Decentralization refers to the fact that the Internet is governed by a large number of people. It consists of millions of devices connected in an open network. It cannot be owned, controlled, or turned off by a single actor. The Internet and the World Wide Web remain the world’s largest decentralized communication system.
While the idea of a decentralized blockchain-based Internet is gaining steam, its practical implementation will necessitate a pragmatic and balanced approach throughout the whole ecosystem.
The Internet is decentralized in the sense that it cannot be controlled or owned by a single entity. It consists of millions of devices connected in an open network. Decentralized networks are not owned by any one entity. They can’t be shut down, turned off, or otherwise manipulated.
But the fact remains that the process of decentralization remains imperfect and incomplete as it is currently implemented and managed. There are several shortcomings in the current state of Internet decentralization:
- • It is controlled by a small group of entities.
- • It is vulnerable to hacking, manipulation, and censorship.
- • It may lead to the emergence of monopolies.
- • It may have security holes that are exploited by malicious actors.
- • It can be manipulated by a single actor.
The Internet has become an important part of our lives today, but it’s still vulnerable to attacks and manipulations. A decentralized Internet will be more secure than the current version and will enable people to enjoy a safe online experience with complete freedom from censorship and surveillance. It’s time we take steps towards realizing this vision of an ideal Internet in which all can participate without being subjected to surveillance or government control.
Problems with the Centralized Internet
The current Internet is controlled by a small group of entities that are in the possession of private data. These entities may be privately-owned organizations, government agencies, or other organizations that have access to our personal information.
The Internet is vulnerable to hackers and manipulations. It is a relatively easy task for any malicious actor to manipulate the information on the Internet and even gain access to it. This may include viewing private information or even accessing private accounts, such as email and social media accounts.
Online censorship is another problem with centralized networks. The ability of an organization or government to control content available on these networks has been abused in many countries across the world. Government agencies have used this power to suppress dissident views, silence political groups, and even stifle free speech in some cases.
For example, Facebook was used by members of the Egyptian government during their crackdown on peaceful protests against a crackdown against peaceful protests against former President Mohamed Morsi in 2013 (BBC News). During this time period Facebook was used by regime supporters as well as members of President Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood party (BBC News).
With a centralized network like Facebook there were two sides with opposing views who could not communicate whatsoever without being censored or punished by an authoritarian regime (BBC News). A decentralized Internet would not allow censorship like this and would make it impossible for governments or powerful entities to control what people can see online (OpenNet Initiative).
Decentralized Internet Projects
There are many decentralized Internet projects in development that aim to solve the problems with the centralized Internet. One such project is Blockstack, an open source project that aims to decentralize Facebook.
In short, Blockstack is a protocol for creating a decentralized version of Facebook that allows users to control their own information and data privacy. The user’s data will be stored on their computer and not on Facebook’s servers nor any other third-parties (Blockstack).
The software behind this protocol has been created by Blockstack Labs, a non-profit organization based in San Francisco dedicated to developing solutions for privacy and security on the Internet. The protocol itself was released to the public in September 2016 (Blockstack). It currently has over 1,000 contributors and has been downloaded over 30 million times.
Another decentralized project is IPFS (Interplanetary File System), which is an open source peer-to-peer distributed file system designed for content addressing and content distribution. IPFS makes it possible for users to store files without having them stored on any centralized server (IPFS).
Instead of storing files across multiple servers this system stores them across multiple computers all over the world which means there are no single points of failure or censorship issues of any kind (IPFS). This means that if one computer were to be hacked or taken down all data would still be available from other computers around the world (IPFS). This would make it impossible for governments or powerful entities to control what people can see online or what kind of information is stored on their computers (IPFS).
Issues with Blockchain Internet
Blockchain is a very powerful technology that can do many things, but it has many issues. One of the most important issues is scalability (Blockchain). The reason for this is that the blockchain in its current state cannot handle more than about 15 transactions per second (Blockchain).
As the number of transactions on the blockchain increase, so does the amount of bandwidth required. If a single transaction requires more bandwidth than an entire country can provide, then there’s no way something like Bitcoin or Ethereum will ever be able to become mainstream (Blockchain).
Another issue with blockchain is that it still has not yet been optimized for mobile devices. There are currently only a handful of companies globally who are making mobile-friendly wallets available to consumers and merchants alike (Blockchain). This means that although blockchain can be used on computers and traditional debit cards, it still has some major hurdles to overcome before it can become mainstream.
In summary, decentralized Internet projects have the potential to make an enormous impact on society. Blockchain could potentially eliminate centralized data storage and give users control over their own information and data privacy. Decentralized Internet projects could also make censorship impossible by removing centralized servers from the equation entirely.
Finally, decentralized Internet projects could enable users to store files without having them stored on any centralized server making censorship impossible as well by removing third-parties from interacting with users’ information at all (OpenNet Initiative). If these three trends become mainstream we could see a major shift in the way we use technology and interact with each other as a society.