Updated: Jan 26, 2022
To understand what the decentralized web is and why it has become important, we have to look at the history of the internet and what it looks like today. The internet is changing, but not under the direction of the users themselves. There has never been a greater need than now for a decentralized web.
Although the first internet prototype came into existence in the 1960s, it wasn’t until the late 1980s and early 1990s that it took a similar form to what we see today. This early version of the internet was mostly a network of documents that could be accessed from any location mostly used in academia and science. But it didn’t take long for user groups and communities to form around common interests, leading to forums, chat rooms, and websites operating from basements and college dorms. Free speech was ubiquitous; the internet was a platform for the free and open exchange of ideas. There was no concept of central control or censorship.
eCommerce Changed the Internet
But money changed everything. Not long after the first online credit card transaction before the sharks started circling. For many years, the money pouring in from big business was a good thing; the internet quickly evolved from a patchwork of websites running on a slow and unreliable network, to a powerful online marketplace. From buying music online to shopping on the couch with products delivered to the front door, it was a win-win for both the vendor and consumer.
But Things Began to Consolidate
It didn’t take much time before users were exploited, becoming not only the consumer, but the product itself. There was big money to be made in gathering a massive volume of data on every user, from behavioral, to demographic, and everything in between. Buying a product online meant not only paying for the product, but having the user’s information sold behind their back in order to sell even more products. Although this data meant companies could do a better job of putting relevant products and advertising in front of their consumers, it came at the cost of privacy, having every possible visit, click and behavior recorded and a profile built.
To make things worse, the majority of the word’s website traffic started to funnel through a small number of platforms and servers. Today, most internet traffic goes through websites such as Google, Facebook, Amazon and a handful of others. This consolidation only served to exacerbate the problem of exploitation - not only could these behemoth companies do a better job of tracking, storing and sharing user information, but things were taken to yet another extreme.
With the majority of the world’s thoughts and ideas passing through their servers, these big platforms realized they could remove communications unfavorable to their interests, and generally guide the world’s conversations. Being private companies with power, influence and teams of lawyers, freedom of speech laws did not apply. And soon after, not only were posts, comments, words and articles deleted from existence, the powerful internet companies began to censor information as political favors to ensure their power remained unchecked.
So Why Do We Need the Decentralized Web Today?
The decentralized web unwinds the control structures that threaten to destroy the internet as the public forum it was meant to be. The difference between the web as we know it today and a future decentralized web is where data is stored and who controls it. As it stands now, the majority of the data on the internet is held on a handful of servers owned by private companies. This data can be censored, deleted and manipulated at the free will of these companies with virtually no legal restriction. On the decentralized web, data is stored by the users themselves, not private companies. For example, a social media post exposing the illegal activity of a powerful corporation could not be deleted because it is stored on a network of thousands of computers - any unauthorized attempt to add, edit or delete the post would be rejected by the network. Similar to the Bitcoin public ledger, any rogue attempt by any single, or even a minority of multiple nodes on the network attempting to make a change without the concensys of the majority would simply be dismissed.
Imagine a future where the internet was a reflection of its users, outside the reach of manipulation and control from corporate or state influence… a place where users themselves owned the internet and made their own decisions on what is allowed, and what isn’t. Think of it as the ultimate open-source, free-speech expression of thoughts and ideas the world has ever seen.
The decentralized web is here, but it’s in its infancy and needs people like you to understand and explore its potential. The dWebGuide.com was created to educate new users and connect them to the world of decentralized websites. dWebGuide.com has one of the largest directories of decentralized websites available today along with instructions that can be followed by anyone, with or without technical skills.
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