Adding Facts to the Internet
The Internet has developed into an extraordinary repository of information but it has always been hard for the network to store facts. Companies operate services built on facts—a bank balance, a vehicle location, the weather—but the Internet on its own is notoriously untrustworthy.
We joke, “I read it on the Internet. It must be true.” Instead, we put our trust in brands. We rely on institutions with whom we have legally contracted. Our trust is societal.
The advent of Bitcoin has created a new capability for the Internet with the promise to supplant this. It is the ability to hold a fact. Bitcoin has an incredible role in modernizing currency, but an account ledger is just one of the applications of a fact-storing system. The Blockchain at the heart of Bitcoin is a massively peer-managed system making it resilient and decentralized. It is owned by no one and verified by everyone.
The result is this: to assert a piece of information as a fact, you can verify its signature in the Blockchain. And to assure the data has not been altered, you can look up its global time stamp or identify the originator of the fact. The technology of the Blockchain is delivering this new capability in scale.
From once being a common joke, facts will emerge one of the most useful capabilities of the Internet. The range of uses covers everything from the high score on a video game to detailed attributes of people or things. The origins of the Blockchain in cryptocurrency assure there will be a transactional model for the creation, manipulation and storage of facts. Every service can easily find value in reporting facts. Receipts for goods purchased and points for tasks achieved. A fact is, “I took the flight and now I have points”.
The Blockchain will help users accumulate facts from many unrelated places, protecting the users’ privacy but also providing the benefits of frequent visits and identity when necessary. The economics of the fact network go hand in hand with the current ad-supported voyeurism model but can bridge the business model to modern micro-transaction and subscription-based model.
One of the key requirements of a fact is that it is properly created. Rivetz is engaging the full power of the trusted computing and trusted execution models to assure the intent to create a fact is properly executed. The quality of facts is very important, since, by definition, a fact exists forever.
We can trust the Blockchain to hold the record, but we also must be able to trust the originating environment of the fact. The power of this new capability is just coming to the surface, and its role is still being explored. The Internet has undergone many transitions as new technologies have been added from WWW to video. The addition of facts will be just as profound and will impact every corner of the Internet.
Image credit: CC by John Lord