I think most readers will, by now, be extremely well versed in the basics of using Presearch as a method for decentralized internet search queries and a method by which individuals can earn their ERC-20 token (PRE) for using, and contributing to, the platform. Having followed a few of these article, I can tell you there are some excellent guides that will help you get up and running as a node operator, or will share with you some of the details about how key-word staking can benefit your business. While, I hope to also touch on those items in this article I've decided to do so by taking a step back and looking at the bigger picture. Therefore, instead of covering the 'How to Presearch', in this article I aim to look at the 'Why Presearch'.
To begin with we'll look at the foundations of decentralization, before looking more generally at our personal data and the traditional models used in centralized ecosystems. From there we'll take a dive into what makes Presearch different and how the projects value is being managed/realized using the PRE tokens. I hope that you find this article a refreshing change from my traditional 'How-to' guides and that as a result you opt to do some additional research yourself into the Presearch project and how you can get involved.
When we talk about decentralization, what is it that we mean? To understand this, and therefore the overall goals of the Presearch project, we need to break it down into it's constituent parts.
Decentralization or decentralisation is the process by which the activities of an organization, particularly those regarding planning and decision making, are distributed or delegated away from a central, authoritative location or group.
From the definition above we can see the the core goal of a decentralized project, product or organization is to move decision making process from a singular central entity and put it into the hands a multiple groups. Indeed, you may see some similarities with this description and the older system of rule in the UK, for example. Where, originally, the King/Queen's rule would be absolute, a centralized place of power. Since then, however, it was determined that this power would be better distributed over multiple delegated parties (members of parliament) who represent a boarder portion of the population. While this system is still not quite perfect it did start down a path that we've continued to travel along, wherein individuals share a belief that if something affects us then we should have some degree of control over it. We express this by voting in a parliamentary system, though this also extends out to some companies as well, cooperatives for example, where members are asked to help decide who will guide the company decision making process.
I found this simple, yet excellent, image below that help us to visuals the differences between a decentralized and a centralized system. You can see that in the centralized system all roads lead to one point. This means that decisions taken by that the one central point affect all other points. Creating a concentration of power as well as a risk that should something happen at this level then all decision making can be disrupted. In contrast regional hubs of a decentralized system mean that localized decision making doesn't need to stop if one region is removed or interrupted.
Now let us consider what this means for electronic systems or networks. Centralized networks have a singular weak point that, if compromised can bring down the whole network in one go. Instead adopting a decentralized structure offers redundancy a means by which the network can be maintained without service interruptions. Therefore, it makes sense that globally we're beginning to see a considerable shift away from centralized network hubs to decentralized, as it means it is easier to maintain business continuity.
Personalization meets Privacy
With the advent of the internet and the digitization of the world it seemed that we all immediately got closer. The ability to transmit and received information over great distances quickly gave us a multitude of easy access opportunities that we never had previously. However, to be able to best utilize this resource you have to take a step back and think about how we can find the information we're looking for if we don't know exactly what it is before hand. This is where the search engines step into the picture. Most of us will either directly (say by going to google.com) or indirectly (by typing a query into our address bars) use search engines every day as the initial gateway to the internet. These give us a way of vaguely putting down a few words to describe what we're looking for and in result we get options/suggestions of where to find it. This also creates an opportunity for companies looking to sell products that match our search criteria. Indeed, when we search the web we provide information about ourselves (for example, interests, ailments, holiday plans etc.) which can and are used match us to products and build a picture of our behaviour. For the most part this reasonable innocuous, in fact it is what we want, because this sharing of information allows us to personalize our results, because no-one wants to dig for days into a search result to find a bunch of irrelevant information.
When I think about how data can be used to drive product decision making I always think back to the 'Walmart and the Hurricane' scenario I heard about some year ago. The story goes that Walmart decided to data mine their customer data on the lead up to hurricanes, in order to see what folks were buying so that they could stock the stores better. The results of this showed that there was around a 7x increase in sales of strawberry pop-tarts before the hurricanes hit. It may seem bizarre but this is a great way to highlight the kind of picture companies can build from customers personal data and how this can be used to guide and determine corporates decision making.
Again, we could argue there is nothing wrong with this. We all want to be able to go to the shops and pick up exactly what we need rather than getting there and finding they are out of stock. Indeed, since companies started gathering masses of data we've also seen a surge in data analysis techniques (machine learning and AI) and it has been said that the new gold rush is in mining data. However, mishandling or indiscriminate gathering/sharing of this data can have considerably undesirable consequences.
One such example of misuse was highlighted by Brave just last year and is related to the gathering and real-time selling of personal data on council's public websites in the UK. What Brave's investigations showed was that these sites were (and still are) allowing personal data from vulnerable individuals to be collected and then have them profiled. Some of these data are also sold in real-time via a bidding process whereby the end consumers of the data can be anyone (which is completely against data protection rules). Furthermore, their investigations highlighted something scary with regards to the possible centralization of these data.
This is very troubling indeed. The question we have to ask though "Is this level of data collection necessary to provide good product personalization and user experience?" (Spoiler alert: No it isn't necessary)
The Presearch Model
While initially operating a centralized model the Presearch team identified early on that the road to decentralized systems adoption starts with products we use everyday. As with Brave the Presearch team took note of the current paradigm by which the internet operates and how data are handled and saw the risk/gaps in the current system, as well as ways to make them better. The resulting project we now know was born to directly challenge those issues and give us an alternative way to regain control over our data, the cleverest bit though is that we don't really need to change our daily behaviour (just a couple of default search settings and we're away).
At the very heart of the Presearch ethos is the core principle of decentralization, a community driven platform. One that both encourages participation/use by allowing user monetizing their interactions in the data machine we call the internet, and strives to put the decision making over what data is collected and used back at an in the hands of the individuals (without compromising on quality). The Presearch team have, by inclusion of a 'Community Constitution' in the Vision Paper, put the priorities of the project front and center.
Note here that if we asked anyone "What would you want from using a search engine?", you'd surely see almost all (if not verbatim) of these tenets in the responses we'd get back. That is because these are ideas we take for granted, sadly however we are sometimes mistaken by the assumption that they are provided to us by default under the more traditional model.
One of the standout points for a lot of people (particularly in the wake of the Cambridge Analytica data scandal) is how much we value privacy of our personal data. Which further solidifies the importance of establishing a new precedent (as Presearch have) making this key issue central to our future systems. When using Presearch our privacy is maintained in two major ways; firstly, by default, no data are collected and stored, and secondly, the network uses decentralized nodes to anonymize data while performing search queries. The way in which this happens is best described in the following video:
The Presearch model followed, initially, the same approach as traditional models. That is to say the formation of a centralized entity to challenge the current search giants. However, one of the key elements of its creation was the roadmap away from centralization, a vision of how to move to a better decentralized system. The overall stages for this process are defined as follows:
- Phase I - Launch & Establishing Product-Market Fit
- Phase II - Sustainability & Decentralizing Search (<- we are here)
- Phase III - Decentralizing Governance
We are at this time, in the midst of the decentralization phase, where it is individual nodes operators who form the back bone of the network. This provides a method by which the network can turn over control and operation of the infrastructure to the community. Furthermore, this move has opened up an incentivization model (much like mining for Proof-of-work cryptocurrencies like BTC) to help encourage and maintain the network stability.
Participation and Incentivization
One of the hallmarks of a decentralized system is, as we've discussed, participation. For these systems to work well it is imperative that there are a diverse variety of viewpoints as well as a wide network on which the platform can be built to help maintain efficiency and effectiveness of the platform. In order to promote and encourage this Presearch operates an incentive model for active participation in the network, this includes:
- Advertising - Keyword staking
- Infrastructure Support - Node operation
- End Users - Paid searches
- Development- Community Packages
Advertisers stake PRE tokens to promote key words that appear at the top of the searches (like promoted links in traditional search engines). Currently this process is free meaning that any traffic generated doesn't use up the stake meaning you can then later unstake this and spend it. As the system develops I believe we'll see some sort of monetization of 'hits' meaning that the flow of PRE funds becomes more dynamic and helps drive the transfer of value.
Node operators are incentivized to operate network access points and can stake PRE as a method of supporting the decentralized infrastructure. By doing so node operators can earn rewards from routing search queries and maintaining uptime of the network.
For everyday end users the incentive is simple, providing valuable data to the network by just using the search engine for your every day internet-ing can earn rewards. We said earlier data is valuable so rather than a single centralized entity monetizing it the data providers (us) get some of the rewards.
Finally, for those developers out there it is possible to become a part of building additional value into Presearch by creation of community packages. These are really nice curated content blocks that appear at the top of searches providing instant information to end users and added value over traditional search engines (the image below is part of the current cryptocurrency package).
We've looked briefly at that the main goals of decentralization and have considered the benefits/risks of the collection and use of personal data. In my mind what we can see is that data can be a powerful tool for good and can be used to increase our quality of life. However, indiscriminate collection of data and, in particular, handing over our ownership to centralized parties for their monetization can pose substantial risks to our personal privacy. The key point I think here is not to assume that all other companies are malicious in their intent, but instead to consider if their own goals are aligned with our personal goals.
Presearch offers a paradigm shift, instead of central decision making about how our data is used we're offered greater personal choice to control this. The project is designed with the primary focus being 'us' the end user and is dependent on 'us' to carry it forward. As such, we're the ones in the drivers seat and the success of the project will ultimately fall at our feet. We need to be the ones to transition from the older model in a centralized ecosystem, to a better decentralized world, after all it is in our own best interest.
One of the strongest things about proposing an alternative solution to traditional internet search engines, as Presearch have, is not the ability to generate extra income (although we all appreciate this). It is in fact the normalization of blockchain/decentralized technology. By this I mean that creating a solution that is instantly usable and applicable to our every day life, substantially lowers the barriers to entry for overall adoption. Consider the similarities between the Brave browser which has seen massive expansion in it's user base or, more recently, the increased public awareness of non-fungible tokens (NFTs). It is much easier for newer users to adopt technologies and ideas if they are applicable to them and Presearch does just that. It is no secret that we're moving rapidly toward a more decentralized world, I believe Presearch be pivotal in helping to strengthen public perception of these technologies and ideas going forward, and will help support the transition to a new standard of transparency, inclusion and community focus.
Hope you enjoyed the article and that you too see the value and benefits of the Presearch project, good luck y'all!
If you're interested in signing up to Presearch then please feel free to use my referral link: https://www.presearch.org/signup?rid=1704854