MY TAKE: Can Project Wildland’s egalitarian platform make Google, Facebook obsolete?

By Byron V. Acohido

Most of the people I know professionally and personally don’t spend a lot of time contemplating the true price we pay for the amazing digital services we’ve all become addicted to.

Related: Blockchain’s role in the next industrial revolution

I’ll use myself as a prime example. My professional and social life revolve around free and inexpensive information feeds and digital tools supplied by Google, Microsoft, Amazon, LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter.

I’m productive. Yet, I’m certainly not immune to the clutter and skewed perspectives these tech giants throw at me on an hourly basis — as they focus myopically on monetizing my digital footprints. I don’t know what I’d do without my tech tools, but I also have a foreboding sense that I spend way too much with them.

Technologically speaking, we are where we are because a handful of tech giants figured out how to collect, store and monetize user data in a singular fashion. Each operates a closed platform designed to voraciously gather, store and monetize user data. We have no control over how the tech giants extract and profit from the intrinsic value of our personal data.

Thus far we’ve accepted this as a fair trade. We’re content with all the cool digital services we enjoy. However, the flip side is that the distribution of wealth has gotten as out of whack as it was during feudal times. We have billionaires manipulating politics and taking joy rides into space, while advanced forms of propaganda, spread by the closed platforms we patronize, divides and confuses the populace.

Wildland’s new paradigm

A paradigm shift clearly is in order, one that puts individuals more directly in control of their digital personas. This is not just me saying this. Social theorists like Harvard business professor Dr. Shoshana Zuboff  and economist Jeremey Rifkin have  mapped out thoughtful, well-reasoned ideas about how we got here — and what can be done about it. I highly recommend reading  Zuboff’s New York Times Book of the Year, The Age of Surveillance Capitalism: The Fight for A Human Future At the New Frontier of Power  as well as viewing Rifkin’s riveting speech,  The Third Industrial Revolution: A Radical New Sharing Economy

On the technology front, blockchain systems signal the type of shifts that need to fully unfold. Yet Bitcoin, Ethereum and other cryptocurrencies are mere pieces of the puzzle. A wave of breakthrough systems and fresh business models need to take hold to drive the closed platform models of Google and Facebook into obsolescence.

One such project comes from a group of Polish computer and data scientists and is called Project Wildland. What I gather from reading the Wildland white paper is they’ve set out to segment each individual’s digital footprints in a clever new way that, at the end of the day, will make it possible to assign discreet value to a user’s online moves.

This all happens on the decentralized Wildland platform, which functions like the polar opposite of Google’s or Facebook’s closed platforms. The value of a user’s online activities can then get distributed very flexibly and equitably; some would go to Wildland, some to independent software developers and some back to the user.

This sketch by Joanna Rutkowska, one of the founding scientists, is a visualization of the groundbreaking data management architecture Wildland proposes. The trees on the top layer represent users’ knowledge, which gets divided into new types of “data containers” in the middle, or infrastructure, layer.

The bottom, or marketplace layer, is where the disruption happens. Today, Google, Facebook, Twitter, Apple et. al. essentially lock down the marketplace of ideas. The tech giants control the content and services we’re immersed in and return value to us in the form of free or cheap access to the infrastructure they so tightly control.

This is how we became dependent upon digital services that, yes, are cool and enabling in many ways, but at the same time have proven to be so subversively damaging on a global scale. This is why toddlers are addicted to screens, how Wall Street manipulates financial systems and how despots promote societal chaos. Zuboff and Rifkin eloquently summarize how this came to be. And the Wildland white paper touches on this, as well.

The Wildland marketplace leverages data management infrastructure designed to do a couple of things fundamentally differently: it returns a level of control to the user and it enables the value of a user’s online activities to get distributed to a number of parties. That’s my understanding. I approached Wildland for more context and received a thoughtful reply from Wlodzimierz Gogloza, director of communications. Here’s what he had to say:

LW: How did the idea for Wildland come about?

Gogloza: Wildland is our response to the increasing dominance of Big Tech companies over our digital lives. The Internet as we know it operates within the service-oriented paradigm, which heavily favors providers over users. While you may have access to your online data, your actual control over it is very limited.

Other people profit from your data, and you can be easily cut off from it based on arbitrary decisions made by unaccountable entities. In essence, the users of corporate-run, silo-like services are treated as data points and bits in a revenue stream and not agents with interests that matter. With Wildland, we are challenging this whole paradigm by introducing a data-oriented approach, where the user is the sovereign.

The project grew out of discussions between Julian Zawistowski, Andrzej Regulski, and Joanna Rutkowska, and combines their interests and expertise in decentralized computing, computer security engineering, and the economics of networks and governance structures.

LW: Is this primarily aimed at enterprises, SMBs or individuals?

Gogloza: Wildland can be deployed and used at any scale. It can be used to better organize your own dispersed data, but also as a collaborative knowledge management tool for teams, both small and large. It is also flexible enough to allow many different use cases, not just business or work-related. For example, we are currently using Wildland to help us organize the knowledge we’ve gained during the developmental process so far, but also as an “after-hours” media swap hangout, where we share interesting documents with each other (a short blog post explaining both of these use-cases is available at

We’re a relatively small team of 24 people, but we can see Wildland being used by organizations with a much larger user/member base as well.

LW: Without getting overly technical, can you explain the core functionality?

Gogloza: Wildland is a set of open source protocols and software developed with the aim of freeing users from the dependency on online service providers.

With Wildland we give users explicit control over their data so that they can control where it is stored and who has access to it, and they won’t be cut off from their data based on arbitrary decisions or forced to access it using solely vendor-provided tools. We are also making it easy for users to switch storage providers, move or replicate data between different storage options, and provide them with an option for unmediated publishing and sharing of data without third-party supervision or interference.

There are several ways in which our project is innovative and to a large extent unique. Firstly, Wildland is developed to be backend-agnostic. This means it does not rely on one specific type of infrastructure. Wildland containers (by which I mean the smallest units of information on Wildland) can be stored on your local file system, in network-attached storage, or on a cloud storage service of your choice. We purposefully designed them to be easily movable between different backends. In this way, users are less dependent on their service providers – if you’re not happy with your current cloud storage provider, you can simply move your data somewhere else.

Secondly, to make the migration between different storage options truly seamless, Wildland uses a novel infrastructure-independent addressing system. This basically means that the infrastructure part is omitted from the container address. This way when you move your data from one cloud storage provider to another, you won’t have to update access paths. Your containers will still be available to you under the same address as if they have not been moved at all.

As a bonus, thanks to this approach all your containers are exposed to you as one unified file system. So, no matter how widely your files are dispersed between different storage options, your file manager will show them to you as if they were all in the same place. This makes Wildland something akin to a file-based Internet that you can browse and manage using Finder, Thunar, Konqueror or any other file browser of your choice.

Thirdly, Wildland incorporates “cascading addressing” for easy sharing and discovery of resources. Users can create bridges and share part of their file systems with others without relying on any centralized databases or lookup systems like DNS, for example. In Wildland anyone can create a bridge and distribute its address to a group of friends or a local community. This allows Wildland’s users to bootstrap alternative data-sharing networks in a peer-to-peer, bottom-up, organic fashion.

Fourthly, Wildland natively implements data multi-categorization. Every data container can be assigned more than one address/path and can be accessed using any of them. In essence, paths in Wildland are like tags, which allow you to organize, sort, search through, etc., your data in many ways. This makes Wildland a comprehensive knowledge management tool, and not just a set of rules for managing storage.

As for Wildland’s blockchain features – Wildland itself is blockchain independent and free to use. If you have access to a suitable infrastructure, you can use Wildland for free, without making any payments, interacting with smart contracts, or storing information on some distributed ledger. You do not need any crypto, or even a wallet to run Wildland on your computer.

That said, people who don’t have appropriate backends or the skills necessary to configure them properly, as well as those who need additional storage for their data will be able to buy it on Wildland’s marketplace at a reasonable price.

Transactions in Wildland’s marketplace will be conducted using an Ethereum-based smart contract (the so-called Unified Payment System, or UPS for short). This will involve two parties: a user who is looking for storage space and a provider. Users will not interact directly with smart contracts; they will be using automated agents working on their behalf instead.

Our current, simplified, model for Wildland’s transactions looks like this: providers will register themselves in a smart contract. Their offer will then be cryptographically signed and listed among other providers’ offers in a publicly accessible Wildland container.

To find suitable storage for the user, the agent will match the user’s requirements specified in her manifest with offers listed in the service aggregator container. Once the agent finds an offer matching the needs of the user, it submits a transaction to the UPS smart contract with the appropriate payment. If the provider accepts the transaction, he collects the payment and publishes the encrypted credentials on a blockchain. These credentials are then used by the user to access the backend.

Our goal is to make this whole process automatic, and as user-friendly as possible. Users will only need to top up their wallets and specify their storage-related needs in a manifest. Everything else will be done seamlessly by a Wildland agent.

Wildland’s payment system was designed with transparency and censorship resistance in mind. It also utilizes a novel mechanism that puts users in charge of the platform’s future development.

Part of every payment made in the Wildland marketplace will be converted into GLM (Golem’s native ERC-20 token) and burned to create a special non-transferable, and non-speculative digital token, which we call Proof-of-usage.

This token will be awarded to the user that initialized the value transfer within Wildland and will give her certain rights related to the platform, including voting rights over who should receive bounties for their contributions to the development of the platform.

LW: There has been endless discussions about the potential for cryptocurrencies to materially disrupt legacy fiat currencies. Can you please outline where Wildland fits in this debate?

Gogloza: Cryptocurrencies have the potential to disrupt fiat money, but our goals with Wildland lie somewhere else. We want to break down corporate data silos, free users from the dependency on online service providers, and loosen the grip Big Tech companies have over the Internet.

LW: Can you outline the major milestones Wildland has achieved to date?

Gogloza: Two events are especially worth mentioning here: First, the publication of the “Project Wildland: The Why, What, and How” paper explaining the project’s high-level rationale, and outlining the nuts and bolts of the initiative in April 2020. And second, the release of the Wildland Client 0.1.0 in June 2021.

The client is a core component of the Wildland ecosystem, and its initial version was the first implementation of the protocol described in the “Why, What and How” paper. The 0.1 release, while aimed at power-users only, has already showcased some of Wildland’s unique features: the infrastructure-independent addressing system, built-in multi-categorization of data, and support for a wide variety of backends, from mainstream platforms (like Dropbox, Google Drive, and Amazon S3) to more exotic solutions like various p2p-synced storage options.

The client has just been updated to 0.2, and the new release brings a few improvements and new features, including support for additional backends and new integrations with third-party sources and apps. The software is not yet ready for public adoption, but command-line savvy users should find it relatively easy to use. (To make the onboarding painless, we published a few HOWTOs and tutorials, available at

LW: Can you point me to other comparable, or even competitive, attempts by other organizations to do something similar?

Gogloza: There are several projects aiming to decentralize cloud storage, for example, IPFS, Sia, or Safe Network, and Wildland is quite often lumped with them.


There are, however, a few differences between our approach and theirs. First, we are not in the business of providing storage for users. What we are offering the users instead is a solution that enables them to abstract their data from the backend infrastructure. We’re giving them tools that allow them to use any storage option they want (including p2p-synced storage, e.g., IPFS), and manage the data stored on it as they see fit.

Another big difference is that, unlike most of those projects, we are not asking users to ditch their current providers and move their data to some new backend that forms part of an alternative, decentralized network. We are developing protocols and software that would enable users to take advantage of the existing infrastructure in a manner that favors them over providers.

Our message to Dropbox and Google Drive users is, “If you are happy with your plan, you can keep it” (and we mean it). This may change in the future, but at the moment mainstream platforms outperform decentralized alternatives on many important metrics: convenience, ease-of-use, feature-set, and overall performance. With Wildland we’re not asking users to stop using the platforms that are familiar to them. Instead, we are giving them the tools that allow them to use these platforms on their own terms, and with the bonus of additional features (such as built-in multi-categorization of data).

LW: How will Wildland contribute, going forward, to helping better preserve individual privacy and protect sensitive data?

Gogloza: Bringing back users’ digital sovereignty is Wildland’s raison d’être. Our goal is to give users explicit control over the code and underlying infrastructure. This way, they can decide for themselves where their data is stored, who has access to it, what outside data sources they would like to integrate into their file systems, and so on. With this increased agency comes the possibility of improved privacy and security. For example, by using tools like Wildland’s encryption backend, you can store your data on machines belonging to others without giving them access to the content of your files, and thanks to easy replication of data containers between different storage options, you can decrease the danger of being completely cut off from your information because of a ban, account suspension, or the service being discontinued.

LW: To what extent is Wildland – if at all — envisioned to be part of a new type of economy, perhaps one that distributes wealth much differently?

Gogloza: With Wildland, we are trying to create a new type of Internet economy – one where power is distributed much differently than currently. Right now, users’ interests are secondary to the service providers’. We want to shift the balance of power in favor of users and not only put them in charge of their data but also give them a voice over how the platforms they’re using operate.

To this end, we’re developing a new model of governance for Wildland, with the aim of ensuring that the protocol’s heaviest users will have the strongest influence on its future development.

Wildland users will be rewarded with a non-transferable, non-speculative Proof-of-Usage token whenever they initialize a payment within the Wildland marketplace. This token will then enable them to decide on who is to receive bounties for the further development of Wildland. The more transfers you initialize, the more tokens you acquire, and the bigger your influence is on how the whole ecosystem operates.

We call this model the User-Defined Organization (UDO). While Wildland is the first implementation of the UDO concept, we would like it to be much more broadly adopted in a variety of different projects that could potentially benefit from building the governance model around the actual usage of particular software or protocol.


Pulitzer Prize-winning business journalist Byron V. Acohido is dedicated to fostering public awareness about how to make the Internet as private and secure as it ought to be.

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