BlockStack and the Security of the Internet

By June 6, 2019Emerge ITS Blog

The concept of blockchain sounds excellent, but how do you access and understand it? Blockchain and the world of Bitcoin are notoriously confusing to those who don’t speak “geek.” Here we explore a new platform, Blockstack, that makes utilizing the privacy and data-controlled powers of blockchain as easy as using a simple plug-in for your current browser.

Companies and individuals can easily continue browsing the web and developing apps as usual while on the decentralized internet. Impress your IT department by implementing blockchain for your office computers, but first, let’s learn the basics:

 

What is Blockstack?

Blockstack is an alternative to traditional network services such as AWS and Google Cloud. The difference is that BlockStack is entirely decentralized. This means developing apps and running entire IT ecosystems without any “big brother” entity ever touching your data.

The Blockstack open network can be utilized by both enterprises and startups alike. To understand Blockstack, you’ll need first to grasp the concept and application of Blockchain technology.

 

What is Blockchain?

Anonymous individual or group of people known as Satoshi Nakamoto developed Blockchain. The technology was originally designed for the digital currency Bitcoin, but now the technology is being utilized for other purposes.

Imagine a database, such as a spreadsheet, shared over and over across a peer to peer network. The database is automatically regularly updated. The information within is shared continually and reconciled while remaining public. The information is not hosted at one location, but rather bits and pieces are shared across the network simultaneously.

The network has “nodes” or hosts that are incentivized to continue hosting their share of the data. Every node can see every transaction that happens on the system and can verify they are accurate. Mostly, it’s a new way to do transactions and commerce, making verification and ownership completely transparent.

Larry Summers, former secretary of the U.S. Treasury, put it well with this analogy:

“Bitcoin has the same character a fax machine had. A single fax machine is a doorstop. The world where everyone has a fax machine is an immensely valuable thing.”

It’s important to understand that Bitcoin was simply a tool or application used on Blockchain technology. The same processes that are used for Bitcoin can be used for any transaction, from voting systems, buying stocks, to shipping and receiving.

 

Back to Blockstack

Now that you have or already had an understanding of blockchain, it’s easy to see how Blockstack is another tool utilizing the Blockchain technology. Blockstack is for hosting and developing applications, from cloud computing to social media and mobile apps.

Currently, companies pay for a server to host their web apps, such as AWS. There are issues with scaling from spikes in traffic to exposure to DDoS attacks, latency time, and more. Not to mention, privacy concerns with the commoditization of data. Blockstack resolves all of these issues

 

Blockstack’s Timeline

  • Founded in 2013, Blockstack raised $5.45 million from venture capitalists.
  • Blockstack has an alternate, decentralized DNS. It became operational in 2015 on the Bitcoin blockchain.
  • As of March 2016, Blockstack was the most extensive non-financial system using the Bitcoin blockchain by transaction volume.
  • Blockstack released a decentralized web browser add-on in 2017, similar to Netscape. Now developers can use Blockstack as a tool to develop applications such as storage and payments and other consumer-facing apps. The browser add-on works with popular browsers such as Chrome, Safari, and Firefox.

 

By Developers for Developers

Blockstack is a full stack tool, which means you can find all of your application needs in this all-in-one solution. It provides full ownership of data, fewer privacy concerns, easy login/access (no passwords needed, just a Blockstack ID), and faster speeds than traditional networks.

It’s just like a cloud ecosystem except without a monolithic company owning the data, charging fees as they please, and calling the shots. Everything blockchain is a move towards user-empowerment, taking back control of the internet and our data.

Blockstack utilizes tokens similar to Bitcoin, Ethereum, etc. The Blockstack ecosystem allows developers to create DApps (Decentralized Apps) that protects user rights.

Blockstack allows developers to continue programming and writing code as they were before, using the same Javascript functionality and REST calls. Now, the app’s data is stored off the blockchain providing better performance and scalability.

 

What Happened to the Internet?

The idea of everyone having the ability to get a computer and go online to create and communicate has changed over the years. The concept remains the same, but a few major companies own the profits and power.

Blockstack and other blockchain based innovations are an invention by tech entrepreneurs that want to bring control and power back to the people. The internet started as peer to peer, and has shifted to centralized depositories of data, or “honey pots.” Imagine Facebook, Microsoft, and Google. By utilizing Blockstack, the engineers behind Facebook or Dropbox and other services will no longer be able to access and exploit user’s data. Consumers can continue to use the same apps but now hosted on the blockchain.

Blockstack is a vision of a new form of a decentralized internet, a community-based world wide web. With no middle-men, everything is peer to peer, eliminating vast amounts of data issues and concerns.

Other similar concepts are being launched, such as Solid, created by the inventor of the World Wide Web, Sir Tim Berners-Lee. Also, Kaleido.io and Consensys are other projects competing for the same purpose as Blockstack.

Is this the future of application development and the internet as we know it? Maybe, it’s still years away from widespread adoption. However, many tech-savvy companies are leery of Google, AWS, and Microsoft when it comes to controlling their apps, data, and resources, and are making the switch.