The Internet is one of the largest decentralized systems ever created. At least, that's what we believed and it was true at first. But the advent of Blockchain has made us think again about what decentralization means.
Today the Internet is dominated by big technology companies, Internet service providers and various large companies. They have taken on the role of gatekeepers and have allowed the Internet to become a global surveillance tool.
But is a truly decentralized Internet possible? What does decentralization mean and how can it keep us safe?
Blockchain and Internet decentralization
The Internet is many computers connected together. A system without owners. There is not a single company that "owns" the internet, or represents it: an explosive growth over the last two decades. Each of us can connect to the Internet and create / produce content.
At least, that's what happened in the early days of the internet.
Mozilla Internet Health Report
According with the Internet Health Report 2018 from Mozilla, Google accounts for 90% of global searches on all devices. Google's Android smartphones and Chrome browser are also the most popular in the world.
Google's global dominance means that, for many, Google is the Internet. Google services, through Google devices, with access to Google Cloud servers.
Although Google seems to dominate, there are many other equally powerful companies, such as Amazon Web Services, which account for 34% of all cloud storage. Facebook, the largest social network, has over 4 billion users on Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp.
Amazon's business practices, Facebook privacy scandals, and Google's intrusion into our personal data for targeted advertising purposes have caused many to lose their credibility online, and have provoked numerous reactions from users.
Bitcoin became widely known in 2017, due to the sharp rise in the price of cryptocurrency. The incredible price also created a great deal of interest in blockchain technology.
The blockchain, according to unknown Bitcoin creator Satoshi Nakamoto, is a decentralized public book. Every transaction made with Bitcoin is registered in the blockchain and shared throughout the network. No one can control the blockchain that allows innovations like decentralized applications.
The domain name system (DNS from the domain name system) is the internet directory. Converts numeric IP addresses to URLs that are easy to remember. But it is a central process that is vulnerable to surveillance and of course to censorship.
One of the largest DNS servers operated by Google. ISPs also have multiple DNS servers. Each time you enter a webpage URL in your browser, it is sent to a DNS server. Your ISP or Google then saves your request. Saved files include the IP address and name of the site you are visiting.
If a DNS server administrator decides that you should not visit a site, you can block it. So governments as well as large companies can take advantage of this central system for censorship.
But let's look at another example:
Namecoin is a decentralized cryptocurrency that stores data in the blockchain to generate alternative DNS. So instead of URLs ending in domains that use .com or .net extensions, Namecoin uses the .bit extension as a top-level domain. Addresses are stored in the blockchain so everyone can access all addresses.
DNS poisoning (change of IP address to DNS) is commonly used by criminals to send you to malicious websites but also by governments to block access to certain websites.
The blockchain is public and permanent, which does not allow DNS poisoning. Privacy concerns will be a thing of the past as IPS searches will be done locally on your computer after typing a domain, without logging your request to DNS servers.
Private Internet privacy
Although blockchain is one of the most popular decentralization methods, it is not the only one.
Social networking services are considered to be one of the most important threats to privacy. Despite these concerns, no one is abandoning large social networks, as they have made it easier than ever to make easy contact with people. Fortunately, there are also decentralized privacy-friendly alternatives.
Mastodon uses a federal distribution also known as Fediverse (from the federated distribution). So there are many running Mastodon servers (anyone can host the Mastodon service). Account users can interact with anyone else on Fediverse.
Diaspora also uses the federated distribution with the social network Friendica. Both networks advertise their approach to privacy, stating that your data is yours alone.
Open source software
Open source projects are considered more secure, as anyone can read the code they contain. However, open source software is primarily a voluntary job. So coherence and quality can be very difficult to have a stability as no one can commit volunteers. But apparently there is a solution:
The BugMark, a new project supported by the foundation Mozilla. It concerns a future error logging service. The novelty of the project is that it tried to find a way to reward developers with rewards for completing the project.
The Bugmark project decided to use Ethereum payments, creating two markets: one between the financier and an investor and one for the commercial completion contracts.
With the above if the project owner chooses to complete only a part of the project before selling the contract to another owner, the developer will receive compensation, and the project will not be lost. The Bugmark project aims to keep growth open forever.
Are you ready to decentralize?
Although the Internet is arguably easier and more accessible than ever, with more free services, it is costly and expensive. Just to mention that we have negotiated our privacy for convenience.
While it is not yet clear if Bitcoin will last, the supporting blockchain technology could define Web 3.0 with an emphasis on decentralization.
Will we be able to get rid of the technology giants?