4 motivations for redecentralization

10 Jan 2014 — Francis Irving

While interviewing the people making projects, and talking to all sorts of people, I’ve found four major different reasons people care about decentralization.

1. Privacy

This is the most visible and activate motivation - particularly since Snowden showed how the economic cost of reading our personal messages just isn’t high enough.

Lots of the well known recent decentralization projects were started by people who care about privacy. They don’t like centrally run services, as they are easier to snoop on.

Interview to watch: Cryptosphere

2. Resilience

Much like privacy a few years ago, there are some people who know our systems won’t cope with disaster, but it isn’t yet an active political issue.

A hurricane, a civil war, a severe disease epidemic… The web and telephones basically stop working. If the transatlantic cable was cut, I should still be able to send email to other people in Liverpool.

Interview to watch: Serval Project

3. Competition

This is a surprisingly broad motivation.

Part of it is large tech companies reducing competition by controlling the stack. For example, a proper decentralized marketplace helps artists compete at selling music in whatever way they like.

Part of it is cultural. A monopoly in selling fizzy water doesn’t matter so much, as you can drink something else. Much more insidious are the newly forming monopolies in information flow, as information informs everything else.

Interview to watch: Media Goblin

4. Fun

We’ve stalled on innovation in information systems, because of a lack of new standards. In the past, new popular standards, such as the web, allowed innovation from what were then startups, such as Amazon and Google.

You can get very specific kinds of innovation from a large company without new open standards. You don’t get really big changes though. For those you need backing from everyone - Samsung are never going to back a proprietary Apple “standard”.

Why’s this section called “fun”? Some tech geeks find expermenting and playing with information systems in radically new ways great fun. They are the set of people who create amazing new open standards.

Interview to watch: Drogulus


Whatever your motivation for decentralization, we hope you help these projects improve how computers work for everyone.