The blockchain has been being hailed as the new Internet by many of its advocates ever since the open-source technology first garnered public attention around five years ago.
Through its ability to decentralize data sharing in a secure and immutable manner, experts believe that the blockchain could usher in a new era for the Internet, known as the Internet 3.0.
The Internet Today
The Internet has come a long way since its early days of text-based HTML websites. Today, the Internet powers a substantial part of our lives from staying in contact with friends and family through messaging apps to following current events and, thanks to the Internet of Things (IoT), even to power parts of our homes.
However, our current version of the Internet called — often referred to as the Internet 2.0 — has its challenges. The reliance on large, powerful providers, a high degree of data vulnerability, continuous data trading, and a lack of trust are the Internet’s most pressing limitations today.
Large centralized organizations effectively own most of the Internet that is utilized by everyday users. Search engines such as Google, social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter, and e-commerce platforms like Amazon are among the most visited websites in the world.
The centralization of the Internet gives these companies the power to collect a massive amount of data about Internet users, give preference to content that is in line with their views, and censor users at their discretion.
Moreover, the centralization of this data creates a high degree of data vulnerability as data is stored on centralized servers but more concerning to Internet users, it also gives rise to data trading.
Data trading refers to the selling of user data to third parties. This has become the bread and butter for Internet giants such as Facebook and Google. The user, of course, receives no compensation or even a say when their data is being sold to third parties.
The combination of powerful centralized companies, a lack of data security and the widespread practice of data trading without rewarding or even informed users has led to distrust towards the Internet by many users across the world.
Blockchain proponents believe that these challenges can be solved using the distributed ledger technology.
Meet the Decentralized Blockchain-Powered Internet of Tomorrow
Blockchain technology can and, most likely, will be used to build a new, more secure, decentralized Internet that will take power away from multinational corporations and give it back to the every Internet user.
The blockchain allows for data to be securely recorded and transferred through the use of advanced cryptography and a disturbed network of nodes. By building a new Internet on top of the blockchain, these features can enable a secure, private Internet that is not dominated by a few players.
Large Internet companies would be disintermediated as data mining and trading would be made much more difficult because all data would be recorded on a distributed ledger as opposed to on centralized servers of these companies.
This would also result in much higher data security as data would be stored across a network of nodes with no single point of failure and would prevent the misuse of data by large centralized organizations. As we learned from the Cambridge Analytica scandal, platforms such as Facebook cannot be trusted with our data.
Additionally, a secure blockchain-powered Internet would greatly reduce the impact of cyber attacks such as DDoS attacks, malware or virus, which are currently a daily occurrence online due to its existing design faults.
Moreover, it would give individuals some of their privacy back. Companies like Google have the power to track your every move using its location apps on your phone. Not only can this data be mined and sold to third parties as market research, but it could also be used to track you as an individual if it falls into the wrong hands.
Most importantly, though, it would give the power back to every people as they would have complete control over their personal data. That also means that they could monetize their data, should they wish to sell it.
It has become more apparent than ever throughout the past twelve months that we need a more secure, trustworthy, and privacy-preserving Internet that does not misuse our data and fill our newsfeeds with fake news.
The Internet 3.0 Revolution Has Already Begun
While a truly decentralized Internet is likely still decades away, the first baby steps in the blockchain-powered Internet 3.0 revolution have already been made by pioneering blockchain startups.
Incentivized social media and blogging platform Steemit, for example, empowers its users by financially rewarding content creators in digital tokens for publishing high-quality content.
Decentralized cloud storage solutions such as Filecoin, Siacoin, and Storj are offering an alternative to centralized cloud storage providers such as DropBox and GoogleDrive by paying users in cryptocurrency for providing disk space on their computers to network participants.
And of course, there is bitcoin, “the Internet of money” that enables individuals around the globe to make financial transactions without the need for a financial intermediary. On the Internet 3.0, digital currencies like bitcoin will likely become to primary means of transacting. Users will benefit from low-cost borderless payments and an increased level of financial privacy compared to existing payment methods.
The blockchain is poised to build a new and improved Internet that will empower the user and create a truly free global network that connects us all.