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After a lengthy development period, secure internet startup MaidSafe has begun alpha testing elements of its the Secure Access For Everyone (Safe) Network, a proposed distributed peer-to-peer network that the founders believe will be a game changer for internet security.
The theory behind MaidSafe’s network states that by encrypting and obfuscating user data – and then scattering it at random across a decentralised, anonymous platform – there is no central point of weakness and less need for the massive server farms that make up the backbone of the internet.
As a result of this, the internet becomes more free, safe and secure for its users.
The alpha network has not yet established full decentralisation, said Nick Lambert, MaidSafe chief operating officer. It is currently being run on industry standard servers in a number of datacentres so MaidSafe can control uptime and bandwidth or test features, for example.
Users will get the ability to use their own compute and data storage capabilities – in MaidSafe parlance this is called their “vault” – later on in the process.
“Our intent is to move towards decentralisation in the next couple of months as the network becomes more efficient,” said Lambert.
“Our hope for the second phase of the alpha test is to have one network in part provided by us in datacentres and in part by users contributing their own resource.”
For now, users have the ability to test out a limited number of key features of the Safe Network, including a secure sandbox to create credentials and log in.
It also has a development app for users to create their own website and host existing sites on the Safe network, as well as explore what applications and functionality might come along in the future.
Safecoin and resources
Other future aspects of the network include a digital currency, Safecoin, which will be farmed by users and distributed by the Safe Network’s algorithms as an incentive for users to provide their own resource – CPU, storage and online time, for example – to the network.
Only 4.5 billion coins will ever be in circulation, and will be recycled when users buy access to and use of future network applications.
Additionally, users unwilling or unable to provide resources will be able to buy Safecoins to create a market of buyers and sellers that gives Safecoin farmers the ability to earn another currency.
The introduction of Safecoins to the mix will take place at a later date, said Lambert, because, for as long as the network is running in datacentres, some security aspects have been relaxed and will need to be tightened up again.
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While the MaidSafe community is made up of developers and enthusiasts, Lambert predicted that enterprises will take an interest as the benefits of protecting data by constantly moving it around using a distributed network would become clear.
“Because our nodes self-replicate there is no need to backup, which can be the bane of a CIO’S life. This is powerful for business because the network will be able to handle more information as it scales and the number of users increases,” he said.
“It could also be interesting to public sector bodies with large datasets, such as the NHS,” added Lambert.
Meanwhile, the firm has launched an equity fund-raising round using online investment platform BnkToTheFuture, which specialises in finance and technology projects.
MaidSafe said the funding round would enable it to continue to recruit developers to help build out the features and functionality of the Safe network, and stimulate awareness of the project among potential app developers and strategic partners.