Decentralized web will return to online users the former power

Original author: Matthew Hodgson
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imageThe author of the article contrasts the centralized platforms of large-scale corporations with digital solutions that are under the control of the online community. The concept of “Decentralized Web” or “Web 3.0” is not a futuristic initiative, but the coming future. In this context, the question of the coexistence of centralized and decentralized digital ecosystems becomes particularly relevant. Below is the text of the original material translated by the Wirex blockchain service team .

Recently, Google launched a video call application. That's right, one more thing. Google Hangouts was relegated to corporate customers, while the new Google Due should replace it, becoming the next cool topic in this segment.

So now we have Microsoft’s Skype, Apple’s Facetime and Google with its Duo. That is, now every large company has its own way of implementing the same idea, and they all work on their own, separately from others. But no matter how good these applications are, the current situation is different from our ideas about the future of the Internet, which appeared in those distant and full of dreams years when the Internet was at the beginning of its journey.

The real idea behind the web and the Internet was, if you remember, creating a common neutral network in which every user, acting from a desire to benefit society, could equally participate. Fortunately, we are currently witnessing the formation of a new movement, seeking to bring the web back to its original form. In the work on the new concept, even some key figures are involved since the emergence of the World Wide Web. The movement was called "decentralized web" or "Web 3.0". It describes the emerging trend of developing Internet services, the successful functioning of which does not depend on any one “central” organization.

So what happened to those first dreams about the web? Most of the altruistic attitudes faded away during the first dot-com bubble, when people began to gradually realize that the simplest way to create value based on this neutral structure was to develop centralized services that collected information and limited its availability for subsequent monetization.

Search engines such as Google, social networks like Facebook, and chat apps like WhatsApp have grown enormously to a large extent through the provision of centralized online services. Facebook's vision of the future of the Internet, for example, implies broad access only to some limited group of centralized services that have received its support ( and Free Basics).

At the same time, this approach renders fundamental freedoms for all users of the web, such as the ability to refer to content using a URL or the ability of third-party search engines to index content. Instead, the user has to share content only within Facebook and use only his search tools.


The concept of “Decentralized Web” paints us a picture of such a future in which basic services responsible for communication, currency, publication, social communication, search, data archiving and others are provided not by centralized service providers owned by individual organizations, but by with the support of a group of living people, individuals. In other words, with the support of the “community” of users.

The basic idea of ​​decentralization is that the work of a service cannot be blindly trusted by a single all-powerful company. Instead, responsibility for the service is shared. Separation is possible either between multiple servers working together, or between client applications within a fully “distributed” peer-to-peer (peer-to-peer) model.

Even though such a community may be a “gathering of intriguers” and have no reason to trust and rely on each other, the rules of behavior of any decentralized service are designed to force all participants to behave honestly in order to be able to use the service. Ensuring control over the responsibility of all participants relies heavily on cryptographic techniques, such as tree hashing and digital signatures.

In general, there are three main aspects that can fully rely on protection and support within the framework of the Decentralized Web: privacy of personal information, data portability and their security.

  • Inviolability of personal information. Decentralization makes inevitable increased attention to the integrity of the person’s personal information. Data is distributed throughout the network, and end-to-end encryption technologies play a key role in ensuring that only authorized users have access to reading or writing data. Access to information as such is provided only on the basis of algorithms controlling the operation of the network. This approach is fundamentally different from the centralized, where any network owner, as a rule, has full access to any of its data, simplifying the study of information about the customer’s identity and its subsequent use for advertising purposes.

  • Data portability. In a decentralized environment, users own their information and choose with whom they want to share it. Moreover, they retain control over it, even when they refuse services of one or another service provider, provided, of course, that the service generally has at least some concept of service delivery. This is an important point. If today I want to transfer from a General Motors car to a BMW, why can't I take my driving history with me? The same approach applies to chat history or medical information.

  • Security. After all, we live in a world of ever-growing security threats. The more data is stored in a centralized environment, the more attractive it becomes for potential intruders. Decentralized environments are safer in nature and are better able to resist attempts at hacking, illegal entry and third-party takeovers, are less prone to bankruptcy and any other threats in general because they are developed from the very beginning with an emphasis on public control.

The emergence of the Internet gave impetus to the tremendous changes in society, allowing to combine many completely different and unrelated local networks and provide them with a new, neutral, common basis for interaction. Now we are watching the development of a similar trend associated with the gradual emergence and development of technologies capable of performing the functions of a new unified framework for higher-level services. This situation is also very similar to the emergence of Web 2.0: the first wave of the onslaught of Web 3.0 services reached us several years ago, and since then we have been seeing steady growth in this direction.

Git has gained widespread popularity as a full-fledged decentralized version control system, almost completely replacing centralized systems such as Subversion. Bitcoin is famous for showing everyone an example of a currency that exists without any central authority, and thus is very different from other popular services, such as PayPal. The Diaspora project aims to become a decentralized alternative to Facebook. Freenet greatly simplifies the process of creating decentralized websites, email services, and file sharing.

There are other, less well-known examples, such as StatusNet (now GNU Social) - a decentralized alternative for Twitter or XMPP, developed from the very beginning as a decentralized competitor for such large repositories of correspondence stories like AOL Instant Messenger, ICQ, MSN and others.

Telephone switchboard operators, presumably 1914. Source: reynermedia

Anyway, earlier these technologies as a rule had the glory of radical geek fantasies. And, of course, geeks happily forgave their offspring with both their unpreparedness for the mass market and the extreme dissimilarity to any popular modern software. However, now is the time for change. The preferences of the majority began, finally, to change in accordance with the understanding that complete dependence on huge platforms concentrating data in one place is not always in the best interests of users.

It is also important that we already have a new generation of “decentralized startups” who have managed to attract the attention of the mass market and have truly announced the advent of a new era.

Blockstack and Ethereum showed everyone that the blockchain is not just a cryptocurrency and can be successfully used as a set of structural elements for creating decentralized systems that require a strictly regulated consensus. IPFS and the Dat Project are completely decentralized information environments where ownership and responsibility for data is shared among all participants who have access to it, and not stored in one place.

A truly tangible shift in mass consciousness occurred in June at the Summit of the decentralized web organized by the Internet Archive.. The event brought together many “fathers of the Internet and the World Wide Web” to discuss ways to “rescue the web from imprisonment” and rethink the World Wide Web in order to make it more “reliable, protected in terms of personal information processing and interesting”.

Founder of the Internet Archive Brewster Cale, "father of the Internet" Vinton Cerf and Sir Tim Berners-Lee, "father of the World Wide Web" at the first summit of the decentralized web in San Francisco.

The creator of the Internet Archive, Brewster Cale, said that he considers it paramount to accelerate the decentralization of technology. At the same time, his organization is considering options for transforming the Internet Archive from a centralized system into a decentralized one, managed by users of its community and stored on their computers, instead of continuing to exist in its current highly risky and vulnerable form.

In addition, the enthusiastic presence at the summit of Tim Berners-Lee, Vinton Cerf, Cale himself and many other representatives of the old Internet school showed for the first time in all this time that the shift towards decentralization attracted attention and found support from influential circles.

Tim Berners-Lee, in particular, said the following:

The web was created as a decentralized system, so that everyone could participate in his life, having his own domain and his own web server, and this idea did not work. Instead, we got a situation where the personal data of each individual was locked up in such repositories. [...] Thus, there is a proposal to revive the idea of ​​a decentralized web.

Return power to the people. We think that we will be able to make a social revolution by making only minor adjustments: we are going to use web technologies, but we will do it in such a way that the concepts of “application” and “data” will henceforth be considered separately from each other.

Now we are faced with a challenge, which is the need to help these technologies grow and make a full launch in the mass market. From a commercial point of view, huge value is hidden in decentralization: while the current generation of data warehouses is gradually becoming a thing of the past, new ones functioning on the basis of a new single system will definitely appear in their place, just as it did with the original version of the World Wide Web.

Github is the exemplary representative of this movement. A $ 2 billion company has grown from a simple idea to provide a set of value-added services based on decentralized Git technology. At the same time, the ability of users at any time to easily collect their data and refuse service services in no way damaged the process of growth and development of the company.

It will be quite natural to see a new wave of similar companies providing decentralized infrastructure and commercially beneficial services based on it. And as more new opportunities arise in this brave new world, this wave will only grow.

It is difficult to predict what the final version of Web 3.0 will ultimately lead us to, but this is the essence of the process. The release of the web from the hands of several players will make inevitable a surge of innovation and will “bloom” first of all those services that consider the interests of their users as priorities.

Apple, Google, Microsoft are based on their own interests, and so it should be. But it also means that such companies often consider the user only as a source of income. At the same time, the user himself pays for such an attitude, in the direct and figurative sense.

As the Decentralized Web raises a growing interest in mainstream developer communities, it is becoming increasingly difficult to say which new areas of the economy will be developed as a result of this process and which new types of technologies and services will be invented by them. One thing is certain: they will maintain their community and user base to the same extent that they serve the interests of their creators.


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