Cryptocurrencies and micropayments geek. Head of Product @ Mysterium Network
Just when we thought 2020 couldn't get any stranger... the darling of the internet, Google, was knocked offline for millions of people worldwide.
Though down for just under one hour, you could still trust in the Twittersphere to become a breeding ground of unhelpful memery.
A favourite selection;
Google claims that the issue came down to a "reduced capacity for Google's central identity-management system, blocking any service that required users to log in." The main services affected were Google Cloud Platform and Google Workspace (GSuite).
Google infrastructure is distributed, with servers across all continents. But it's important to note that these depend on each other and are controlled centrally. They are upgraded centrally. They talk to each other through a central system - not just by using the same protocol, but through a shared software that is operated by the same employees.
And yet it's not necessarily centralisation of servers and cloud components that is the issue, but of the Google ecosystem overall.
If the Web 3.0 (also known as decentralised web) would have been widely adopted, such a huge meltdown would not be possible. Parts of services may be not accessible in some regions, but not as widely as the #GoogleDown event.
And this is the problem with a centralised internet and control; while centralised services are more convenient because they're easier to run, when they don't work, they don't work for everyone. This became painfully obvious when millions of people experienced this “Google blackout”.
Many people now understand how dependent we’ve all become on Google; Email, Documents, Meet, Maps... Some people even had no electricity due to issues with Google Home.
And if an internet giant like Google can suffer such a major attack - denying millions of users access to basic internet services - it just goes to show that under the surface of the shiny web interfaces we see, Internet infrastructure actually hangs in a delicate and vulnerable balance.
Now, just imagine how much information about us Google owns? What if this meltdown was the strategic work of hackers? What could they learn about you, and more importantly, how they could use that information against you?
This time Google went down due to technical issues. But who knows - it’s even a possibility that in the future, this kind of event could happen due to a police or FBI intervention at Google HQ, through the use of governmental power.
When it comes to the Internet, governments can easily shut things off in their own countries. Luckily, they can’t shut it down anywhere else.
I'm also really afraid that having too-large-to-fail corporations is just as bad as having oppressive governments.
This is why at Mysterium we want to avoid having any kind of core control over our node network. If we don’t “own” or manage your information, hackers would not find any information about our users if they hacked our computers. Similarly, governments can't ask us to reveal anything, because there’s nothing there to see. We also can’t sell your information.
After this Google “crisis”, we’ll keep rushing towards even more decentralisation in our network components. Other services should try to do the same. And I hope that decentralised Youtube and other services are just around the corner. With the Web 3.0, (decentralised) services are built the same as the Internet itself - they're unstoppable and uncensorable.
That’s the power of the Internet - it’s already decentralised. We just need to protect this power and enhance it.
In its early days, most Internet services and protocols were decentralised.
Email is a decentralised protocol. It doesn't matter that most people are using different but major providers such as Google, Yahoo and Hotmail. You don’t have to be a Google user to email someone who has a Gmail account (when it is working ;). A couple of years ago, most businesses were running their own email servers and were not dependent on behemoths like Google.
We also had chat applications, such as IRC or Jabber (even Google Talk was using the decentralised Jabber protocol). Users were able to set up their own servers and choose from a variety of different applications. Having installed one app, I was able to communicate with people using completely different apps.
What has happened?
Corporations have adopted the principle of “my application — my protocol”. But this is dangerous. I can't see the source code of that app, so I cannot know what it actually does - maybe it’s used to track me, share my private data, make me pay for the service anytime, and so on. Also, if I don’t like that app, I cannot replace it with another one. Now apps are owning us.
Incentivisation is a key for turning the Internet (and its services) back to its decentralised roots, and this time in a more meaningful and democratic way.
Google is centralised because that is how they make money. With blockchain and its permissionless API for payments, we have hope that building sustainable, decentralised services will be possible again.