The DWeb (Decentralized Web) is slowly coming into the mainstream and a broader awareness. Will it take off though? Can the DWeb become a mainstream version of the Web that most people will use? Perhaps, but it’s still far too early to make any form of a reliable prediction. Right now though, while a great concept, it’s still not ready for prime time.
What is the DWeb?
The key word is decentralized. Right now, most web traffic goes through centralized servers, those controlled by Google, Facebook, Apple, AWS etc. Take Facebook for example. It is a walled garden, they control who gets access and who’s connected. And with all of them, they also get your data. Who you are, what you do, when, with what device and time of day and so on. And they mine all that data, and sell or trade that data with others in their ecosystem. Consumers don’t get compensated and have little to no control.
The DWeb uses a decentralized approach. It allows users to keep control of their data, to decide who gets to use it and how. It works in two ways. First, as a peer-to-peer (remember Napster?) so your computer receives and sends information. Secondly, the links to work differently, rather that pointing to where the information is (a server owned by Facebook) it points to the actual content. In this way, no one central server controls everything and the content can live in multiple places.
Can the DWeb survive and thrive?
Inherently, as I posted previously, we consumers/users are rather lazy. To get to Google or Facebook or LinkedIn, it’s a bookmark or just typing the URL and signing in. So whoever develops apps and tools for the DWeb will need to keep this in mind. Perhaps the best example of this is Graphite Docs…it works just like Google Docs, but is truly yours. It’s encrypted and controlled by you. There are others, many based on Blockchain technology. There’s also a marketplace of apps called OpenBazaar for buying and selling things.
A lot of interesting things can happen with the DWeb. Great new tools, better protection of your personal data. You’ll likely pay for more things, but in micropayments and a lot may use a cryptocurrency, Ethereum Ether being the favoured one right now.
For the DWeb to truly make it however, the companies and startups creating the apps need to make them easy and accessible and consider not just using cryptocurrencies as the mass market doesn’t understand them and is largely afraid of them given stories of hacking, scams and ransomware. But that’s another post.
A potential threat to the DWeb in the U.S. is Net Neutrality and the current FCC drive to kill it. The upside however, is that being decentralized also offers an opportunity and servers can be anywhere in the world. The risk is carriers monitoring traffic with these protocols and throttling it or demanding traffic fees in the U.S. For America, that would be a danger to throttling innovation, but a great opportunity for other countries to leap ahead and build new tech hubs. For Silicon Valley, a clear threat.
It’s early days. But it’s going to be interesting.