will witness today’s private networks of people opening themselves by connecting their user bases to the Internet of People. By doing so users inside one private network will be able to interact with users of others private networks, as applications of the same type will start to inter-operate. This new web will be the bridge that will connect all private networks between each other, blurring the lines that today divides them.

Profile Servers run on top of decentralized networks not owned by anyone. In the Internet of People, a technology very similar the Bitcoin blockchain is used to incentivize regular people to provide their computers to run the software, and thus avoiding the need of companies to run this new web.

There are already entrepreneurs thinking on Internet of People Web Browsers. What an exciting future is coming!

Thanks to Amadeo Charlé for the editing.