Muneeb Ali – Co-founder of Blockstack
Today I’m going to tell you about how I fell in love with the internet. And how I realize that the internet is fundamentally broken in certain ways. But we can fix it.
I still remember that I was a kid growing up in Pakistan. It was in 90s. And there was this one night where we had this big result in the morning, and my mom told us that if you and your brother both get all As, I will buy you a computer. And we were so stressed that we couldn’t even sleep that night. At some point my mom realized that and she was like you know what even if you get one B you will still get a computer.
Next day we woke up, our results turned out to be great, and we went there, we got that machine. I remember that I was the most excited not when I got the computer but when I went online for the first time. For those of you in the audience who are under 25, think of this as the old Chrome. This was the browser. This was the first browser of the internet: Netscape, that actually introduced the internet to millions of people including me. I was the only kid on the block who had access to this magical thing and who had access to all this information and that’s where I fell in love with internet.
I ended up dedicating my entire life to this. I kind of like bomb the hood open and started studying the engine inside that how does this actually work. I ended up doing a PhD in Computer Science, focusing on the internet. So today what I’m going to do is, I’m going to bomb the hood open and show you how the internet works a little bit.
For most of you, the internet is like a black box. You have no idea how this really works. You just open up Chrome and you go to facebook.com. That’s pretty much it. What most people don’t realize is that when they are going to things like facebook.com, there are so many middle hidden men and companies that you are trusting and they are there. They include companies who made your browser software, your internet service provider, the servers where you are asking “hey, where’s facebook.com?” “where is CNN.com?” and these companies that issue security certificates. Remember these green block signs that make you feel really secure? that “hey, I’m on the secure internet”? It’s mostly just this one company that says “Hey, trust me. You are talking to the right facebook!” And people just blindly trust that company.