Interview with Justin Tabb, CEO and Co-Founder of Substratum Network. For more information visit www.substratum.net.
What is your background briefly?
As CEO and Co-Founder of Substratum Network, my team and I are developing a next generation blockchain solution that promises to revolutionize how we use the internet.
Prior to Substratum, I was a Managing Partner at OverridePro where I lead successful development projects for Fortune 500 clients like Apple, Facebook, Disney, HP and the NBA, I have worked on everything from complex global web applications to theme park attractions.
Does it seem like a logical background to what you do now?
I have been in software and web development my entire career. My clients continually pushed for applications and solutions on the cutting-edge of technology and challenged me to think outside-the-box. Working on an application like Substratum Network is the next logical evolution in my career. It allows me to take everything I have learned over the years about creating a user friendly experience and apply it to an emerging technology that has yet to figure out how to become accessible to a more mainstream audience. It is my hope to bring the decentralized web to everyone, whether they are tech savvy or not.
1 minute pitch for what you are doing now.
Substratum Network is developing a worldwide open-source foundation for the decentralized web, providing free and unrestricted access to content for a new Web 3.0. Focused on the user experience with seamless integration into familiar web browsers, Substratum will bring the freedom and security of decentralization to everyone without having to be a technology expert. The network is made up of a collection of nodes that employ industry-leading cryptography to deliver secure content anywhere, all without the need for VPNs or Tor. Substratum will revolutionize the hosting industry with per-request billing via microtransactions, all handled by blockchain technology.
Why do you think blockchain technology is so difficult for people to understand?
I think it’s difficult for people to understand because there are a lot of misconceptions about what the technology is and does. So much of it is technical and kind of obfuscated. Often, when people think of blockchain, they think of Bitcoin, and rightly so, since that is where blockchain came from. But many people, especially non-technical people I talk to, when they think of Bitcoin, all they think about is the Dark Web and buying nefarious items like drugs – which is not what it is used for any more, even if it ever was.
How do you “demystify” blockchain technology and help people understand what it can do for them?
Substratum is “demystifying” the technology by making it familiar. We are focused on the user experience and working with existing default applications within operating systems. A good user interface, low barriers to entry, quick install – just making everything simple to use, is the key to achieving mass adoption.
Ultimately, I don’t think people are interested in the details of how the technology works. Mainstream users want a transparent interface based on something they know and recognize. They just want it to work and know their information will be secure with 24/7 access no matter what – with the added bonus of saving or making money.
What are the key benefits of using a blockchain application versus today’s centralized applications?
Blockchain applications solve some of the biggest problems we have on the web today. They can eliminate the need to build redundancies, provide freedom of information exchange, and create entirely transparent networks.
High availability websites like an Amazon, for example, work hard to create a distributed network across many servers in multiple locations so if there is a point of failure along the way, another server will pick up responsibility. Blockchain makes this happen organically as multiple nodes or touch points log on and connect to the chain. It is basically a built-in redundancy.
This type of organic redundancy also lends itself to breaking down single entity control of information to create more open and free access. If, for instance, a government were to decide to shut down an application within its borders, it would be impossible if the application was built on blockchain. As long as the blockchain is distributed outside of that government’s network control, the application will continue run. It becomes more a will of the people as to whether the application runs if people log on and run the application or not.
Finally, all this leads to a transparent and more secure network. On any public blockchain you can easily go and explore what is there and what isn’t. It brings accountability to the system. There’s no smoke and mirrors. Blockchain is a digital ledger, it’s a way of accounting where pieces of information are – whether that information is currency, bits of data that make up a website, or a file.
Blockchain applications, like Substratum, are basically built to put the power back into the hands of the people with what they want and don’t want to view. By distributing information along a chain, there is no single point of weakness – providing reliability, freedom across international barriers, and transparency.
Can you provide an example of what a successful blockchain application might look like to gain more mainstream adoption?
Where blockchain startups succeed or fail is when they try to reinvent the wheel. People are familiar with and like using browsers like Chrome or search engines, like Google. They put in a search term and two seconds later they find what they are looking for.
The problem with a lot of blockchain applications that people have come up with is you have to use their own browser, or it doesn’t integrate with maybe Google, or all these things that are just wrong. Mainstream users are not interested in booting into a command line system.
What we are doing at Substratum, and what I think any successful blockchain application needs to do for the long term, is focus on point and click – one click install and a user friendly interface based on a default browser. My team has done mainstream software development for a long time and we’ve seen that the success of any application in the real world (meaning mainstream instead of technical users) has to focus on the ease of the user experience and the interface has to integrate into something users are already familiar with.
Our vision of a successful blockchain application is one that takes all the things that are right about the internet and fixes the things that are broken. Use the interfaces that people are familiar with and keep things simple. Create a blockchain world where services and information are not centralized, but are powered by the people.
If the decentralized web is the future of Web 3.0, what should mainstream users look forward to in the future?
Data breaches, hacks, leaks, and internet censorship have been huge news stories this year. By breaking information/ data into millions of encrypted bits, the decentralized web solves many of these problems. A hacker would have to break millions of separate encryptions just to reassemble a single file to be readable, and a government would not be able to shut down access to sites distributed outside their network.
The freedom and openness of a decentralized web is what Tim Berners Lee, inventor of the world wide web, originally intended – a place where no government, company or single entity can decide what content can or cannot be seen on the internet. At Substratum, we are developing an open-source foundation for free and unrestricted access to content so that everyone has access to everything on the internet.
In the near future, mainstream users can look forward to the decentralized web becoming a mainstay in the background of their everyday applications. They may not even know it is there, but they will appreciate the security, availability and transparency of the information.