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Crypto-Ownership Companies Hope You're Ready To Decentralize Everything On The Internet

• Forbes

David Irvine lives in a tiny beach town called Troon on the West Coast of Scotland. He describes it as a place where old people go to retire, with a population of 15,000, a thriving golf community and views of the cliffs of Ireland on a clear day. It’s a surprising place from which to launch a product that he hopes will transform the way the Internet works.

Irvine is a mechanical engineer who taught himself about computers when he “realized they would be big.” He went on to manage oil company Saudi Aramco’s computer network before founding his own network consulting company, Alba, in the UK. After realizing that “the way the Internet is designed is insane,” he unplugged and started sailing, eventually becoming a yachtmaster who would pick up newly bought boats, say in the south of France, and sail them home to their owners in the UK. In 2006, he moved to a place where no English was spoken (so he could concentrate) to write the white paper for “MaidSafe“: a network for crypto-ownership and storage that does for data what Bitcoin does for value. Over the last eight years, he’s gotten $5 million in funding from family and friends to hire 14 people and try to make his product a reality. This month, the company is doing its first public funding round. Highly non-traditional, it plans to raise funds by issuing “Safecoins” on a cryptocurrency protocol called Mastercoin, which itself is built on top of Bitcoin.

Confused yet? Welcome to the age of crypto-ownership, where any kind of data can be encrypted and managed by a decentralized network of computers. It’s a concept that’s been around for years as readers of sci-fi authors like Neal Stephenson know, but now that Bitcoin has managed to permeate the public consciousness and introduce people to the concept of a decentralized, crypto-managed network in a tangible, money-generating way, other crypto-entrepeneurs are hoping to move beyond just decentralizing payment. Their models look a lot like Bitcoin, but instead of eliminating banks and the Federal Reserve, they have other service providers in their targets. A company called Ethereum headed by a lanky Canadian named Vitalik Buterin, 20, wants to decentralize contracts, allowing deeds, car titles, or even something like Social Security numbers to be stored in a network, where one person crypto-owns the contract with a private key until they choose to pass it along to someone else (like you would pass along a Bitcoin). “It’s the sharing economy for your hard drive,” he says.

Bitshares and MasterCoin want to decentralize the stock market and the IPO process, so that a company can issue shares or raise money on a decentralized network by issuing crypto-tokens that investors can later cash in, trade, or use to participate in a company’s services. (This idea is already geeting a close look from the SEC, which has voiced concerns about bitcoin stock exchanges.) And MaidShare wants a network of user who will download software that will cause their computers to give up to 90% of the unused storage, CPU and bandwidth on their computers to help maintain a decentralized storage network. It’s like a botnet, but one where the bots get paid for their troubles. The leasing of their computer power will result in the generation of SafeCoins, just like Bitcoin “miners” who keep track of the Bitcoin network get rewarded with the generation of Bitcoin, except Irvine calls his participants “farmers.”

MaidSafe will start with a network of just 60 computers. Their Mastercoin fundraiser on April 22 will release over 400 million Safecoins (with a plan to cap the total at 4.3 billion, and save 5% of them their initial investors); they hope to raise $8 million. A person who gives them 1 Bitcoin (or $450) will get approximately 17,000 Safecoins. They plan to use the funds to support their work over the next 3 years, buy more computing nodes, and start creating applications on the Safemaid network such as a decentralized Dropbox app. It would work by splitting a file into “encrypted shards” with many copies distributed over the network (so if one person turns their computer off, you’re not out of luck in retrieving the document). They hope a thriving ecosystem will develop on Maidsafe; they’re setting aside 10% of all Safecoins to go to people who build open source apps. App creators will get paid out according to how widely used their apps are.
Declare Your Independence with Ernest Hancock - David Irvine Radio Interview 03-13-14( 

Declare Your Independence with Ernest Hancock - David Irvine Radio Interview 03-28-14 - Hour 2 (

2014-03-28 Hour 2 David Irvine from Ernest Hancock on Vimeo.

1 Comments in Response to

Comment by Ed Price
Entered on:

From what I can see, the MaidSafe program for downloading onto your computer is not user friendly, exactly. I'm not very techy minded. But I would like to become part of the MaidSafe network. And if I could "lease" my excess Internet bandwidth, hard drive space, and computer time for some Safecoins, I would be interested. The problem is that in order to get started as it now stands (unless I am missing something), I need to download CMake, Python, FUSE (will it work on Windows?), and some other stuff, and then try to figure out from the brief MaidSafe instructions how to go about putting it all together.

I'm willing to bet that there are a whole lot of folks out there who would be willing to help MaidSafe get off the ground, especially if it were "lease" profitable a little. And a whole lot of those folks are amateurs when it comes to setting up and running "builds" of the different programs needed to make MaidSafe work. We'd love to do it, but we aren't prepared to become Python and C++ programmers to do it. As an example, with Bitcoin for Windows, you simply download the client, double click the icon, and the whole thing installs easy as can be.

I know the MaidSafe people are probably busier than all get out. And maybe they don't even want us little people getting in the way at this stage. But if they want us, they will need to make their system a little more user friendly for us non-techy types.

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