Skycoin – Need for Skywire

The Internet has been one of the most influential disruptive innovations in human history. It has revolutionized the way and speed people and companies can interact with each other all over the world and has therefore created a complete new economy. Apart from the early years where bandwidth was so slow, that you could only send mails or see only text-based websites, this revolution came along rather quickly after higher bandwidth througput became available. However, the current infrastructure behind the internet has some major flaws. From surveillance and censorship to low speed, unavailability and high costs, the internet’s infrastructure offers room for optimization. The Skycoin project wants to solve these problems with their flagship project Skywire. In the following, I will describe five problems of the current internet in detail and will explain, how Skywire aims to solve them.

1. Surveillance
The first and most oppressive problem is that the internet in its current form can be used for mass surveillance. Each of a user’s website visits can be connected to his/her IP address. While this IP address on its own can hardly be used to identify users, a user’s internet service provider (ISP) can connect the tracked website visits to the personal data the user has transmitted to the ISP in the contract he or she signed with them. This enables ISPs to monitor users and create detailed personal profiles about them. Skywire aims to prevent surveillance in two ways: First, Skywire promises to encrypt traffic, so that website visits cannot be tracked.1 Second, users don’t have to sign a contract that includes personal data with a company to access Skywire, because the access to Skywire is paid with either Coin Hours or Skycoin,2 meaning that personal data cannot be combined with website visits.
2. Censorship
The second core problem of the internet’s infrastructure is, that it facilitates censorship. With internet service providing being a monopoly in several countries or ISPs cooperating with governments or other influential actors, censorship is fairly easy to establish. It can take place either by deleting content or by redirecting users to a modified site, tricking them into thinking they access the website they wanted, but apparently, they are not. Skywire wants to deny centralized censorship by using decentralized internet service providing. Their vision is that a vast number of users all over the world become internet service prosumers, meaning they do not only consume internet services, but also provide other users with them, by hosting their own nodes which offer services or forward traffic to other nodes.3 Certain nodes can of course block or censor other nodes, but because of the decentralized nature of the Skywire network, a node can just use a different path via other nodes to access this blocked content.
3. Low Speed
The infrastructure of the current internet also suffers from low speed. The underlying internet protocol routing is not the best solution available, because it lacks path control. Data is mostly transferred through a path that is longer than the shortest path available, which will reduce the speed of a transmission. Skywire targets to use an approach similar to multiprotocol label switching as their networking standard,4 which will be faster than the current internet, because packets are forwarded based on a predefined path, preventing unnecessary hops between nodes.5
4. Unavailability
The internet is still not available to billions of people, mostly in Africa as well as in parts of Asia.6,7 This lack of availability is mostly cost-related. Laying cables to establish internet connections or improving the existing ones requires financial and human resources as well as permissions from authorities. To reduce these costs, Skywire nodes will be easy to deploy and the traffic between them will be transmitted wirelessly.8 For short ranges, users can use a router, transmission over longer ranges up to 3 miles can be achieved by antennas, that are plugged into a Skyminer.9,10

5. High costs
While prices for high-bandwidth in several first-world countries like in the USA or Germany are already high (but can be mostly compensated by a higher wage level), the internet can be not affordable at all in third-world countries, where costs for an internet connection can range from 20% up to over 100% of a person’s total income.11,12 Skywire solves this with affordable nodes. They are developing small nodes, that can be used to provide the Skywire network and have a one-time purchase cost of about 15 US Dollars, which the team might reduce to 3 US Dollars a piece in the future.13 This very low-cost internet providing will not only result in a growing network, but also in very low costs for consumers.

As outlined in this article, there are five major flaws associated with the infrastructure of the current internet, that the Skycoin project wants to solve with their new decentralized internet Skywire. First of all, Skywire stands for encrypted access and anonymous payments which will ensure privacy of users. Second, its vision of decentralized hosting will prevent centralized censorship. Third, the new underlying protocol MPLS will enable faster transmissions of data. Fourth, availability of Skywire can be achieved by an easy deployment of nodes and the high range of antennas. Fifth, costs for Skywire nodes will be significantly lower than the costs for accessing the internet currently.

Having the vision to solve all these problems of the infrastructure behind the current internet is ambitious, because it will require many internet service prosumers to run this decentralized mesh network. However, with blockchain and the Skycoin project’s desired long-term distribution of their currency Skycoin, it is possible to incentivize users for hosting nodes by paying them in Skycoin for providing bandwidth.14 Alongside its other goals, this monetary incentivization could give Skycoin the edge over previous mesh networks, which have failed because they could never reach wide adoption. However, with the need of mass hardware production and deployment to get the network going and more resources being used to build applications on top of it, Skywire’s success will be determined over the long-run. The general framework for a better internet will be provided by Skycoin’s team, so it will be mainly up to the users to recognize the flaws behind the current internet and adopt Skywire as the better infrastructure for their future world-wide network.
“With Skywire, your anonymity and the right to your data is guaranteed. Since Skywire is encrypted end-to-end at the packet level, you will never have to worry about monetization or interception and exposure of data.”
Skycoin; Medium; Skywire, The New Internet for the New World; 11.04.2018
“Skywire will cost pennies on the dollar compared to current methods of getting bandwidth, without any type of locked-in contract commitment. The rate you pay will never spike, as it will remain tied to the amount of bandwidth you need and consume. In fact, with the Coin Hours mechanism of the Skycoin platform, you may never have to pay a single cent out of pocket for access to the network.”
Skycoin; Medium; Skywire, The New Internet for the New World; 11.04.2018
“Skywire is composed of thousands of interconnected hardware nodes, set up by everyday people around the world. These nodes are called Skyminers. These nodes link together to encrypt and trasmit internet traffic across borders and around the world, quickly, efficiently and privately.”
Skycoin; YouTube; Channel of Skycoin; 29.05.2018
“The Skywire communication protocol uses Multi-protocol Label Switching (MPLS), rather than TCP/IP, to enable highly-scalable and high-performance transport of any data across any medium.”
Skycoin; Medium; Skywire, The New Internet for the New World; 11.04.2018
“IP routing lacks flexibility, path control and has some performance issues. Some of the issues with IP routing can be resolved in a pure MPLS network infrastructure. MPLS is more flexible, traffic engineering is easier to implement and packets are forwarded on a predefined path, based on the assigned label to the packet.”
Cisco; YouTube; Introduction to Segment Routing; 23.11.2016
“In 2017, we will pass a significant threshold: 50% of the world will be online. This milestone will mark the first time the scales have been tipped toward more people connected than not, and speaks to the impressive growth of the internet — just ten years ago, barely over 20% of the world’s population was online. But for the other half of the world that remains offline — mostly women in developing countries — this means being left even further behind as the digital revolution steams ahead.”
A4AI; Official Website; 2017 Affordability Report; February 2017
“The fact that nearly 4 billion people globally remain offline and that the internet is only accessible to 40% of people in low- and middle-income countries is testament to the challenge of connectivity for all. The ability to go online via one’s mobile device or at home is one currently enjoyed by less than half of the global population, and getting online where and when convenient is not an easy task for many in under-served or impoverished communities.”
A4AI; Official Website; 2017 Affordability Report; February 2017
“When fully deployed, Skywire provides direct access to the Internet backbone. In order to achieve this, Skywire must provide: Short-range connectivity between nodes in densely populated regions; Long-range wireless connectivity in sparsely populated regions; Backhaul connections to the fiber backbone”
Skycoin; Business Whitepaper v1.0; Application ecosystem; 02.04.2018
“its mostly less than 3 or 5 km for most links; 50 km and 500 mbit/second links are expensive; 150 mbit/second and soon 500 mbit /second over 1 to 3 km is doable; with 35 Db gain highly directional antennas; and can be done cheaply”
Synth; Telegram; Skycoin Main Channel; 01.02.2018
“for 50 km you need a huge dish; atleast 30 cm; right now we are doing the 10 or 12 cm dishes; so people can put them on the roof and start playing with it”
Synth; Telegram; Skycoin Main Channel; 24.03.2018
“Sky-high connectivity costs remain one of the biggest obstacles to achieving the universal access pledge. To buy just 1GB of data in Africa, for example, costs an average citizen nearly 18% of their monthly income. Though broadband prices continue to fall, they simply aren’t dropping fast enough. Meanwhile, high and growing income inequality in many countries conspires to ensure that only the relatively rich can afford a private internet subscription, and public access solutions remain few and far between. A majority of countries are failing to take the action needed to drive prices down and enable access for all.”
A4AI; Official Website; 2017 Affordability Report; February 2017
“Without strong competition, [broadband] providers can (and do) raise prices, delay investments, and provide sub-par quality of service. When faced with limited or nonexistent alternatives, consumers lack negotiating power and are forced to rely on whatever options are available. In these situations, the role of good public policy can and should be to foster competition and increase consumer choice.”
Barack Obama; 14.01.2015
“This is the smallest Skywire node. It is just a USB stick, it has Wifi, it costs like 15 dollars … This will be three dollars in two years.”
Synth; YouTube; Koreanjewtrading interviewing Synth; 25.04.2018
“As a node, you are paid for the resources you provide to the network.”
Skycoin; YouTube; What is the Skywire Decentralized Internet? A Skywire Primer; 29.05.2018