A Proposal: A New, Fair Internet Model to Restore Economic Balance

Fair warning, this is going to be a long post. A couple nights ago I had a lengthy discussion with my father on the future of decentralized internet, how it would look like, how its economics would work, and more. We came to a conclusion about a totally new incentive model that I would love to share with you all here in its entirety. I only ask that we all keep an open mind to new ideas–my only goal is the same as yours: to help bring about truly decentralized and fair internet infrastructure. I would also like to greatly thank MaidSafe and @dirvine and the core team, since I likely wouldn’t even be talking or thinking about this right now without them!

Before I share the new structure, I need to point out what is wrong with the current one, and how the domino effect creates one distortion after another, causing a big imbalance and mess.

  1. First and foremost, we have the ISPs that provide the hardware to access the conventional internet. For this service, they charge the end-user $xx per month. The user pays this amount in order to gain virtually unlimited access to the world wide web. However, the entire monthly fee goes to the ISP and not the content creators, which is why the user connects to the internet in the first place. This is problem number one: the ISPs would not exist without the content creators (who mostly provide for free), and yet take 100% of the profits from the end user.

  2. Next we have the content creators / innovators. The people who spend their time, effort, and money for creative purposes, and try to make a living off of it. They have a couple options:
    a. Release their content for free and resort to making money off of the accompanying advertising, or even resort to selling the user’s private data. This can apply to musicians with youtube advertisements, journalists with ads in their articles, facebook’s free social service, etc. This is the predominant method and, in most cases, is not enough for sustainable living for the average creator.
    b. Charge a one-time fee (like an iTunes download) or a monthly fee for unlimited access to your products (Netflix). In most cases, people will choose the free options, whether they’re free due to advertising or illegal methods (torrents). Unfortunately, in most cases content innovators are still scratching their heads trying to figure out how to make a living doing what they love. Which now brings me to…

  3. The consumer. By nature, the majority of all traffic is made by consumption from the creations of the innovators/builders (the very ones trying to figure out how to make money!) And this makes sense if we think about it: a video or song is produced once and listened to countless of times (Gangnam Style, anyone?); an application is developed by one person, but used by many; an article is written once and spread throughout the world; or even a facebook comment is posted once and read by 500 friends.
    The problem here is the vast consumption that is done for free (except, of course, to the ISP that doesn’t share with the content creators).

Similarly to an ant colony, there must be a careful balance to the entire structure, otherwise there will be major problems. Whenever someone consumes something for free, he is doing so at the expense of someone who creates something. This creates an imbalance that ultimately discourages innovation. Although the consumer may receive something for “free”, this mentality is actually what will require him to work at a loathsome corporate desk job rather than earning money from his own innovation, thus leading to his own misery.

So what is the solution to this imbalance? MaidSafe has brought us a long way in the right way of thinking. It enables the “farmers” to earn money from storing other peoples’ data, which brings us away from centralized server storage. However, another crucial piece of the puzzle is paying app developers based on their apps’ usage. A crucial component here is that the end-user does not pay the app directly: the payments are handled by the network, and thus the creator is getting paid.

But now we have to ask: where does the money come from that pays these content creators (and farmers)? This is where MaidSafe falls short: the money comes solely from other content creators through their PUT requests! I hope you are beginning to understand what I am proposing. A network is in imbalance if it’s based upon content creators funding content creators. This should be changed. It is for this reason I propose a few important ideas:

  1. Most importantly, that consumers, the GET requesters, pay money in order to restore the balance of consumption and innovation. If a user wants something (and also creates load on the network), he should pay for it. The payment would be to the network in direct proportion to how much he has downloaded and uploaded.
  2. Because the consumer is paying for downloads and uploads, they do not pay anything to the ISPs (i.e. an individual’s wifi router or ISP company). ISPs will provide direct, free, and unlimited access to the network, and in return, the network pays the ISPs accordingly. This creates a further incentive for ISP competition. How much they get paid for their service is another discussion.
  3. This way, all content and service creators get paid by the network, without any exceptions, for the use of their content (similarly to app builders). This is ultimately paid for by the consumers.

MaidSafe has brought things a very long way with its new system, but it is simultaneously dragging in the antiquated business models of the conventional internet with it, which holds the same travails for content creators. In my proposed system,

  1. All service providers and content creators will know that, no matter what, they will be paid by the users who need or desire their work. To be just for the end user. the user does not have to pay up front to the ISPs for access. If users don’t pay their fees, they are rejected by the entire network as a whole–not the ISP.
  2. ISPs would have an incentive to provide direct access to this network and provide fast and reliable service. More downloads/uploads on their service would mean more payments by the network. Existing ISPs would eventually want to join in.
  3. Consumers would want to join the network due to all the innovation and good service going on there. They would get unlimited access to the entire network and only pay for the amount of data they use, and the funds automatically get distributed to all the parts of the engine that allowed the consumption to happen: the ISPs, the innovators, and the computers that hold the innovators’ files–in other words, the entire chain! (Don’t confuse this consumption model with the current ISPs’ attempts to throttle data usage–that is very limited.)

Another important topic that would need discussing is how money is distributed to content creators. One solution is to have different categories of payments for different types of content, such as videos, news articles, music, etc. The price charged to the end user for each data access is calculated by the network by multiplying the price tag of each service and content involved in the download.

There have been many discussions here about how content creators can be compensated (such as a thread here), so I wanted to throw this out there. Some of you may be wondering how such a network could ever get off the ground (esp. if the conventional internet offers so much for free for consumers), but ultimately, I think that a) if the end result/idea is desired and perceived as good, and b) people are willing to make the reality happen, then c) the way to implement it will naturally follow.

I would love to hear some feedback from all of you!


I love economic discussions. It’s good to be thinking outside the box. Here’s my thoughts.

The ISP solution does not seem plausible for the following reasons.

  • ISP’s hold a monopoly over the physical cable/telephone lines in their area. They don’t share wealth because they don’t have to. Expansion of their services also costs money.
  • ISP’s want local fiat currency because they have to pay for technicians, maintenance, power, construction, etc. If they received Safecoin for their services, they run a secondary risk due to crypto exchange volatility. It’s hard enough trying to keep pace with fiat valuations alone.
  • ISP’s, in some cases, can be pressured by governments for control. I don’t see this trend getting better. Collaborating with ISP’s means making it known they are supporting the SAFE Network. We might be better with a “don’t ask don’t tell” anonymity approach.

If the ISP gives free access, would it have to know if the consumer was accessing the SAFE Network VS the regular internet?

If the ISP doesn’t know, then users could exploit free access to surf the regular internet at the ISP’s expense. I can hear some people cheering already.
If the ISP does know, then users run a risk of the SAFE connection being terminated at will.

Maybe I’m wrong, and ISP’s would come around to the idea.

Here’s how I see the break down.

  1. Hardware… user provides.
  2. Power… user pays utility company.
  3. Connection… user pays ISP or Meshnet in the future.

Up to this point, users already manage this part of the chain. The SAFE Network is like a giant online App Store. Users provide their own means (car, train, bus, bike) of getting to the store. But once they are in the store, Safecoin economics take over.

I agree PUT / GET is not a direct relationship. I also think a consumption model GET / GET is more effective, once all Safecoins have been minted.


I disagree with this analysis, because practically anyone using the internet is a content creator to some degree. Whenever you post on a forum, share pictures or videos, write a blog, play a persistent game like MineCraft, you are constantly creating content. You mention dragging in antiquated business models, but I think the producer vs. consumer paradigm is antiquated, at least as far as the internet goes.

I also think charging for GETS is a major obstacle to adoption and discourages browsing. In addition, PUTS consume both bandwidth and storage space, while GETS only consumes bandwidth. I firmly believe that storage is in essence far more scarce than bandwidth, and that bandwidth scarcity is an artificial problem, mostly present in regions where there is no proper competition between ISP’s, like in the USA.


I love the out of the box thinking. I think finding a way to not rely on the land lines would get you past the antiquation.


Personally I dont think content creator reimbursement is the top issue. On the one hand I would never want the price to be higher than the current rate for a second of gross human attention based on a global average and on the other I am much much more interested in shifting all the risk back onto the supply side. Our current system is all about enabling innovation through socializing the the cost of risk. Its a centralization cluster f.

We need systems that remove all the risk from the end user because that is empowerment. Flattr at critical mass might do that. And not all decentralization is equal. For instance the states rights side of American federalism has not worked out as a decentralized check on power so much as a collusion of centralized powers, making it hard to get rid of institutionalized racism etc. We decentralize down to the individual end user and do not invoke global lock out over supplier interests.

To me, with some obvious exceptions, suppliers are fungible and the system exists to best serve the individual end user as an end user. As pointed out above end users are also contributors and in a creative role, people taken as end users are the only stake holders. It is their situation we must maximize.

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Me too :smile:

I actually agree with most of your points on ISPs. Hypothetically speaking, if we had only mesh networks, do you think this would be a viable economic model?

At the start of such a system, there’s no way an ISP will come on board, no doubt. One of MaidSafe’s main ideas, though, is that existing anonymizing networks like Tor and I2P didn’t take off because there was no incentive for people to support the network. MaidSafe is making it possible to earn money from helping it grow. Why can’t the same logic be applied to incentivizing mesh networking to grow? As it stands, if SAFE (or any other network) doesn’t incentivize it, it’ll go the way of Tor–never gaining mass adoption (even more so for a meshnet since it needs a mass amount of people to even work). If SAFE would implement it, only the ISPs (e.g. individuals) that directly support MaidSafe would get paid, whereas the big ISPs that don’t won’t get paid.

Eventually, if the incentivizing process works, the big ISPs will want to take part in order to profit as well. They will know the users are using SAFE, but privacy is still secure. Eventually, I’d say the incentive for individuals to set up their own hardware routers will outgrow ISPs anyway.

Thanks for the link, will read through it. I wonder why you think all safecoins being minted is a necessity? The distribution to various parts of the chain would still be the same idea as initial distribution to app developers and farmers.

Really? I mean, technically I’d agree with you, with massive emphasis on “to some degree”. A lot of research has also shown the 1% rule when it comes to online communities. There are many more users who lurk than contribute anything. A single person can browse cat pictures, listen to spotify, watch youtube, binge netflix shows, and much more, all in a single day. 80% of reddit users only lurk. Even if you were right that the majority of users also contribute content, it’s still a fact that the content contributors will still consume more data than they create. Even every single thread on this MaidSafe forum has at least a 1:10 or 1:100 view:post ratio. Surely you’ve viewed at least 1000x more posts on MaidSafe.org than you’ve posted?

Yeah, how such a network would be started is something to think about. I’m more asking about the virtues of the end product–is it something we want to strive for in the first place?

No doubt PUTS would need to cost more than the GETS. I would also say that GETters would pay money and know they won’t get it back. PUTters would pay money know they can make their money back. Thus, it pays to contribute!

Will have to disagree with @Warren on this one. I think there’s too much risk on the supply side as it is. There are way too many artists, inventors, musicians, and developers whose work will never see the light of day. It’s pretty sad and something I really want to change.

In the end, like I said in my post, MaidSafe is no doubt a huge leap forward for the internet. The most exciting part is that all these theoretical talks about economics will not be theoretical for long. Soon we will be able to see the results of the SAFE system with our own eyes, and that’s very exciting. If MaidSafe gets the voting system right and updates to the protocol can be made seamlessly (cough unlike Bitcoin), then we can make the network adapt to whatever model the end results point at.

Cheers :beers:


Actually there is another point here, think of the advances with Gutenberg or Google etc. lurkers are helping as they are getting educated. Even non contribution to on line forums etc. the mere face people got something of value means as a human they share it through talking or perhaps even building something or saving somebodies life etc.

IMHO there is a fantastic opportunity for evolving when information is consumed, even if the consumers massively outnumber producers. Its a valuable thing that cannot be easily measured, but it is an important aspect of advancing and who knows the more we do the more we are likely to become much more aware of what is important for us and our societies.


But this is also exactly where microtipping is most suitable. If you’re getting something out of it, it’s best to support it, even if it’s a small micropayment. It would not take much out of the consumers’ pocket, and yet with volume (like a 10000:1 view → post ratio for example), the creator gets supported. This will actually create a desirable positive feedback loop: People people will want to contribute more → other consumers/contributers view their content, and pay a small amount → the consumers get value, learn, and evolve → they’ll want to create more content to have fun and get paid by others → and so on. This will create a shift to innovation from consumerism. Why break the cycle prematurely with free content?

I personally believe that following your dreams is the most important thing you can do in your life to feel fulfilled. There are so many people that don’t realize them, and I truly hope that this will change. At least within my lifetime :smiley:

That’s all focused on internet communities, which is rather narrow. We also need to include private and possibly business data, since secure and truly private cloud storage is one of the main features of MaidSafe. It’s about what people currently store on their local drives and business servers, not only about what they share publicly on the internet.

It’s not necessarily a problem, for the system to be stable in the end the network will spread the income of the daily PUTS over the daily GET rewards that the farmers receive. The algorithms should balance that out.

It would only collapse if the PUT costs would become so expensive that people would stop uploading things, causing a downward spiral. Given the fact that storage space is inflationary and the unique features that SAFE hosting provides, that seems unlikely to me.
Though a proper analysis or simulation won’t be possible until we have the actual algorithms…

Agreed. I’ve thought about this as well. David claims they found/made a report that 95% of all data is PUT and then forgotten with half an hour or something like that. I really would have loved to see that report and its sources, since I find it hard to believe. Even businesses employees need to view/use its company’s data.

I simply don’t like the idea of content creation funding the consumption – seems totally backwards to me. But we’ll see how it works out :smile: We’ll all gain something from the results, no doubt about it.

For private data, the producer and consumer is the same person. For privately shared data they’re the same group. Put costs for private data are significantly higher than for public data. Also remember that highly popular public data earns the uploader SafeCoin rewards. So either consumer == producer, or popular public content earns itself back and eventually makes a profit. That profit is mostly paid for by private data uploaders and a little by unpopular public data uploaders.

This is the key metric I will be watching out for when the network launches, the ratio of PUTs to GETs and whether the PUTs will be sufficient.

I was not aware! Where can I read about this? Don’t recall seeing it in the system docs.

Yes. I think this model is perfect for individual Mesh Networks. AFAIK, we are still years away from consumer level quality. But you never know… things change quickly. Once that happens, I think dedicated farmers would also include mesh networking as part of their operations.

I really want to believe it could work out this way, playing nice. But the hard reality is, big ISP monopolies do not play nice. More likely, they will find a way to lobby regulations to ban, disrupt, or hinder, Mesh Network activity in the name of public safety or any other excuse they can make up. We’ll see what happens.

This part may go off-topic
Not really. If you want to distribute (mint) 4.3 Billion Safecoins, you’ll have to introduce it into the economy without reabsorbing it back, otherwise you’d never distribute all the coins.

For example.
1000 GETS (1Gb) cost 1 Safecoin… this assumes the consumer already has 1 Safecoin.
How did that consumer get 1 Safecoin? They bought it from the crowd sale. Okay fine. So that means there will be 0.43 Billion Safecoins able to circulate at launch. How do we distribute the remaining 3.87 Billion Safecoins?

One way or another, there must be a subsidy. In the GET/GET model, the SAFE Network overpays the farmer on GETS.

Example. Consumer pays 1 Safecoin, while the farmer is paid 2 Safecoins.

More coins enter the economy in this way. This can causes all sorts of problems, like runaway inflation. I warned about this event in my Rabbit VS Turtles Analysis. In Solutions # 2 I talk about the total amount of storage on the Network VS the total amount of Safecoins in circulation.

MaidSafe addresses this problem by anchoring Safecoin supply to only increase if Storage capacity increases. And they can measure it using PUTS. See System Docs on Safecoin last paragraph.

Using a PUT/GET model allows us to distribute Safecoins in a more stable way. Once all 4.3 Billion Safecoins have been distributed, we can consider a pure 1 to 1 GET/GET relationship without fear of inflation. Because there will be no subsidy.

I haven’t thought of everything. I’m just a lowly analyst.

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Couldn’t possibly agree more here,

Even after trying reeeeeeally hard :stuck_out_tongue:

I think it’s not in, but it has been mentioned on these forums multiple times by David and other members of the dev team.

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You nailed it with that one Ephi :slight_smile:

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I posted the research at the bottom of this thread a couple of days ago guys, the data came from Yahoo. I will look and how and where to incorporate this into the docs. Cheers.


I have a small suspicion that ISP’s are aware of the threat of mesh networking. Mesh networking relies on proximity - you need to be within a certain distance of each other. Currently the technology most people have limits that distance severely. Over here in Australia they’ve been putting in the NBN (supposedly an Australia-wide high speed (100MB/s) network - the ISP’s still get to control it even though it runs fiber straight to your house. Here’s the interesting thing. I live in a small town and they’ve put the NBN all around the town - to farmers!..but have avoided the town itself. In other areas they seem to be avoiding putting NBN into poor suburban neighborhoods – exactly the places where mesh would take off - I supposed they could be avoiding those areas for economic reasons, however where I am at, there is no justification given, the farmers living well outside the towns get NBN, the small towns do not. It’s a wild conspiracy theory for sure and who knows why they’re doing things this way – maybe it’s just sour grapes on my part - I want high speed too!

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@dyamanaka that was an interesting read, thanks. I do want to point out that you keep referring to it as a GET/GET model, but PUTS would still cost safecoins, as well (likely more than the GETs). Putting data to the network puts load on it, and spam still needs to be prevented. I definitely concur that the algorithm would have to be more complex if paying for both GETs and PUTs. Like I said, we’ll learn a lot once the network launches. All the numbers are still too theoretical to get a clear picture.

@nicklambert thanks, I totally missed that post.

I do want to point out to everyone something important in my proposition that I think was overlooked by many:

Although the ratio of PUTs to GETs will no doubt play an important role, and may end up being a ratio that will keep the network healthy, the main premise I tried to make was not actually about the PUT/GET ratio itself and whether it’s sustainable (I know it might be). It was the principle that creative people should get paid for their work. And by “creative people” I draw a distinction between content created by someone in one minute (like a forum post) and a musician (who posts his music online). They are both PUTs but “not all PUTs are created equal.” The idea is to have the network natively reward creative content as part of its model rather than leaving it up to the creator to decide whether or not he can get paid in the first place.

Again, how the distinction would be made between different types of content, like music, movies, forum posts, etc, is still up in the air. But this is a lot more than just having a network being able to run in the first place.

On a side note, I want to say that while writing this I couldn’t help but think how exciting all of this is. Like @dyamanaka said it’s amazing to even have these discussions in the first place. I never imagined myself being interested in these things only 5 years ago. It’s an exciting time to be alive, and this is what life is all about.


I think the planned micropayment/donation mechanism could go a long way towards that. I imagine it will become like a “Like” button in SAFE. When you appreciate something you click it, and a pre-configured amount is donated to the author. People should set it low enough so that they never feel hesitation to click it if they like something.