Star dust is what humans are made of. The atoms in our bodies were formed long ago in the crucibles of stars. Or so says Neil DeGrasse Tyson... and he's usually right.
Today in the digital universe, our atoms are forming in the crucibles of giant stars i.e. data-gobbling behemoths who dominate the internet.
But these giant stars will one day explode.
Stardust is what happens next. It's a necessary step in the evolution of the digital universe, and the first in the creation of free digital selves.
We have accounts in all the major websites: Facebook, Amazon, Twitter, Google, and a few others. We email, tweet, search, like, post, schedule, bid, track, buy, review, checkin, search, and follow.
These services make complex tasks simpler, provide new opportunities, and have become so useful that it’s difficult to imagine life without them. Going a few days without a phone or laptop feels like operating with one eye or a broken hand. With technology-enhanced sight and reach, we discover faster, connect easier, create more, and share wider. Technology helps us evolve faster.
But there are problems. We have a dozen logins and passwords. We change our preferences on one site but another remains ignorant. We agree to myriad Terms of Service without reading them. We completely give away our creations for the opportunity to create.
We can’t ask our services to agree to our Terms and Conditions. We can’t see who is accessing our information and preferences, how often, and via what permission route (e.g. has a friend given company x access to your photos?) We can’t switch to a competing service without starting all over, like moving to a new house but leaving all your belongings behind.
The modern internet, for all its benefits, falls short to honor our highest ideals of a free society, among them our unalienable rights to “Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.” Our digital information should be our property. Our internet should enable a free and open exchange of our digital information between various service providers and vendors. Our internet should protect our right to freedom of contract.
Today our internet incentivizes stars to compete over ownership of our digital creations and, deep inside hidden crucibles, convert them into profit.
But one day… these stars will go supernova.
Imagine an internet where no matter what service you use, you have control over what you create with that service. Say you’ve been using Instagram to take photos, then they change their Terms of Service to read:
You agree that a business or other entity may pay us to display your username, likeness, photos (along with any associated metadata), and/or actions you take, in connection with paid or sponsored content or promotions, without any compensation to you.
But you don’t want photos of your 6-year-old daughter showing up in advertisements. What do you do? Today you say adios to Instagram, along with all the human connections and interactions you built there. Game over.
What if Instagram were built so that we really owned the data we create there? Every photo you took, every connection you made, and all comments and likes were yours, associated with your Terms of Service, and shared out based on your preferences. So when Instagram decides to change their Terms of Service to sell you out, you and flocks of disappointed users turn off access to Instagram and turn on access to the next competitor. Practically overnight people choose some other service for taking and sharing photos.
No more lock-in. No more false choice. No more crossing our fingers and hoping the services we rely on don’t one day violate us.
This is the internet of the future.
Stardust is the cornerstone technology of this vision. It is your digital home—the one spot where you put all your digital creations. Your Stardust is the single most comprehensive source of information about you. It is your digital identity.
Stardust is open-source software that you can put anywhere: your home pc, your phone, a hosting provider, a community cooperative, or on servers managed by some enticing startup. You control it. You choose where it lives. You determine exactly what happens to it, forever.
Stardust is a framework on which other services and applications are built. Services can do things like pull your data out of social networks. Applications could use that data (and perhaps other types of data, e.g. your credit card transactions) to craft a more intimate shopping experience. Since all this is running on your personal Stardust, you don’t have to sacrifice your privacy for the experience. You don’t have to sacrifice your creations for the opportunity to create. Create on your terms. Create on your Stardust.
Stardust is your gatekeeper and watcher. It helps you define who should have access to your data, for how long, and what they can do with the data once they get it. It also shows you how your data has been accessed. So you can review what’s happening, adjust your policies, and get a handle on your privacy.
The beginning of this next era is very nigh. Help be a part of the transformation:
Keep dreaming, building, and sharing!