Decentralized or peer-to-peer (P2P) networks are not new. Since the release of Napster in 1999 they have been very widely used, particularly for file sharing. These networks allow users from all over the world to connect directly to each other and share data such as movies, books and music. In 2010 more than half of all Internet traffic was attributed to P2P.

But the use of these technologies is not limited to simple file sharing. Freenet was launched in 2000 allowing people to publish decentralized websites (Freesites) distributed across the machines of the network's users.

A little after that, the BitTorrent protocol was created by Bram Cohen. BitTorrent was and still is particularly well suited to transferring large files in a P2P fashion, allowing simultaneous downloads from multiple peers.

The next notable development arrived after the financial crash, which very nearly brought the global economy to its knees. In 2009 Satoshi Nakamoto released Bitcoin and gave the world a 'trustless' decentralized digital currency that is not controlled by bank, government or institution. The blockchain—the immutable ledger that records all Bitcoin transactions—was something very new, solving at a stroke the difficult and long-standing problem of creating a trustless source of the truth for transactions. The ownership of 'addresses' in the network can be proven by the usage of private cryptographic keys in a Public Key Infrastructure (PKI) — hence the term cryptocurrency. It should be noted, however, that connections between Bitcoin nodes are not fully encrypted.

Autonomi is the next big step in the evolution of P2P networks, combining the vision of decentralized file sharing and decentralized services together with an internal currency and several additional innovations to enhance security, privacy, performance and stability.

MaidSafe, a Scottish company with developers around the world, has been researching and developing this project since 2006. Since that time, many more people have come to recognize the vital importance of a global, secure and private decentralized platform for storage and communication.

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