Information is free. Anyone can voice their opinion. The internet is perhaps the space where we have the most freedom in our world today. However, the internet can become even more decentralised than it is and the crypto technology has a big hand in shaking things up.
How is the internet centralised?
Technically, the internet is not completely centralised – no single corporation or organisation owns the internet. However, only a few physical large corporations are responsible for hosting key elements of what we consider “the internet”.
Think Facebook, Google, Twitter – these are some of the giants that are responsible for keeping our web pages, social media, and email available. This means that these companies have a huge role in determining how the internet runs and how it impacts our lives.
Risks involved in a centralised internet
When so many businesses, jobs, and perhaps personal relationships are dependent on the services of these companies, it puts our lives in a vulnerable position. According to research, about 73% of Americans use the internet daily. Can you imagine what would happen if one of these servers go down?
Now that more individuals and businesses are becoming reliant on the internet, the internet has also become a bigger target for hackers. Loss of data and leaked information are some of the worrying effects of successful hacks but what’s more worrying is how big corporations’ lack of transparency on the matter. In 2013, a successful hack on Yahoo’s server has caused lots of data to be lost but the corporation has remained vague about the type of data that was stolen.
Besides being vulnerable to hacks, there’s also a high chance that your data with these big corporations are sold and monetised. Facebook is still getting heat from selling data to Cambridge Analytica, where personal information was harvested without the consent of users.
Enter the decentralised internet
The first Decentralised Web Summit was held in San Francisco, June 2016. In the summit, developers gathered to discuss and push for a decentralised web through blockchain technology. Unlike the centralised internet, a decentralised internet does not rely on servers. It relies on a peer-to-peer network. The internet would be hosted by devices connected to the internet instead of being hosted by high-powered servers. A website would be spread across different nodes on different devices which prevents a single server from crashing due to hacks or attacks.
Cryptocurrency and the decentralised internet
The blockchain technology, the pinnacle behind cryptocurrency, has a big part to play in decentralising the internet. Due to the cryptocurrency craze, interest in the blockchain technology and what it can do is rapidly rising.
Read about how blockchain works here.
The blockchain technology allows peer-to-peer transaction without the need for a third party or broker to oversee the process. This technology could cut out regulators, banks, middlemen, and now, it can even cut out main players of the internet. Additionally, the blockchain technology can encrypt information, storing parts of data in different parts of the network which makes users less vulnerable to cyber attacks.
Projects pushing for a decentralised internet
As the decentralised internet is sparking greater interest, more developers are working towards making it a reality. Just as there are new altcoin projects popping up everywhere, many projects aiming to create a decentralised internet are materialising. Some notable projects include ZeroNet, Skycoin, Aion, among many others.
At the moment, these projects are still relatively new and many of them require enough funding in order to achieve their goals. As the decentralised internet is an ambitious goal to achieve, creating an infrastructure that can be used by millions of people will require more research and development. Although blockchain has proven itself to be a technology that ensures peer-to-peer encryption, scalability is still an issue that developers are grappling with.
Will we really be moving towards this “new internet”?
All the hype with cryptocurrency has brought about a revolution in the financial world and also in other aspects of our lives. Since the internet is such an integral part of our lives, transforming this virtual space is going to be a great feat. Nonetheless, the vision of a decentralised internet is still pretty new and there’s still a long way to go before this new system can replace the internet we know today. Other than technological problems that developers need to grapple with, there’s also the challenge of getting users to want to be part of the “new internet”. A peer-to-peer protocol shifts responsibility away from third party servers and onto the users themselves. Whether a decentralised internet can work not only depends on technological revolutions but also users’ eagerness to hop on to this new system.