Changing the data economy is one of the most urgent conversations people around the globe are having at the moment. Just last month, for example, in this incredibly powerful TED Talk, my former journalistic colleague Carole Cadwalladr, articulated just how dangerously flawed our current data economy is. But these debates have largely been centred around political responses to problems which software has created. Now it is time for technologists to step up and solve those problems for themselves.
The Streamr community has been talking about crowdselling data and forming data unions since at least the end of 2018. That planning turned into development and that development has started to bear fruit. The video below might be one of the most exciting developments you get to witness. I’ll let the video speak for itself. It’s not flashy. It is a simple yet radical project by a three-person team in the Middle East who approached core devs in January with an idea.
What they’ve built allows ordinary people to take the data they generate whilst browsing (in Firefox), and push it to a decentralized marketplace where it can be sold. This simple action — moving information from one place to another with the intent to sell it — means that for the first time, people can finally claim ownership over the data they labour to make. And that changes everything.
Streamr’s core dev team is yet to roll out their end of the tech, which will allow not just one person to sell their data but millions of people to amalgamate what they have into a far more valuable data firehose. It’s this step which will mean that data unions can be formed. I and others in the Streamr community envisage that, eventually, those data unions will compete with the tech giants like Facebook, Amazon and Google, who currently monopolise such real-time data sets. And there’s a second step to this process that Streamr will also be providing — the mechanisms for paying users directly. Once the Firefox plugin is integrated with the tools the Streamr community is developing, our feeling is that it will be unstoppable.
If you’re a dev interested in the Streamr stack, or are thinking of joining others in building your own Community Product, join our community run dev forum here.