This week looks at the return of decentralisation to the Internet. Is it really web 3.0?
Command and Control rules today.
Every now and again an article makes you look up and think. That happened this week when I was reading about decentralisation.
The internet was created on the back of the idea that a decentralised network is stronger than a centralised one.
The decentralised nature of the web, combined with open standards destroyed the closed experiences of AOL and its brethren.
Fast forward to the 2000s and peer to peer music providers like Napster appeared and severely dented the music industry.
Today though, the major digital music services are centralised and there is limited peer to peer distribution of music today.
Centralised platforms have taken over, be it Facebook, Google or Spotify. This has been further exacerbated by the rise of the cloud – it has made it faster and easier to created centralised platforms than ever before.
Platforms: Decentralised vs Centralised
The article also suggested that centralised platforms have a life cycle which can be boiled down to initially working overtime to attract users and partner ecosystems in order to scale the platform until those same partners become a threat and control is retaken.
This results in slowing platform innovation and a lack of wider market opportunities from the ecosystem.
On the other hand, a decentralised platform will often be inferior to a centralised platform but over time and with the right ingredients can out innovate and out scale the centralised platform.
Why is this relevent today?
Blockchain, which sits at the core of bitcoin offers the potential to allow for rapid innovation and creation of decentralised systems. It still needs to overcome some major technical hurdles as it struggles to perform at scale but these challenges are being worked on at the moment.
The article by Chris Dixon goes into much further depth and I urge you to go and read it.
Is the future decentralised?
Muneeb Ali, cofounder of Blockstack expands on blockchain and decentralisation imagining what a new world might look like. It is 10 minutes long and worth a watch.
I think he paints a good picture of what a decentralised world may look like but the actual path to get there is unclear and a tricky one.
Just building decentralised versions of centralised platforms is not enough to make people switch.
Figuring out how to pay for maintaining and building those platforms is an even bigger challenge.