Developers and tech entrepreneurs have created a silent but consistent mission to decentralize the internet. The goal is to make it a safer place for people to transact and communicate without the need for intermediaries.
What does decentralizing the internet mean? It means breaking away from the big centralized organizations monopolizing the internet which are collecting, harvesting, and selling data from its users. Decentralizing the internet is to create small communities of alternative networked platforms not just run by large corporations but rather communities of users who control and own their personal data.
A decentralized web means giving back the power of the internet to the user and rather than the centralized middlemen. According to Brewster Kahle, founder of Internet Archive, decentralizing the internet means bringing the internet up to date and changing it to respect user privacy and make it more reliable. A decentralized web can still be run by tech communities but the power and control of user data needs to be in the hands of its users, removing the aspect of third party user data sales and big data mining.
Fed Up Internet
Why are some of the best minds in the tech industry banding together in order to decentralize the internet? The main reason is for attention surrounding the misuse of security measures which ultimately hold the keys to users private data. Internet users are angry at the current state of the world wide web. And through documentaries and widespread messages on how big tech companies operate, users are realizing how the internet has become somewhat of a toxic and intrusive place where users need to provide all sorts of private information before one can do anything as simple as downloading, accessing information, using apps, and communicating.
Currently, the majority of web applications and platforms are centralized in large data servers owned by only a few large corporations. It can be said that these corporations have monopolized the internet because they have taken control of what people can see and do on the web. A study by Pew Research Center shows that 91% of Americans have already lost confidence and admit that they have lost control of how their personal information is collected online.
The Clamor For Data
The internet is recording everything in one’s life, and according to Forbes.com, the everyday devices you are using inside your homes may be the culprit. The smart television keeps track of what you watch, and data on flash drives you insert on USB ports can be read and transmitted. Cable and satellite televisions can track what you are watching, and companies can use that data for audience targeting on advertisements.
So why are the big companies tracking you? The answer is simple—data. Information is money and power. According to Wired, the Internet of Things is not about making a profit on selling smart devices. It is about monitoring and keeping track of everything you do so that they can gather data. The more information a company has on their consumers, the more they will be able to make calculated decisions regarding marketing, advertising, the content shown online, and the buying patterns of consumers.
Internet users are beginning to feel powerless. They think that the internet has betrayed them by taking their privacy away. There must be a better way to do things, and it seems that blockchain is the key that could change the way people will use the internet in the future.
Decentralization Through Blockchain Technology
Blockchain technology is the concept and foundation on which the decentralization of the internet is seen to be implemented. It has everything that users are looking for— security, transparency, and reliability.
Blockchain is a technology which relies on encrypted and hashed blocks and is currently being used to run cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin, Ether, and Litecoin. But it seems it will soon have a more significant role than just powering digital currencies. Blockchain may just be the foundation of the decentralization efforts to change the future of the internet.
The blockchain system is a public distributed ledger technology in which everything is timestamped, records are irreversible, and data is individually encrypted. With blockchain technology, everything you do is recorded, verified, and most importantly, cannot be tampered. It can be the solution to the increasing need for transparency that the world wide web lacks today.
How Will Blockchain Help Decentralization?
A decentralized internet under blockchain technology will allow storing information in different places instead of a centralized network. This diversified storage system will prevent data from being erased by the centralized network or blocking users from access.
With blockchain, security is in the hand of the user. Public and private key encryption allows the user to have his own authentication system, ensuring more privacy. It eliminates the need to centralize the storage of usernames and passwords, making you wonder if the system could access your files and spy on you. The use of passwords could be eliminated, and you will only need one secure identity to access everything you need online.
- A decentralized web can have the following components:
- An independent login system
- An alternative way to store, access, and download files
- A peer-to-peer system of payment
- Distributed computing and storage
- Decentralized money transactions
One of the significant changes in a blockchain system is that payments will be direct through digital currencies. For instance, listening to music and using specific programs will be possible by paying through digital coins.
A lot of people automatically dismiss e-currency as a lost cause because of all the companies that failed since the 1990’s. I hope it’s obvious it was only the centrally controlled nature of those systems that doomed them. I think this is the first time we’re trying a decentralized, non-trust-based system. –
While decentralizing the web stems from an urge to be more virtuous and ethical, it is not a perfect solution. There are loopholes in the system that will be difficult to patch.
For instance, it will be harder to regulate censorship. There will be many hate speech, and it will be easier to hide malicious photos, videos, and information because the user can encrypt it. And since blockchain activities cannot be changed or erased, there is no way to erase malicious information online.
On the other hand, the benefits are pretty promising, and one perfect example would be how much it will help today’s freelancers.
Benefits for Freelancers
The use of blockchain can be a big help for freelancers. According to Statista, there are 64.8 million freelancers in 2020 in the U.S. alone. Majority use today’s popular freelancing platforms such as Upwork, Fiverr. However, these platforms take a percentage of the client’s payments as a processing fee. They either take a fixed dollar rate or a percentage for every completed transaction.
Blockchain technology can help eliminate these middleman platforms, and clients and freelancers can transact directly. There is no need to worry about fluctuating currency exchange rates and the additional transaction fees on money transfers. These transactions can be done instantly, unlike current platforms that take days before the process is complete. Grindez is a platform which enables this shift in blockchain and cryptocurrency payments, leading to a truly decentralized nature of freelancing.
How You Can Get Involved
There are groups out there whose mission is to turn the dream of decentralizing the internet into a reality. DWeb, or short for decentralized web, has a mission to connect like-minded people and collaborate to build a decentralized web.
The decentralization efforts are not just happening in the U.S. Efforts are being seen in different parts of the globe, including Belgium, Prague, China, Berlin, Greece, and the Czech Republic. It is a growing movement that is slowly gaining traction.
But the concepts and efforts are still at a birthing stage. There is no way to predict how soon the decentralized web will come to mass adoption in the coming years. But if you want a sneak peek of how it’s going to run, you might want to look into the platforms below:
Top open-source, decentralized platforms
- Filecoin is a decentralized cloud platform that aims to build a more trustworthy internet. It offers a storage network with built-in incentives.
- OpenBazaar is an online e-commerce platform that connects buyers and sellers via peer-to-peer networks.
- Dtube is an alternative to the popular Youtube. Anyone can watch videos or sign up and upload videos. The difference? Youtube is run by Google and Dtube by a community. Videos have no advertisement and no censorship.
- Some are still in the experimental stage, like the Beaker Browser. It uses Hypercore Protocol, a peer-to-peer data-sharing network. You can visit websites without the need to go through servers.
- Free TON is a high-performance, scalable and secure blockchain platform with a throughput of millions of transactions per second. TON users will be able to make transactions for less than $0.01 in fees, and pay less than $0.05 per coin exchange transaction (swaps).
The decentralization of the internet is a new and exciting concept that many tech experts are beginning to embrace. The idea can be too overwhelming for the ordinary person at first. Implementing this new technology will require a bit of effort to teach and learn because the system and interface will be different from the internet we know today. But it can be an alternative solution in the future to break the monopolistic control on the internet and stop the privacy, intrusion, and security breaches users experience on the daily. It is up to the developers who ultimately build the applications which mainstream users utilize in order to forego this mission. More importantly, it is up to you and me to bring awareness to the decentralization of internet.
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