In the latest season of HBO’s popular series Silicon Valley, the iconic “CEO” of Pied Piper, Richard Hendrick proposes a stunningly ambitious idea for his startup: rebuild the Internet as a decentralized network that utilizes the computing power of billions of phones in our pockets and spare computers in our living room.
This is in stark contrast to the world we live in today, where more than a third of all Internet traffic goes through the few dozen massive data centers of Amazon Web Services’ across the globe. Recently, that architecture led to a massive Internet meltdown after a regional outage at Amazon’s Virginia data center.
Hendrick’s big idea to decentralize the Internet was obviously inspired by the Ethereum project, a world computer based on complex cryptographic protocols led by now 23 year old russian whiz kid Vitalik Buterin. Recently, we witnessed Ethereum token’s meteoric rise to over $25B in market cap, all happening in less than three years since its launch. If Ethereum was a startup, it would be considered as one of the fastest growing unicorns in history.
Unlike the traditional cloud that can crash or be hacked, Ethereum is often referred to as a “perfect virtual computer”. It is unstoppable, uncensorable, tamper-proof, and impossible to catch malware or a virus. This is achieved by a complex piece of cryptographic protocol that runs over a large network of individual computers across the world; rather than being concentrated in a few data centers. Anyone can join that network and become a “miner” by lending their computation services and earn digital tokens, known as Ether.