“So we had better call upon our lawyers, politicians, philosophers and even poets to turn their attention to this conundrum: how do you regulate the ownership of data? This may well be the most important political question of our era. If we cannot answer this question soon, our sociopolitical system might collapse.” — Yuval Noah Harari — “21 Lessons for the 21st Century”
Decades of technology advancements in personal computing, software technology and smart mobile devices have commoditised data, and transformed it into reusable digital packages that are virtually everywhere; copied, analyzed, sold and resold at the speed of light. The internet, proliferation of cloud infrastructures and democratized access to open-source software, have created the premises for many technology businesses to become attention merchants.
These merchants capture our attention by providing us with free information, services and entertainment, while reselling it to advertisers. Yet advertising is but secondary to their true business model. Instead, by capturing our attention they accumulate vast amounts of data; data more valuable than any immediate advertising revenue. Hence, we are not their customers, but have become their product.
This decade will be remembered for the rise of surveillance capitalism — yet as bad as this sounds, the next decade could be far worse. Feeding of vast amounts of inputs from a few data-giants, machine learning is already able to make sense of our behaviour and predict not just how we feel and what we’ll buy, but for whom we’ll vote and even what they could do to influence that. But this is all just the first effect of giving exceptionally well trained artificial intelligence algorithms access to our personal data. Indeed, soon due to controlling our data, these algorithms may come to know us better than we know ourselves.
But few people today are aware of the changing economics of data and the power they hold. In fact, these data-giants may become so powerful due to the knowledge they gain, that people will lose agency and the freedom to act in an uninfluenced way.
The best time to care about the internet, its design and impact was 20 years ago; the second-best time is today. Take control and ownership of your data today.
In order to transition to a new web era, Web 3.0 that is, and to solve the fundamental issues currently plaguing existing platforms, we need to rethink how the web works and to change the fundamental structures we have in place right now enabling a shift to a more human-centric computing and the rise of the Sovereign Individual.
And if we are on the quest to rethink the web what better way to do this is than to start with the way we access and interact with the web, the Web Browser. Since we don’t expect the current incumbent players to have any incentive to be the driving force of this change, a new browser revolution (“war”) has to start.
So what is to be done?
Blockchain technology — cryptocurrencies’ underlying infrastructure — makes it possible to think of our data as a scarce digital asset that can be owned, rented, and sold in new ways. As our money becomes data, our data is becoming money. We might not be able to stop the rise of the machines, but we can create a fundamentally different structure: one allowing any individual to own his data, to control and monetize it as he decides.
Markets based on data stored in personal digital vaults, referenced via blockchain-tracked tokens and financed via cryptocurrency microtransactions, could make Data Farmer and Digital Day Trader lucrative careers of tomorrow. But without thoughtful planning, these new systems might end up furthering the passive surveillance, corporate hegemony, and intrusive authoritarian regimes they were meant to thwart.
Both businesses and governments are beginning to tap into the power of shared distributed ledgers to eliminate the difficulty, complexity, and cost of sharing the data sets that power their businesses (and eventually, their AI). Distributed ledgers are similar to blockchains, but users have known identities, and there is an expectation of compliance with laws and regulations. These applications could be made to run atop a decentralized system of personally owned data, but most enterprise blockchain pilots today focus on protecting current profit models and reducing operational expenses, not returning power to consumers.
If blockchain startups need regular people to understand and care about complex technology, they’re likely to remain as niche as other cypherpunk projects that sought to redistribute the power of the internet.
The best time to care about the internet, it’s design and impact was 20 years ago; the second-best time is today. As blockchain technology becomes invisible and a familiar user interface begins to connect new pools of data and economic incentives, a new wave of applications will be built focusing on empowering privacy and agency by default for every individual.
The line between data and money is dissolving. Take hold of your data today, and money will follow!
The Rise of the Sovereign Individual
By empowering users with their own data, the new wave of applications built upon decentralised data networks will increase the trust between each human individual and the (technological) services delivered via an ever increasing number of different smart devices and computing services.
The rise of the Sovereign Individual can be achieved through a decentralized identity, the general idea being that users could store identity information on the blockchain and their permission would be required for third parties to access it. This stands in contrast to the status quo, where data is held at countless third parties and regularly obtained without the user’s knowledge, much less consent. A decentralized ID could be used, among other purposes, to manage these permissions to users data, including the ability to revoke them when desired.
A decentralized ID does not require a central authority and is always under the user’s control, much in the way a crypto user has domain over his money.
Maiar features at launch (Beta)
Maiar is a new browser, making speed, security and privacy common settings for every user on the internet.
- Browse the web up to 8x faster. The best browser for you is the one that comes with privacy and ad-blocking features built-in and enabled by default. Maiar is faster and more energy efficient than other browsers, loading major web sites 2 to 8 times faster than Chrome and Safari on mobile and 2 times faster than Chrome on desktop.
- Tired of online ads? Enjoy an ad-free web. Maiar can block ads for you without installing any additional add-ons or extensions. Maiar’s built-in ad blocker blocks unwanted content by default and makes content-rich webpages load up to 8 times faster. Many websites often host multiple ads and as many as 70+ trackers per site. Most ad blockers still allow trackers through to profile your browsing patterns, locations or behaviour.
- Private and secure by default. Privacy and security are something you should expect by default. That’s why features to help protect your privacy and keep you secure are built into Maiar. Maiar blocks the software and trackers that follows you around and provide a deep level of protection. Our secure browser protects you from fraud and malware on the web.
Maiar is built on top of open source projects like Chromium Rendering engine and Brave/uBlock Origin Ad-Blocking components. Thus, Maiar looks like Chrome on most operating systems, with the difference that it’s much faster and private.
Maiar is not in the personal data business. Our servers neither see nor store your browsing data — it stays private, on your devices, until you delete it. Which means we won’t ever sell your data to third parties.
Secure site upgrades. Whenever possible, Maiar automatically upgrades to HTTPS for secure, encrypted communications while other browsers would use an insecure connection.
Built-in Password Manager. You can have Maiar remember your passwords for different sites.
Defaults that matter. Browse confidently with default settings that block phishing, malware, and malvertising. Also, plugins, which have proven to be a security risk, are disabled by default.
Customize your settings. Choose your settings on a per-site or browser-wide basis. See how many ads and trackers are being blocked by Maiar every day by looking at your dashboard.
PS: These are just a few of the starting features of Maiar. The next iterations will transform Maiar into a native blockchain browser, adding several much needed crypto features.
Join the community if you’d like to get more involved with Maiar. You can ask for help, discuss features you’d like to see, and a lot more. We’d love to have your help so that we can continue improving Maiar.
Checkout the FAQ and other help topics.