Enterprises have been moving their services to the cloud for several years. Peer-to-peer (P2P) services have become well-known, especially with blockchain and crypto. But individual users haven’t really used personal clouds, and the number of real P2P services is still quite limited. But this could soon change.
I wrote earlier about decentralized solutions. Personal clouds and P2P apps are examples of distributed applications mentioned in that article. But let’s take a more concrete and pragmatic approach, what these applications could be and how they work.
I was recently demonstrated some services that are basically apps that users can run locally in their own browser and have data either stored locally or in the user’s own cloud.
- A person can play with someone else in a battleship game, and both people run it only in their own browser. There is no central server for the game. Matchmaking can happen in a pure serverless fashion when a user broadcasts a message that she or he is willing to play.
- Messaging service between two users that don’t use any central server for the connections but purely messages between two applications.
- Two users can identify each other by having their own identity only locally, and then they can start encrypted communications without any third parties.
These examples might sound simple, but they could be the start of a big revolution in applications and even how the internet is used. Of course, the very fundamental protocol of the Internet, TCP/IP, is based on packets routed from A to B. But in practice, most services during the last three decades have been based on client-server configurations, not local services and/or direct connections between users.
These services raise several technical questions about whether usability would be good enough for mainstream users. For example, users can already set up a connection by sending an invitation with a traditional email and then making the P2P connection with local credentials and sending messages directly or through centralized services like email or messaging apps.
An interesting combination occurs when services use the user’s local applications and the user’s own cloud or similar storage services. It is hard to store and organize all of a user’s data locally when using several devices. However, the scenario changes if users have their own storage services and can get the needed data and apps from there for local use when needed. This storage is not a third-party central service but the user’s own service in a broader global infrastructure.
It sounds complicated, but does this really matter? With blockchain and crypto, we have seen how users can make transactions directly without third parties. It has enabled reliable payments anonymously without an authority or central service to track all transactions. It can offer a more reliable system, better privacy and no single point of failure.
But with these user services and P2P connections, we can do much more than simple crypto payments. Let’s take some examples:
- Users can keep all their data in their own services, refine, enrich and utilize that data with their local applications and then share some data, case by case, with other users or service providers.
- High security and privacy user-to-user communications without any third parties.
- Personal identities that users manage themselves that are not based on third-party authentication services, where two users can identify each other directly and start secure communications.
Blockchain and tokens have received a lot of attention, but the examples above better demonstrate distributed applications and peer-to-peer communication. Blockchain and tokens can also be a part of these services. Blockchain could provide a ledger to keep track of transactions and tokens as a model to monetize distributed services. But they are not services alone. It is fundamental to have applications and services that are valuable to users, and then we can use blockchain and tokens in the implementation.
The question is, which services will provide the real breakthrough of user’s personal clouds, apps and pure P2P services, and when? They will probably be linked to personal data, self-sovereign identities, trusted communications and data sharing. We just need a few easy to use applications and after that things can start to evolve rapidly.