Building A More Decentralized Internet: It's Happening Faster Than People Realize

from the you-bet-we-can dept

More than three years ago, I wrote a post predicting that "the revolution will be distributed." In talking about a variety of attacks (mainly on Wikileaks), I pointed out that these were only going to inspire more and more interest in building an internet that is not nearly as centralized, but actually much more decentralized and distributed -- and that those defending the status quo still don't realize what an astoundingly big impact this will have. Soon after, we noted that the real battle lines for the future will be about distributed and open systems against centralized and closed systems. Movement in this arena has certainly been slow, but it's continued to move forward. The Snowden leaks of the past year have really only accelerated the process -- and interest in these kinds of projects.

Over at the New Yorker, they have a pretty good status update on "the mission to decentralize the internet," though, unlike a big centralized project, that "mission" is done in a decentralized and open manner as well. The short summary might lead some to dismiss this whole trajectory -- as many of the initial attempts have failed to gain much traction. But that would be a huge mistake. One of the things that you will see, if you study the history of innovation, is that this is exactly how it always happens. The early projects may have some minor successes here and there, but are littered with failures. But the amazing thing about a rapidly changing world where people are doing things in a decentralized and open way is that each of those failures only contributes to the knowledge for future projects, in which more and more people are testing more and more things, getting closer to hitting that point in the "innovator's dilemma" curve, where the new systems actually serve people's needs much better than the old way.

It often feels like these new systems suck at first, and it's easy to dismiss them as not being real competition for the established ways of doing things -- but the rapid rate of improvement, and the almost underground nature of many of these advancements means that when they suddenly catch on, they'll catch on quickly, and the folks who previously dismissed them as not being viable won't know what hit them. In fact, I've seen a few much more ambitious projects than what Joshua Kopstein discusses in his article, which suggests we're already well on our way to creating much more distributed systems that will make many of the debates we have today about the internet, internet governance, surveillance, copyright and much, much more totally obsolete. It's an issue I'm planning to explore in much more detail in 2014, so stay tuned...

Filed Under: damage, decentralized internet, privacy

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  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 4 Apr 2014 @ 4:41am

    This has already happened

    We called it "Usenet", and it remains the largest, most successful experiment in distributed communication. It will of course eventually be replaced -- but it is far, FAR from obsolete, as those making use of it are well aware.

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