Holochain, its designers say, could become the most important new enabling technology in network computing since Tim Berners-Lee invented the WWW internet communication protocol in 1990. Holochain is a new rival Internet protocol that could allow its users to regain your online privacy.
"I think this will be a bigger game change than we can imagine," says Arthur Brock. Brock, an American computer engineer, is one of the founding designers of Holochain, along with Eric Harris-Braun.
What is the holochain?
Like the WWW of Berners-Lee, holochain is a protocol for encrypted computer communications, a system that allows computers to communicate with each other. But the WWW works primarily on corporate server farms. On the WWW, your smartphone or laptop calls Facebook, Baidu or Google's corporate servers, and sends and receives data packets back and forth. Most information technology and data storage is performed on those corporate servers – in the corporate "cloud".
In contrast, holochain is designed to work entirely on distributed networks of home computers and smartphones, on a peer-to-peer basis, giving and taking.
All kinds of apps
All kinds of apps can be built on holochain. For example, search for apps like Google, email apps, messaging apps like Facebook Messenger, Twitter-like short text sharing apps, AirBnB-like spare room sharing apps.
Because apps created using the holochain protocol will only live on distributed networks of consumer-owned computers, these apps will not necessarily need to interact with corporate server farms. This means that companies that own those server farms will not be able to remove your personal data as they go through their corporate computers, because your data will not pass through those computers.
Here's what it is. The creators of holochain are idealists who want to give us back our privacy. And technology people are starting to realize that holochain technology can really be at the height of the challenge.
Could the holochain resuscitate online privacy?
Over the past 15 years or so, the online world has become the place where privacy has gone to die. The Web is now a panopticon, dominated by an oligarchy of omniscient and omniscient megacorporations that collect and store large amounts of personal data.
In their quest to increase advertising revenues by paying advertiser rates to serve increasingly targeted ads, companies like Facebook, Google, Twitter or Baidu automatically record and evaluate our social media interactions, our web searches, our digital photographs , our GPS locations, our subscriptions, our online video viewing choices, our emails, our phone calls, our every click and every word.
An incredibly detailed personal profile of you is implicit in the data that allows online companies to collect and analyze: economic status, political opinions, relationships, hobbies, inclinations, interests, likes, dislikes, personality traits, level of education, age, preference gender, chronology of positions … everything.
"We are the product on Facebook," says Eric Harris-Braun. "The real thing that's happening with Facebook is that they're selling our profiles to advertisers."
What Brock, Harris-Braun and their team are trying to do by routing your personal data away from corporate server farms is to give you control over your personal data. "Holochain is focused on the agent rather than data-centric," says Brock. "You are the agent, you decide where your data goes and who can see them."
2018: year of release of Holochain
Holochain has been more than a decade in the making. It was already under development even before Satoshi Nakamoto published the original white paper proposing the blockchain system and its first killer app, Bitcoin, in 2008.
Blockchain has generated a tremendous excitement over the past 10 years, but recently he became aware of his enthusiasts that this technology has serious limitations and flaws. Above all, the blockchain scales badly; its design ensures that each node in the chain has to store the entire register. The process of extending the ledger becomes increasingly intense from a computational point of view over time.
The main group of designers of Holochain has proposed to build something without those design flaws, and it seems that they have succeeded. According to Arthur Brock, holochain operations are tens of thousands of times cheaper and more efficient, in computational and energy terms, than Blockchain transactions.
The designer team of Holochain launched an ICO (Initial Coin Offering) at the start of 2018, successfully winning several million dollars and releasing a beta version of holochain. They are not trying to get rich, say Brock and Harris-Braun; they are trying to empower the crowd. Their goal is now to host Holochain's "hackathon" in cities around the world, recruiting developers to create apps on the peer-to-peer network. If and when the first Big Killer app takes root, the holochina risks becoming unstoppable.