How More Decentralized Internet Would Change Our Lives
"Decentralized" has become a bit of a buzz word in recent times, but that shouldn’t obscure the genuine promise behind the concept.
New technologies like cryptocurrency, blockchain, and others have dragged the idea of decentralization into the spotlight, and sparked up a big conversation about what it could mean for us.
Ultimately, decentralization means a move away from a system where centralized, third-party institutions are the status quo. It’d mean more localized and democratic networks, formed of individuals of equal rank.
Could decentralization really change the world? It could certainly change the digital world, which is already pretty decentralized by nature.
More freedom, transparency, security, and many other benefits could be brought about by relying less on third party's dominance. These are all good things, but they also sound a little vague.
Let’s take a look at some of the concrete ways how more decentralization could improve the net and our lives.
Reduced third party's dominance
One of the problems with the digital universe right now is the sheer power wielded by third parties and centralized corporations.
One of the best examples of this is the Facebook and Google duopoly. Together, these companies account for almost three quarters of all digital advertising in the United States.
This kind of unrestrained power needs to be challenged, because it gives these organizations way too much control. A clear example of these came about during the Cambridge Analytica scandal, where it was found that Facebook had allowed a third-party app to harvest users’ personal data without their consent.
That’s just one of the instances where third parties have been irresponsible with their enormous power. There are many others that are easy to conceive — companies can get shut down, go out of business, or suffer a massive cyber-attack.
When you rely heavily on one centralized provider for things like email, storage, and communication, you’re setting yourself up to be in big trouble if it ever collapses.
With a decentralized system, things are much less risky. Instead of relying on a third party to look out for you, you and other users are a part of a more democratic and secure network. And that brings us neatly onto the next point.
Instead of a few central points, vulnerable to failure, data in a decentralized system is shared between a large community of users.
This way, it’s harder to hack, as there’s no central point to target. It also vastly reduces the risk of internal corruption and fraud, as there’s no central power that can easily take over the whole system.
Above this, there’s more freedom of information and less censorship, as again there’s no Big Brother character in control and with the power to make the rules. The result is a safer and more democratic environment.
One big security advantage of decentralized systems relates to domain names. If these are decentralized, there’s less risk of DDoS attacks, which are an enormous problem today. This also reduces the risk of data breaches, like the devastating Equifax breach which continues to make headlines.
A decentralized software ecosystem
In a centralized system, software products like apps and dApps are isolated and siloed. This makes it difficult or impossible to combine their features, and leads to a lack of collaboration between both users and developers.
End users face a bundle of annoying subscriptions to manage, or in the case of dApps find themselves managing a portfolio of confusing cryptocurrency tokens. There are too many separate apps, which leaves users overwhelmed and makes them limit themselves to just a few favored apps.
With decentralization, things could be different. Cardstack wants to make the digital software universe more decentralized, allowing users to mix and match their favorite features between apps, and share different elements of software.
They won’t be forced to manage huge collections of subscriptions and tokens, and will instead get to enjoy a more flexible and user-friendly way of doing things. The Cardstack ecosystem will function as a kind of decentralized hub for software services, making it possible for users to easily access the best features of their favorite apps and dApps from the same place.
It’ll be done through a token-based system, where users pay for individual app features and developers are rewarded fairly based on how popular their software is.
This is just one of the ways in which a more decentralized and open internet could benefit people at all levels. In future, decentralization could well become an increasingly important part of our digital lives.
We should embrace this new way of doing things, and look forward to an internet that isn’t dominated by centralized third parties and their flaws.