Centralized vs. Decentralized? The New Decentralized Internet Networks

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Centralized vs. decentralized internet network is a debate that refuses to go away. Exacerbating the situation is the growing call for systems able to guarantee high levels of data security and privacy, at a time when Cybersecurity is a big threat.

Unlike in the 1990’s where less than 1% of the world population was online, recent research pegs the number at not less than 70%. In the early 1990’s, internet connection was the domain of college students as well as researchers who had to connect a modem via a serial port and use a dial-up service to connect.

For a connection to go through, one had to know the telephone number of the connected computer. It is only after a dial-up that, one was to be able to establish a connection with other networks to access data of choice.

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The organization at the time was very chaotic and cumbersome thus its limitation to a subset of people. The fact that each computer was independent meant that the network was highly decentralized.

Centralized internet connection came to be as companies sought to commercialize internet connections as a way of connecting more people and computers. Companies like AOL and Microsoft assumed the role of internet service providers and in the process acted as middlemen for data access.

While the internet is not 100% centralized, i.e., under the control of one person or entity, the fact that only a few large physical servers, operated by multinationals, provide such connections remains the bone of contention.

Currently, there are only a few web hosting and server companies tasked with the responsibility of providing internet connection, a development that has significantly eroded decentralization aspect of internet connection as was the case in the early years.

Centralized internet connection has since given rise to a string of issues that appear to be getting out of hand by the day. In addition to potential loss of connection, given the centralization of such services, privacy and data security concerns continue to cause havoc.

In 1998 for instance, a server that accounted for nearly 90% of all the pagers in the U.S stopped working, triggering one of the most significant internet connection shutdowns in the country History. Should such an incidence reoccur, the repercussion would be severe and felt far and wide.

Centralized vs. Decentralized internet debate seems to be more pronounced given that almost everything nowadays is dependent on internet connection.

Centralized vs Decentralized internet

Centralized Internet Connection

What is a Centralized Internet?

In a centralized Internet network, there is a centralized point, which can be a server through which all data in a network must pass through, before distribution to various computers or devices.

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In the early days, the internet operated as a standalone network that connected different groups of people and organizations. The fact that the control of such networks was limited to certain groups of people allowed for internet decentralization. That is no longer the case as demand for internet connection has ballooned to levels that earlier decentralized networks would struggle to offer support.

The earlier state whereby information passed through a central point, i.e., server, still exists. Unlike in the past, nowadays there are smaller networks inside bigger networks. The smaller networks can be groups of people or corporations working on unique data sets.

Regardless of the number of groups, all the data accessed all over the world is stored centralized hardware.  For example, all data flowing in and out of the U.S is stored in a certain set of known servers.

Centralized Internet Connection Evolution

The internet as it is now, is a shadow of its former self, given the centralization of the resources used to provide a connection. Multinationals wielding too much power own and operate the servers that act as custodian of the data, which people access on a daily basis. That was not the vision of the people who came up with the vision of internet connection.

In the 1990’s and early 2000’s one could post something online without having to rely on one specific company or service provider. While no one owns all the tools used to provide internet connections now, the fact that such resources are still the domain of few multinationals underscores the centralization aspect.

Google and Facebook own a good chunk of the resources that support internet connections something that most people attribute to cases of privacy issues. It would be wrong to dispute the fact that such companies have invested a great deal in innovative ideas that have made it possible for people to connect to the internet at high speeds regardless of location.

However, consolidation of power and market share among a subset of companies has brought about a string of challenges that has fueled talk for a decentralized internet connection. The emergence of powerful Internet Service providers has made it harder for others to compete in the space something that people fear could have serious repercussion going forward.

Centralized Internet Connection Cons

In the past people had control over content or material they got to read online. That is no longer the case. Social media platforms like Facebook to great extent dictate the kind of news that people get to read online. For those that are in a hurry and don’t wish to peruse the internet for other sources, most of the time are left with no option but to contend with whatever is on offer in such platforms.

Facebook with a user base of about 2 billion people has seen it wield too much power when it comes to content that people access online. Google is another multinational that processes millions if not billions of searches each day, painting a clear picture of its role when it comes to dissemination and distribution of information.

Google search engine tool is configured in such a way that only certain material or content make it to the top of search results, which at times is not fair. Given the amount of power, the firm wields on the internet people are always left with no choice but to contend with whatever answer it provides be it right or wrong.

Google and Facebook are in a position whereby, if they decide to share information be it fake, a good number of people are likely to consume and perceive it as the ultimate truth. It is in the public domain of how Google has over the years manipulated search results to favor its offerings and bottom line, in total disregard of its competitors that might be providing far much superior information.

Few companies becoming gatekeepers of the kind of information that people access online is without a doubt a precursor for disaster at a time when fake news is a big problem. However, with a decentralized internet connection system, such concerns would be a thing of the past.

Security and privacy concerns are other issues synonymous with centralized internet connections. A good number of internet companies own data centers that they use to store people’s data and run applications. Such data centers continue to experience hack attacks, from malicious actors, given that they store all vital information in one place that the actors access with ease and use to commit other crimes.

A data breach at Equifax a few years back led to data of about 145 million finding its way to malicious actors all but painting a clear picture of some of the deficiencies of centralized systems. A hacking incidence at Yahoo also led to the loss of data belonging to over 3 billion users. Hacking incident targeting data storage servers are on the rise as demand for crucial personal data continues to rise.

Calls for decentralized internet connections continue to gain momentum in part because such systems would solve some of the deficiencies of centralized Internet connection.

What is Decentralized Internet Connection?

Centralized vs. Decentralized internet connection stand-off comes down to how people can access data online. Centralized internet networks come with servers that act as custodian of data and through which all data passes through.

Decentralized internet connection, on the other hand, relies on a peer-to-peer network built on a community of users whereby no one single entity is ever in control. In this case, various internet devices act as host of the internet, rather than a group of powered servers. What this means is that any website is spread’ across hundreds of nodes erasing the possibility of a single server acting as the single custodian of a particular subset of data.

Currently, internet connections are provided by governments as well as corporations given that they are the custodian of servers used to store such data. The system has resulted in a monopoly that acts to the disadvantage of end consumers.

Decentralized internet, on the other hand, takes accessibility of data to another level as there are hundreds if not thousands of nodes through which one can gain access to, to access data.

It is for this reason that Decentralized internet is seen’ as an effective way of curtailing government overreach synonymous with the centralized internet. For instance, a project by the name Anonymouse has shown how anonymous microblogs on a phone-hopping network can help spread information and data without government interference.

However, the use of the blockchain powered decentralized internet could be the biggest leap in internet evolution, capable of putting to rest, the Centralized vs. Decentralized internet debate.

Decentralized blockchain network when fully implemented would do away with centralized authorities that call the shots when it comes to connectivity online. Blockchain technology protocol has already proved to have the potential to meet the requirement as it allows transactions to occur across a distributed network without the need for an intermediary to oversee operations.

In a decentralized blockchain network, information is stored in such a manner that no one specific person acts as the custodian. It is also encoded’ such that no one can manipulate it to fit their needs. Such networks are slowly cropping up, providing another way for accessing various services and content online.

Everipedia is a decentralized blockchain network acting as an alternative of Wikipedia but on a blockchain. Mastodon, on the other hand, is hoping to replace Twitter as a blockchain powered social media.

Decentralized blockchain networks are secure by design given that information is time stamped. The information is also stored in such a way that a person would have to get into every single computer to gain access to a given network.

Decentralized Network Hurdles

Decentralized networks face an uphill task to become mainstream and replace centralized networks given the unending string of hurdles on the way.

Mass Adoption

Decentralized internet could remain the domain of the select few as long as centralized networks provided by the likes of Facebook, Twitter and Google remain the domain of most people. For this to change the transition process from centralized networks to the Decentralized network should be less painful and cumbersome to break the status quo.

However, the proliferation of fake news in centralized platforms could as well work to the advantage of decentralized networks seen as a better way of shunning such networks.

Latency Problem

Latency is another big problem associated with decentralized networks and apps. Tech companies have invested huge chunks of money to enhance internet speeds on their centralized networks and apps. However, that is not the case now with decentralized networks.

The lack of high powered servers is one of the reasons why pages on decentralized networks take like ever to load. Slow load times are a big deterrent more so for people who are used to accessing anything they wish online, at the touch of a button.

Increased responsibilities

With Decentralized networks that rely on peer-to, peer protocols, network maintenance responsibility would have to be shifted’ to everyone on the network. The fact that most people would not be willing to shoulder part of the burden to keep such networks going, could provide significant headaches on its widespread adoption.

centralized vs decentralized

MIT explains.

While the hurdles posse significant challenges on the development and adoption of a decentralized internet, emerging technologies are slowly providing glimpses of hope.

Given that decentralized blockchain, network is still in the early phases of development it could be only a matter of time before breakthroughs come into being, thereby enhancing the viability of decentralized internet networks.

Centralized and Decentralized Internet Comparrison 

 Centralized Internet Networks Decentralized Internet Connection
Data Flow  In Centralized Internet Networks data must flow through a Central point i.e. serverData flows through various point without any specific point where it must pass before access is granted
 Data Communication Flow  

Data Communication flow is Vertical

 

Data Flow is always open and Free

Decision Making Responsibility lies with the central point which can be one server There are multiple points that have decision-making capabilities
Adoption  Mass Adoption Still in The Early Phases of Adoption
Privacy / Data Security Privacy is always an Issue as agencies and governments can track flow of information and dataKnown for data security as well as high levels of Privacy
Failure  

Subject To Effects of Single Point Failure

A variety of access points or nodes through which data can pass, averts the risks of Single point failure
Authority  Systematic reservation of Authority in a Network Network involves systematic dispersal of authority to various access points

 

Centralized vs. Decentralized Internet: Differences

Tracking of Data

With a Centralized Internet connection, it is relatively easy to track how data flows from one place to another given that such information goes through one place, i.e., servers. However, with decentralized internet that is not possible given that thousands of devices act as nodes for storage of data. In this case, a person can access a given set of information from thousands of locations instead of one central point.

The fact that everything goes through a single point has allowed the likes of Facebook and Google to accrue a substantial amount of data that they use to their own advantage with total disregard to people’s privacy.

Privacy Protection

Unlike centralized networks, decentralized networks offer a certain degree of privacy that people have come to yearn for in the digital age. The fact that information passes through a variety of points makes it impossible for entities and governments to keep track of what people are doing online.

Decentralized networks are ideal for people who love to keep their privacy as well as protect their identity regardless of what they are doing online.

Single point Failure

Centralized internet connections are always at risk of single point failure, given that data must pass through a given central point before dissemination. Depending on the backup system in place, failure of a server hosting huge troves of data could significantly make it impossible for people to access data at a given time.

Now that almost everything is dependent on internet connection, a malfunction of servers, carrying important applications or data could wreak havoc on almost every corner of the world. Hack attacks of such installation have become a common phenomenon something that has forced ISPs to spend billions of dollars in a bid to protect their networks.

However, with Decentralized internet connection failure of one access point would never make it impossible for people to access data in a network. The availability of thousands of nodes through which people can access information reduces the risk of people of being unable to access data regardless of the issue at hand.

Limited Scalability

Limited scalability is another headwind that centralized networks contend with as all core applications are contained in single server machines. Addition of more storage as well as bandwidth and processing power must always come into play, to keep up with increased internet connection demand.

With Decentralized networks, the architecture allows the distribution of workloads over multiple computer nodes, instead of concentrating it in one place.  In this case, a system is scaled’ out by simply adding more nodes to provide more computing power as well as more fault tolerance.

Data Censorship and Net Neutrality

Centralized internet connection has resulted in powerful companies to the disadvantage of end consumers. For instance, internet service providers can regulate internet speeds allowing them to regulate the kind of data and the speed at which people access information.

Internet service providers no longer treat all data the same. Commercialization essentially means those who pay more, enjoy better connection with fewer restrictions, compared to those who pay less, a development that has brought about the net neutrality standoff.

Bottom Line

Decentralized internet faces almost the same challenges that have stifled cryptocurrencies entry into the mainstream world. While both have the potential to revolutionize the way people live their lives in the near future, they face of stiff opposition and an unending list of hurdles to go mainstream.

Decentralized Internet, without a doubt, has the potential to address some of the deficiencies that have made centralized internet connection untenable. Right from addressing privacy issues to ensuring the security of data, decentralized internet connections stand a better chance of revolutionizing the internet. Such connections would also benefit the end consumer and break the status quo when it comes to how companies handle data.

Centralized vs. Decentralized internet network is a debate that won’t end anytime soon. Multinationals wielding too much power on internet connections are unlikely to cede power and let decentralized networks be the order of the day.


About Author

Swati Goyal has an extensive work experience of more than 6 years, in the field of Finance in diverse roles ranging from accounts, financial research to and Cryptocurreny. She follows the Finance market and enjoys writing on it, Swati's hobby is reading, watching movies and television shows.

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