Decentralized Web: My Thought Experiment

I’m at the Decentralized Web Summit today and it’s all very interesting. There are some big picture ideas of how the future should be. There are all sorts of interesting disparate technologies filling all kinds of holes. But I have a thought experiment that I’ve used to understand where we need to go and what we need to build to get there.

Uber. Or Lyft or AirBnB, or even Etsy.

This new sharing economy supposedly shakes up traditional businesses by harnessing the distributed power of the internet, but when you ignore shiny apps these businesses look a lot like traditional rent-seeking middlemen.

It feels like a bug that we are making new businesses that look like such old businesses. Ride sharing shouldn’t need  middleman. Prospective passengers and drivers should be able to discover each other, agree on a transaction, go for a ride and then make payment.

We have a lot of the pieces already, but reputation is the big challenge I see in all this. Even centralized systems struggle with reputation but we don’t have a good way to know if we should trust that a driver is competent or a guest won’t trash my apartment. I don’t know how to solve this, but I sure hope someone is thinking about it.