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How Blockchain is Decentralizing the Internet

Read 5 min
Blockchain on an orange background
— The internet expanded as a result of commercial adoption. This brought with it a lot of good but also some miserable drawbacks.

— Because of monopoly control online, corporations mean that the end-user suffers from a lack of ownership of online identity.

— Blockchain offers a neat way to fix some of these issues and gives the option of control back to the user.

— The focus on collaboration and better approaches to security, storage and distribution mean that the playing field is level for all users – rather than central authorities.

— With blockchain powering internet, you get to own your information and online identity.

— Collaboration means the network has control and the ecosystem becomes digitally democratic.

Blockchain is not just about money or even NFT’s – it’s also changing the structure of the internet, and bringing your data back under your control. Here’s how.

The internet has been instrumental in how innovation has developed and the web has led to some incredible technology. But the web as we know it today isn’t the way it was designed originally. Commercialisation has led it down a dastardly path of centralisation and monopolisation, which means the user isn’t in as much control as they think they might be.

Luckily, there’s an alternative on the rise. Blockchain is stepping in as the next phase in the evolution of the internet and the road ahead looks a lot more friendly to the end-user.

Disentangling the history of the web

Cast your mind back to a time before the internet. Libraries were information sources, the Amazon was just a river, the local sport’s fixture was broadcast on radio. It sounds like a different sort of life, right? In a way it was. The internet has inarguably changed the world as we know it. From shopping with the click of a button to you being able to read this on the device in your hand, the dotcom era enabled the world to take broad leaps into what was completely foreign territory – the world online.

Before it blew up to what we know now, critics predicted that the internet would go out of fashion and that interest in this new “online space” would fall as the dotcom bubble burst. But their nay-saying was shut down (unlike the internet) and a lot of that is thanks to commercialisation. 

You see, the internet didn’t start life the way we know it today. In fact, the early vision of the ‘net shares similar values to blockchain. Quick nutshell history lesson: British scientist Tim Berners-Lee invented the world wide web while working at CERN with the intention of automating information-sharing between universities across the world.

One of the most important points made in the early iterations was that the web should always remain open for all to use and that no-one should be able to own it. It was an open-source information hub designed to connect people.

The cost of the internet’s expanse

However – and it’s a big however – things only took off as big corporations adopted it, making it easier for our everyday Joe to use the ‘net. 

And yes, yes, while that commercialisation has made way for some extraordinary innovation, the expansion comes with some ugly caveats.

Caveats include a shocking lack of privacy of data, general security issues, monopolies, manipulation, and a skewed distribution of control and wealth.

Online there’s generally an underlying sneaky pay-to-play tactic. Sure, you might not be paying out of your pocket per se, but you’re sure as heck paying with your information. We use “free” essential services online daily but it comes at the cost of data and privacy. Like the old adage goes, “if you’re not paying, you’re the product.”  

But what if there was a better way to enjoy the internet without the ugly side?

You’re in luck! It turns out there is. The neat resolution lives within the clever concept of blockchain technology. Blockchain means that the online playground can be safer, more transparent and more accessible for everyone – without sneaky tactics.

Essentially, blockchain takes the unfair model of the internet – where corporates tend to have a monopoly of control – and flips the script – giving the power back to the individual and levelling the playing field.

Okay, that’s cool. But how does blockchain technology resolve this?

One of blockchain’s coolest aspects is that the focus is on collaboration rather than competition. It encourages more individuals to jump in together and act as a community. The exciting implication here is that a community means there’s consensus, rather than one entity controlling a system – blockchain is decentralizing the internet. Think of it as a digital democracy rather than online oppression.

How blockchain can give power to the people

A distributed network among peers

Banks tend to have a heavy hand in controlling the movement of money which leads to a monopoly in the economy. This means Joe doesn’t really have complete control over his money and has to pay for it to be stored. Not ideal for Joe, we know.

Imagine if Joe was able to hold, store, spend and safely own his own assets without institutional interference. Well, with Bitcoin and other blockchain-based digital currencies, he can. Blockchain allows a financial system which cuts out the middle-man (such as banks) and makes a distributed network a much more fair, accessible and affordable operation for the end-user.

Resolving the privacy problems

As it stands, the digital version of you and your information isn’t really owned by you. Every time you hit the “accept” button to terms and conditions regarding your digital property and information, you’re giving it away. 

Luckily you don’t need to “go off the internet grid” to protect your digital identity. Through the transparent nature of blockchain tech, you don’t need to offer your identity or store those details in a central database. With blockchain decentralizing the internet, you get to choose what level of privacy you’re comfortable with during a transaction. 

But you just told me blockchain transactions were transparent, how are they private as well?

Great question! It’s like this: While the blockchain is public, users’ identities are linked to a pseudonymous wallet address. So if Joe sends $100 to Jim, everyone can see that $100 has been sent from one wallet to another but no one knows that Joe or Jim are part of the transaction.

Value as an incentive

Blockchain aligns the incentives of all involved (not just the big guys) which encourages behaviour that benefits the entire blockchain network. As a result, people are incentivised to collaborate and create effectively, rather than compete for control. 

It solves a destructive incentive system and takes concentrated power from the large corporations. It means that control and wealth are better distributed across the world. 

Imagine a world where there are fewer massive players in the game and more room for equal opportunity. Doesn’t it sound delightful? That’s because it is! and with blockchain in place in systems across the world, it’s possible.

The beauty of blockchain in action

Smart contracts

Keeping smart simple: A smart contract is basically a blockchain-based agreement between people. The people involved draw up the Ts and Cs which determine how the smart contract executes. The main benefits of using a smart contract are that they offer transparency between parties (which makes trust an easy factor to manage) and that they cut out intermediaries, such as lawyers, making the overall process more streamlined and cheaper.

Defying the odds against monopolies with DeFi

One of the exciting advantages DeFi offers is that financial applications which usually rely on the expensive and tedious middle-man process (such as loans, insurance, crowdfunding, etc) can be controlled by the user. This means lawyer fees, corporate payments and general commission is cut out and there are no waiting games when submitting your applications. Smart contracts. Smart technology.

Nifty NFTs

NFTs stand for non-fungible tokens. While it might sound like some sort of mushroom (it’s not), it actually just means that each asset or token is unique and different from another asset or token. Let’s put it this way: One US dollar equals one US dollar (fungible). But one painting by Van Gogh does not equal another painting by Van Gogh (non-fungible). NFTs are most commonly collectable pieces (art, music, baseball cards) created and sold as blockchain-based assets.

They have become popular recently and they’re extremely helpful in stopping the spread of illegal copies. Why is this exciting? Well, it helps keep the intellectual and digital property safe. The most important thing about NFTs though is that the beautiful combination of code and culture keeps control within the community and means that some middle-man doesn’t own your online asset.

Brave Browser (BAT)

Whatever browser you’re using now is likely storing your data and keeping it to target an advert at you. “Cookies” online aren’t as fun as the ones your gran might bake because they’re storing information from not only you but everyone else who accepts them. 

Brave is a clever combattant to this issue. It’s a free and open-source (two things we like) web browser that blocks advertisements, bans website trackers, and keeps the community secure from monopoly third-parties who want to profit from your browsing. It gets even better! If you opt into “Brave Rewards”, the browser pays you in BAT to view advertisements that are untracked and matched to your interests. 

It relies on the blockchain to run and ensures that privacy of the end-user is the priority.

So why does it actually matter?

Taking the next step in the Age of the Internet is important because it reduces the negative issues and eliminates the possibility of a central figure owning your information or controlling your funds – giving control back to the end-user. This is particularly important when it comes to your data and digital identity. Something we think is important to protect. 

Storing your assets on something like a cold wallet means you have full control of your funds. It’s sweet sweet security that you can rely on without worrying about anyone trying to manipulate it or losing it.

Knowledge is power – so keep on learning! If you enjoy getting to grips with crypto and blockchain, check out our School of Block video Intro to Web 3 for Beginners.

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