We have billions of websites over the internet, out of which only a few make it to the top in terms of usage. According to Wikipedia and Lifewire, some popular sites based on their unique visitors and total traffic are Google, YouTube, Facebook, Amazon, and Yahoo.
How have these websites become popular?
These websites came up with innovative ideas and eventually became powerful platforms because of their uniqueness in offering services, ease of use, and blazing performance of their sites. As these platforms became efficient, people signed up for their services rapidly and started using them to communicate, publish, and discover content.
How these popular websites brought change to the traditional Internet?
These popular websites have emerged as robust centralized platforms for Internet users’ day to day use, and ultimately, the networks we have today are completely centralized, and they have a single central location, where all data comes in and goes out from. One of the problems with this is whoever controls this central location has full control over network data and users.
For instance, we have a bunch of social networking websites available on the Internet. But Facebook serves as the central attraction for Internet users. Considering Facebook as a centralized social platform, it has made networking a lot easier than previously. The active users of Facebook increased from just a million in 2004 to over 2.3 billion in 2018.
Take Google, for example, the most widely used search engine that brings accurate results from across the Internet based on the keyword search. According to a DMR’s 365 interesting facts report, Google’s share in the US market is 93%.
Are there any issues related to the centralization of the Internet?
Users can face the following top 3 problems.
- Internet user has no personal choice of content
- The privacy of Internet user and data is at the stake
- Single point of failure result in denial of access to all the dependent websites
1. What causes the loss of access to desired content?
Over the years, companies such as Facebook, Amazon, Google, and Yahoo have come to dominate other companies that support the Internet. These centralized platforms attract a large percentage of Internet users’ attention and hold their data, and other companies pay them to make their content discoverable on these platforms. It has turned these centralized platforms into doorkeepers of information and made us believe in following them.
For instance, Two decades ago, people read the news over the Internet directly visiting the websites and blogs of their choice. They could read and watch whatever attracted them. However, presently, According to a Pew Research Center report, most adults and teens in the US follow Facebook, and it directs what content they should read and watch.
2. How have we lost control of our data?
Some of the companies over the Internet have their own data centers where they can save user data and run applications. It leads to severe security and privacy concerns. The most significant data breach at Equifax in 2017 exposed the security risks associated with customer details stored in one location. Hackers had stolen personal information of 143 million U.S consumers, which includes social security numbers, birth dates, addresses, and in some cases, drivers’ license numbers.
The primary risks associated with this data breach are listed below.
- The hacker could take out a credit card in your name, buy a stack of stuff and never pay it back, leaving you on the hook to deal with it.
- The hacker may obtain enough information to access your current financial accounts. For example, to file a tax return in your name and collect the tax refund.
Several similar incidents take place every year. More precisely, the problem is that Internet users don’t secure their data, and they surrender it to the applications and the services they use.
3. Single point of failure
According to Wikipedia, A single point of failure (SPOF) is a part of a system that, if it fails, will stop the entire system from working.
For instance, on February 28, 2017, thousands of websites had started experiencing problems. Links went down; images were not loading while some sites were not functional at all.
What resulted in the massive Internet outage of 2017?
Because of the Amazon Web Services failure, thousands of websites had experienced downtime. This outage was due to simple human error in Amazon’s cloud infrastructure, and Amazon had to apologize for the service interruption.
Since Amazon provides services to a majority of websites in its cloud infrastructure, the slightest problem encountered may lead to the breakdown of the entire Internet. It proves the major flaw behind the centralization of the Internet.
In a nutshell, with the emergence of centralized platforms, Internet traffic has got centralized as well. Therefore, Internet users are losing their control over the content they wish to read. It has also compromised the privacy of Internet users.
How do we solve these issues?
A decentralized variant of the Internet would solve many of the problems that the current Internet faces.
We can achieve the decentralization of the Internet through the blockchain technology. How does blockchain technology help to make the Internet decentralization, and what other challenges it will introduce, is another compelling narrative; stay tuned for the next post on this subject.