One of the goals of a new World Wide Web: the Decentralized Web was to help people make money by publishing on the web. There are approaches to this such as Coil, but the vision in the paper has not been done. The idea was to be able to post a file to the DWeb and then have people pay for it and then unlock it, all without a central authority. Decentralized payments on the decentralized web. Not only has it not been done, it may not be possible… until now (maybe).
Here is the scenario I could not figure out: Can my son make a decentralized website for his new album where one of the songs is free, but the others cost something? Sounds easy– you post the first song unencrypted, and the others encrypted. Then if you put a bit of bitcoin or ether or something in a slot, then you get a key to the encrypted files. Yes, you could then unencrypt the files and then post them again, thus making a black market for the files, but that is hard to avoid without DRM and that has its own problems.
An existing way to do this is to host your files on iTunes or Amazon and they will deliver unencrypted copies to those that pay. This works, but it puts lots of power into the hands of those websites. In fact, those companies have gotten very rich doing this service for people.
Can we have a decentralized way to distribute keys based on some event on a blockchain? This has been frustrating, but the answer, so far, seems to be No. The reasoning is that in a centralized system, one would go to a website, make a payment or prove you made a payment and the website would send you a key to unlock the files. The website would makes sure the payment was made, and send one and only one key based on that payment to the purchaser. Ok, some of these pieces are understandable how to do in a decentralized way. It is possible to post the payment on a blockchain with a public key of the purchaser, so the vendor could the use the public key to protect the decoding key so only the purchaser gets it. So far so good. But, there has to be a vendor that can issue the key, therefore the vendor has a secret that should only be shared or used when issuing a key.
This works when the secret is in one place. But if the code for issuing the key were on a contract-based blockchain such as Ethereum, then anyone could see the code and get the key without paying. You could even have the secret in several places, and ones that are distinct from vendor– think escrow agents, but that is klunky work-around.
So you say, what is the breakthrough? Well, I read a piece about some cryptologists having discovered the “Crown Jewel of Cryptography” that may make this possible.
For example, suppose you have a program that carries out some task related to your bank account, but the program contains your unencrypted password, making you vulnerable to anyone who gets hold of the program.Computer Scientists Achieve ‘Crown Jewel’ of Cryptography
Their system allows that program to be distributed with an encrypted version of the password to be used in all ways like the one with the unencrypted password, thus solving the problem.
To put in the our example: the program that issues keys to the music files can be distributed to anyone and they can not find the internal secret because it is encrypted. But, you say, then anyone can run that program and generate the keys to unlock the music files so people do not need to pay. But this is where I hope the contract systems in blockchain systems comes in (but I could have this wrong). I am hoping that the program also has a test to check for an event happening on the blockchain, such as a payment is made, then when the program is triggered and proceeds to encrypt the music decoder key with the purchaser’s public key. The purchaser can then use their private key to unlock the message and get the music decoding key. The purchaser rocks out to the music and my son gets paid.
I do need help in understanding if this if contracts can do this: when an event happens on the block chain, then a piece of code is triggered to run successfully. If that event did not happen on the blockchain, then the program would not run successfully.
If I understand these two pieces, the “Crown Jewel” and blockchain contracts, then we can make DPayments on the DWeb work.
And that is a major step forward!