What is decentralization? Benefits of a Decentralized Internet
Who controls the Internet?
If you google that question, this is the answer you’ll get:
“No one person, company, organization or government runs the Internet.”
And that is how the Internet was intended and was at first, true. But then a handful of companies started collecting and storing all data. This, to the point that you almost can’t use the Internet without them.
Sure, they may not “own” the Internet on paper, but in reality, they do.
This is why more and more people are calling for a return to the “glory days” of a decentralized and distributed Internet.
But what is decentralization and why would a (more) decentralized Internet be a good idea?
#What is Decentralization?
To understand the decentralized Internet we first need to understand what decentralization is in general.
Decentralization is a type of organizational and managerial structure in which decision-making and day-to-day operations are delegated from top management down to middle and lower management.
In the context of an organization, there are several benefits of decentralization, including:
1. It allows the organization to better diversify its products
When an organization is heavily reliant on a central authority, such as its owner or founder, it inevitably starts to stagnate as no new ideas, save those from or approved by the central authority, can swim to the surface.
In a decentralized organization, however, new ideas, markets, activities, products, etc are much more promoted.
2. Faster decision-making
Since the decisions in a decentralized organization are made closer to the problem and don’t have to be referred through the “chain of command”, this promotes faster decision-making.
In their book “Extreme Ownership”, Jocko Willink and Leif Babin explain the importance of decentralized command:
“With the understanding of the company’s mission and plan to achieve it, junior leaders must also be empowered to take action and make decisions that get the overall team closer to accomplishing that goal.”
3. Getting better executives
With more authority given, lower-level executives are in a better position to take initiative and grow their talent. This naturally makes them better at their job.
4. Less burden on the top management
In a centralized structure, where all decisions are made by the top executive(s), this creates more and more burden on them, especially as the organization grows.
Decentralizing authority serves to relieve a lot of that burden and frees up the top management from operational and day-to-day activities to focus more on managerial activities.
5. Improves control and communication
Although many organizations avoid decentralizing for the fear of losing control, in reality, decentralizing actually improves control. That’s because each department is now more accountable for its own results and their performance can be better monitored and measured.
At the same time, communication is also improved both vertically (from top management to subordinates and vice versa) and horizontally (between departments).
#What is Decentralized Internet?
Now let’s take a look at decentralization from the point of the Internet and the web.
Cory Doctorow, Special Consultant at the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), a leading non-profit organization for defending digital privacy, free speech and innovation, says that:
“A Web designed to resist attempts to centralize its architecture, services, or protocols so that no individual, state, or corporation can substantially control its use.”
We’ve already talked about why a centralized Internet is a bad idea, including having:
- A single point of failure
- A single source of information
- And the question of “who owns the data”?
Now, let’s take a look at the alternative and see what the benefits of a decentralized Internet would be.
#What are the Benefits of a Decentralized Internet or Web?
Just like decentralization in general, decentralized Internet also has plenty of advantages, including:
1. Truly own your data
Big Data companies became “big” by monetizing your data. In fact, if say, Google disappeared one day, it would take your data with it for good.
In such a scenario, can you say that you own your data?
In a distributed and decentralized Internet, however, you will both be able to store the data yourself and be the only one with the keys to them.
2. No more single point of failure
Did you know that all data that is uploaded to Facebook must pass through one of its data centers? The same goes for Google, Amazon and the rest of the Big Tech.
Now, it’s true that Facebook (or Meta) has many data centers, but if any of them fails, that’s millions of users’ data exposed because of a single point of failure.
In a decentralized network, however, participants themselves contribute to the storage capacity. This means that, if one of them fails or gets hacked, the others can jump in and plug the gap.
3. You don’t have to put all your trust in a single, central authority
While some trust in a central authority is necessary, for instance the trust in the government to protect us against criminals, that trust has its limits.
Take the situation with Flickr in 2019. Flickr was a popular photo-sharing site owned by Yahoo, but it has over the years, fallen on some hard times.
In 2018, the site was acquired by SmugMug and the next year, started deleting Flickr images of free users.
In fact, according to one user, SmugMug deleted 63% of Flickr’s photos.
This is a perfect example of the danger of “putting all your eggs into one basket” and understanding that we don’t have to put all our trust in one place as we can never know if that’s going to fail.
4. More free speech, less censorship
Censorship doesn’t come just from countries like China or Russia. It is also prevalent in the United States for example.
With the Internet controlled by Facebook and Google and they themselves have to defer to the government, free speech is becoming a rarity and is often subdued and even stomped on.
In truth, this is probably one thing for which we can’t blame Big Tech for. If they refuse, their central serves can get shut down so they have to play along.
However, with decentralized web and peer-to-peer networks, this is much harder to do as communication doesn’t go through any server.
5. It will help the Internet grow
Yes, the Internet, as huge as it already is, can get even bigger if it gets decentralized. This is where we come back to diversifying the product. If one organization, even a big one like Google, is working on everything, things get slow.
If, on the other hand, several organizations work on different Internet and web problems, we can get more solutions, tools, products and services that help the user faster.
Is decentralized Internet without fault? Of course not. We shouldn’t forget that it comes with its set of challenges.
However, at Telios, we believe that decentralized Internet advantages clearly outweigh the disadvantages, especially when it comes to your data privacy and security.