However, over time, the power balance has shifted, with centralized giants
like Google, Amazon, Facebook and others now controlling huge swathes of the
internet, leaving users almost entirely at their mercy.
People are now starting to be aware of the problem; with scandals over data
usage and more hacks being discovered constantly, the issue has moved forward
in the public’s awareness. But there are solutions being worked on to oppose
the challenges of centralization, with blockchain projects at the forefront, attempting
to bring forward a decentralized way of organizing and managing digital
The Problems With Centralization
On its own, centralization isn’t inherently bad. It can serve a specific
function and may often be the only way to run a unit such as a society or an
organization. For decades, centralized institutions have been the only systems
of governance on which everything has run, and in large part, this continues
The problems with centralization come about when it’s taken to extremes.
When one organization, unit or person has too much control and power, the
system turns tyrannical and, if attacked, can lead to harm. This has always been
the case and holds true today as we’re seeing with the centralized leaders of
the internet. Undoubtedly, over-centralization can have some serious and
For example, security networks with a single point of failure are much more
vulnerable to hacks and breaches. One high-profile example of this is the Equifax breach, which saw tens of millions of people’s
financial data stolen. A single point of failure also leaves networks far more
open to attacks like distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) and ransomware.
Then there’s the Ashley Madison breach, which revealed the identities of unfaithful partners who had
used the site for infidelity. Because the site had retained details of its
users, the hackers were able to hold the site for ransom and threaten to expose
the cheaters, potentially destroying thousands of marriages and reputations.
That brings us to a second point — privacy. It isn’t just people locked in
extramarital affairs who need to worry here. Facebook made global headlines
this year by sharing confidential user data with third-party
companies, who then used it in political campaigning.
The problem is that with excessive centralization, third-party companies
have a disproportionate amount of power. People are getting (rightfully) more
and more worried about these third parties gaining insights into our personal
lives and behaviors and how they might be using that information.
Even worse, a centralized internet is less democratic, so unsympathetic
voices, opinions and views can be censored by the network as they see fit.
Aside from censorship, people also can’t share their content, sell their
products or develop software without a third party taking a big slice of their
profits, which is largely how companies like Google and Facebook have accumulated
so much wealth.
So, how do we shift to a more decentralized web and solve many of these
The Move Toward Decentralization
Blockchain technology and decentralized applications (DApps) could be the
future, if we can support them and help them become established.
These are applications and platforms with no central point and no third
party in charge. They offer security, freedom, anonymity, privacy and fairness
for developers and content creators alike, which are features that centralized
systems cannot provide.
However, for them to move into the mainstream, we need to make it easier
for people to access this decentralized technology.
Right now, centralized services are popular because they’re more
established, widely known and easily accessible. We need to raise awareness of
DApps and encourage their usage and adoption by regular users, driving uptake
and pushing the industry into the public eye.
Platforms like Cardstack are doing this by making it possible for users to access, sample and
consume DApps in one place without having to install multiple applications.
Unlike traditional approaches in which users must install different apps for
different services, the Cardstack model allows integration of Dapp interfaces
into an already existing infrastructure. This means that users can access
multiple functions through the same interface.
For instance, a developer building a new decentralized smart-home insurance
network can link up with other Dapps in the smart-home category and offer them
a widget to incorporate in their workflows. This means that users seeking
smart-home services can go in and out of the insurance network without having
to install a new app.
Even better, the widgets are open source, meaning that the network
participants can improve them at any time. Developers get rewarded for
individual features, and users can mix and match what they want without being
tied to the entire app. Cardstack’s infrastructure ensures that all this
happens securely and transparently.
Another project, known as Casper (not to be confused with Ethereum’s Casper protocol), is working on a
solution to make cloud storage more accessible and affordable for data used by
DApps. Unlike centralized cloud storage, Casper’s decentralized approach is
three times cheaper, more secure and highly transparent. Also, it is compatible
with different blockchains, so it can integrate with different networks.
There are several other solutions out there aiming to boost the adoption of
DApps. As we continue to get deeper into the era of decentralization, more
possibilities will be brought forward, hopefully helping users protect their
data in an easy and accessible way, lessening the problems of centralized
authority and access.