The P2P Web Vs. the ‘Modern’ Web: Is the Extinction of the Tech Giants Inevitable?

The “Modern web” is dominated by behemoths, all ripe for extinction

It has become something of a cliche to say that today’s web has become centralised as far as end-user data is concerned. Most of the tech giants that dominate the Internet today hold mountains of data that we knowingly or unknowingly supply. All that data gives these companies extraordinary power and wealth.

Indeed, in the race to become the next “Google” or “Facebook”, it has become an unshakable, arguably bad, habit amongst web developers to host user data in a central server, sometimes with inadequate security safeguards. However, by no means is this the fault of developers. This is simply the way things work. It is a familiar architecture of the web. Everyone expects such a design, even unconsciously perhaps (where’s the sign-up/login page for example).

Who has time to create a decentralised web service from the ground up, let alone a good one? There was a time when we didn’t think much about things like privacy or user ownership. When we didn’t think much about our data. We accepted the centralised model because it worked, both for users and for companies. No one complained. At least, not as much as these days.

Thankfully however, smart people around the world are coming together to redefine the web’s basic architecture. Viable alternatives are being birthed right now that might very well lead to the obsolescence of centralised web services, or at the very least a radical rethinking of basic assumptions about the web. One of the most important changes I believe would be that pertaining to the question of data ownership.

Currently most data generated by users on the web are stored in a centralised service (think Twitter). The convenience offered is immediately apparent. You don’t need to worry about the availability of your data across different devices or platforms, or about space, et cetera. It all lives in the mystical Cloud. It’s all safe until it isn’t.

Now we have alternative protocols like the dat:// protocol that will allow us to create truly decentralised web sites with true decentralised ownership of data. And yes, not a hint of blockchain technology to be seen (which in hindsight has turned out to have been less about decentralisation and more about rocking the financial casbah, which is good in its own *special* way).

Here’s a very underappreciated and wonderful decentralised “twitter” called Fritter, accessible via @dat_project and @BeakerBrowser. My Fritter is hosted by my browser and is shared to peers who want to view and/or follow me. #web #Decentralization pic.twitter.com/Esiofkgpgo
— Abraham Samma (@ABSamma) January 8, 2018

Now for the million dollar question: is the “Facebook model” dead then? Perhaps. At least I’d like to believe it is dying in light of newer technologies and increased user awareness. On the other hand, old habits die hard and we might continue to see the present architecture of the web persist for a few more decades if not centuries.

However, if it dies sooner than later, the web will not become unprofitable. It can continue to be a viable economic platform even in the coming era of peer to peer decentralisation. It’ll just work a little differently than the one today. Perhaps by this time putting ordinary humans in the centre rather than corporate behemoths.

The beauty of P2P projects like @dat_project and @BeakerBrowser is you don’t need to worry about dealing with greed like in blockchain/token based systems or the recentralisation that comes out of that greed.
— Abraham Samma (@ABSamma) January 19, 2018