We live in exciting times. Internet decentralization is no longer in the far off future. It’s here. But what exactly is decentralization and why is it a big deal?
In general terms, decentralization is the process of moving control away from one central authority out to multiple local authorities. Power moves away from from faraway bureaucracies and closer to nearby representatives who are in touch with local communities.
When it comes to the Internet, the impact is profound. Decentralization means moving away from hosting user data at the same central location as the service being provided. Ultimately, it means that users will host their own data.
Decentralization requires a re-think of the authority and architecture of organizations. Current established Internet authorities must be challenged. Right now, entities like Google and Facebook believe your data is their property — they have no incentive to change their business models.
Centralized solutions like Facebook must be “one size fits all” to work. At the user level, this approach stifles innovation since actual human beings, with their quirks and nuances, are not so easy to categorize as social algorithms would have you believe. That’s right, everyone is unique. If entrepreneurs seek innovation, they must focus on users, not services.
Innovation without a use case is not innovation. It is profiteering.
But now decentralization is here. New protocols standardized by the W3C mean that most proprietary social APIs are obsolete. Emerging social networks refuse to be siloed. They’re choosing to federate. My own company, Manyone, will decouple user identities (and data) from content hosts — allowing decentralization at the peer-to-peer level!
Decentralization is opening up new markets for individually tailored experiences. Right now, the bulk of user experiences are decided by algorithms. On a decentralized social network, where close-knit communities create familiarity with one another, creative humans can create custom experiences for other humans.
Because decentralization is so radically different from how the Internet currently works, its biggest challenge is having people understand it. Nevertheless, decentralization is essential if civil liberties are to be protected. It’s taken the COVID-19 pandemic for society to realize why decentralization is important. Contact tracing apps from Apple and Google have educated people on its benefits.
The benefits of decentralization are vast. Decentralization offers all of us complete control of our digital lives. It allows for redundancies of service so that if one node powers off, data is still backed up through other nodes. Owning, securing and controlling your digital identity will enable you to customize what online services you use as well as how you use them. No longer will you be at the mercy of Big Social and their opaque Terms of Service
Because who better to be in control of your data than you?