Hackernoon logoDecentralizing The Internet: The Hitchhiker's Guide by@nich

Decentralizing The Internet: The Hitchhiker's Guide

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@nichNicholas Resendez

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Developers need to band together in hopes of taking back the internet to its original use of free and fair communication that is free for all without reliance of the centralized middlemen

The consistent growth of internet connected devices are the primary values driving a majority of innovations in the technology industries. There is growth in relation to internet usage, as Pew Research Center describes that nearly 93% of American adults use the internet, up from about half of all adults using internet in 2000. The driving forces of growing computation power and human internet interactions can be paired with the growing use of decentralized networks. These decentralized networks aim to disrupt our current centralized networks, where users are no longer in control of their data and security information. Thanks to the progression of Blockchain technology, an increasing number of startups and organizations are popping up with solutions in hopes to give the power back to the people, and so everyone has access to their own keys of their digital footprint.

The network internet effect has provided a gateway for social media influencers, artists, and gamers to expand their reach. Now more than ever are people expecting the internet to provide paychecks, social activities, and basic interactions, which is changing the way society operates through daily life. Because of this shift in internet connected apps, big tech giants have broadened their reach from kids all the way to the elderly. These giant tech companies are harvesting enormous amounts of personal data which is then used to predict future behaviors and ultimately provide value for their own cause. However, with more data breaches happening every year, the centralization of the internet shows clear signs of diminishing returns.

How is the Internet Centralized?

The world wide web, aka the internet used by the majority of users is heavily centralized. The main reason being the way which users can easily communicate and operate their daily needs and wants which ultimately enables big tech companies operations. Since internet users typically express their opinions, needs, and wants online, a tech company will attempt to identify these mutual interests, creating a bridge or in other words, a digital footprint. This bridge can then be connected to another big tech company, ultimately transferring the interests, desires, and behaviors of a user to find mutual interests on other sites. This helps keep users enticed on web pages, showing them relevant content. This can then be used by monopolistic tech companies in hopes of reaping direct traffic from one network to another.

The users are catching onto these internet monopolies. It is quite clear that many internet users believe big tech companies such as Facebook, Google, and Amazon are beginning, if not have already have attempted to take over the internet. Users have become dependent on eCommerce for their home goods, groceries, and nearly any physical goods on Amazon. The answers of the unknown can be uncovered by a quick Google search, but while you're at it might as well check your email, then pull up the Google Maps app to head home. The main problem behind these issues is the centralization of goods and services in which we have become dependent in order to operate daily routines. The questions begs, "why can we just ditch these monopolistic companies and create better concepts?" We can; however, it seems that users tend to utilize these technology giant sites since they offer better interfaces, and quicker services.

Why should the internet be Decentralized?

The signs of negative impacts of a centralized internet can be seen throughout history. Because the majority of centralized networks rely on a single entity, there is no way to assure that users are protected against a form of data breaching nor is there a guarantee of user privacy. In most cases, big tech companies allow for basic privacy policies and controls, but the amount of data which is being collected on users is kept secret and not accessible easily. The centralized site operators have the ability to claim user data without the user even knowing. In addition to these problems, the ability to manipulate beliefs and opinions has proven to be true during election time, and times of social activism. The use of data mining enables tech companies to predict the behaviors of consumers as their browser cookies leave a breadcrumb trail through the world wide web. This data can be extracted, transferred, sold, and traded with very little regulation surrounding the entire data economy.

Although, the creation of centralized networks and sites is more convenient and simple to set up, there are clear downfalls for the users who use centralized sites. If a centralized site is attacked through DDoS or cyber attack, the chances of the site going down and facing a data breach is higher than a decentralized site with multiple nodes and various operators running the decentralized network. These basic concepts are typically offered on decentralized networks such as security, fairness, and transparency. Decentralized systems are not simple attack points as they are connected by distributed systems and attacking a decentralized system would require a significant amount of resources or capital.

  • Citizens have noticed that tech giants and monopolies controlling the internet are using personal information for financial or political benefits
  • Decentralized systems promote privacy for individuals and make them resistant to attacks such as phishing for passwords, personal data, information or manipulation
  • Developers need to create environments which supports privacy and will be faultless
  • Today, much of the decentralized network protocols tend to rely on peer-to-peer (p2p) and or distributed systems because they typically offer reliable approaches to preserving online data.

Discussing Decentralization Challenges

If you can feel the desire of decentralized networks then you will know the desire for transparency within big tech companies. However, leading the decentralization of the internet will not be an easy task. Mass adoption will be a fun barrier to cross. Because explaining decentralization can be difficult to most, expecting users to learn how to use these systems will be even more challenging. However, the emergence of centralized internet services in the early days of the internet was not easy at first either. Many early internet pioneers had to fight regulation, social standards, and previous habits to enable the use of mass internet adoption. And as long as the majority of internet users do not understand how to utilize decentralized networks and sites, a larger majority will shy away from these complications. The growth of internet related startups assists in users understanding the competitive behaviors of big tech companies. Breaking up these giant companies and forcing competition upon them is a great way to create better digital standards.

Internet users to not need additional complications to their daily routines. Adding more steps to onboard users to decentralized services only adds responsibilities for users, which can be a clear way to deter centralized service users.

I believe it is the duty of developers to begin creating applications which utilize progressing technologies such as Blockchain, cryptocurrency, and decentralized autonomous exchanges. In the Ethereum whitepaper, Vitalik Buterin and others discuss the many applications which Ethereum will one day host. Some of my favorite applications which should be developed as described in the Ethereum whitepaper include, Decentralized Autonomous Organizations, Non-Fungible Tokens, Decentralized File Storage, Identity and Reputation Systems, Financial derivatives and Stable-Value Currencies, Full-scale Employment Contracts.

Vitalik Buterin Three reasons for Decentralization

Fault tolerance

  • decentralized systems are less likely to fail accidentally because they rely on many separate components that are not likely.

Attack Resistance

  • decentralized systems are more expensive to attack and destroy or manipulate because they lack sensitive central points that can be attacked at much lower cost than the economic size of the surrounding system.

Collusion resistance 

  • it is much harder for participants in decentralized systems to collude to act in ways that benefit them at the expense of other participants, whereas the leaderships of corporations and governments collude in ways that benefit themselves but harm less well-coordinated citizens, customers, employees and the general public all the time.

Groups Leading Decentralization

Grindez - Freelancer Jobs Marketplace

Grindez is a p2p work platform hoping to lead the decentralized work marketplace. As the go-to job marketplace hosted with cryptocurrency payments, Grindez connects freelancers and customers through smart contracts, enabling robust protections and efficient escrow payments — wherever the different parties are based. If you’re familiar with any of the big and established freelance platforms then you’ll be pleased by the features they have on their freelancer marketplace. *disclaimer I am Founder of Grindez*

OzoneAI

OzoneAI preserves users’ privacy by allowing them more granular controls over who gets their data. Companies can skip over the major advertising giants like Google and Facebook and buy access to anonymized data from the users themselves. The user is paid for the access, and the company gets to use the data for better targeting their ads.

InterPlanetary File System (IPFS)

The main aim of IPFS is to create a decentralized file-sharing system while at the same time storing records on those files so that they are never lost.

IPFS hopes to create a decentralized file system which enables storing and sharing content. IPFS have made great progress since I first discovered the system. IPFS can be compared to BitTorrent as they both allow users to store and share files using hashes. In the coming years, IPFS will assist in storing information for historical and research purposes.

Oasis Labs

Oasis Labs is a privacy-first, cloud computing platform running on blockchain. Oasis creates smart contracts that allow for total privacy without any corruption. Based in Berkeley, California, the company’s cloud computing offers a diversity of options in decentralized trust and privacy protection products.

Final Thoughts

I hope this article provides value in the exploration of decentralization. As simple as it is to understand the need for decentralized exchanges, the implementation of decentralized systems, networks, sites, and applications will not be a quick and easy task. The current complexities of decentralized systems only makes use for those with advanced knowledge in leveraging these systems and may prove challenges to ordinary internet users. And although we notice the gaps needed to be filled in order to fight against centralized big tech monopolies, the responsibility is held on the shoulders of developers building internet applications today. The advantages of decentralized networks are appearing for the future of the internet as free control of data, information flow, and preservation of media content become more important. I truly believe the internet is meant to be open, fair, transparent, and decentralized and I hope internet users begin realize these importances.

Knowledge is Power! Share your knowledge, open source your projects, participate in a community (any community!), and maybe just maybe publish a blog post about it.

Constructive criticism and feedback are welcomed. Nicholas Resendez can be reached on Instagram @nirholas, on LinkedIn, and Twitter @nickresendez for updates on new articles.

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