It’s 2021, you’ve got around a 100 pictures from your holiday you’d like to share with me. How?
I guess you can put them on Google Photos, create an album and share with me a link using email? Or maybe you could put them on a USB stick, and mail it to me?
Why is there no other easy option? Why do we need to use a third party service to share a few files? Why can’t you just connect directly with me, and security send this over?
The internet certainly gives us the capability of sharing directly, P2P. We’ve seen many P2P solutions, but they mostly end up being niche or difficult to use. I can set up a FTP server, figure out how to break through my router NAT, so that you can connect. But even if I know I can figure that out, I can’t be bothered. It’s too much hassle, it’s too fragile.
Of course, it’s not just about sharing files. What about messages? Why do I need to use WhatsApp, Signal, Telegram or the likes? Or why do I need to use Gmail or Outlook or similar? Some of these might argue they are encrypted and secure, but there’s still a third party there, with terms and conditions attached. I just want to send a message to you, from me. I don’t want to use some service, that sits in between.
Same goes for money. I can give you coins and bills, hand it over to you. Nothing is more P2P than that. But we’ve got the internet now, I shouldn’t need to hand over physical cash, just like I shouldn’t need to hand over a USB stick. But again, I’m forced to use some third party, that sits in between with terms and conditions, and fees. I need to pay someone to give you money. Absurd!
It’s not like we don’t have decentralized options. Some have been around for 10 years or more, others a bit more unexplored. But why haven’t we seen a massive influx of such decentralized options among the masses? I’m sure you know someone who’s been trading cryptocurrencies. As fundamental as decentralization is to cryptocurrencies, in order to avoid third party risk, the majority of the fanatics probably keep their crypto on some centralized exchange. It simply doesn’t seem like we’re able to convince people of using decentralized solutions. The centralized alternative is more convenient, easier to use, better suited for the lazy.
One theory I have is that because decentralization is more difficult than centralization, and because decentralized options often remove the commercial incentive available to centralized options, no one’s really pushing it. There’s not enough money available for someone to spend the time and energy needed to build truly great options, that remain true to the decentralized nature. That’s why Web 2.0, with social media took off in no time, as players like Facebook and Twitter jumped on it and pushed it out to all of us. They facilitated its birth.
Web 3.0 on the other hand is done by especially interested people, with some funding here and there, but no highly coordinated central actor motivated by pure greed. I have hopes that this greed translates to inflated cryptocurrency prices, which help fund a few proper decentralized efforts, like Ethereum, IPFS, DIDs, and the likes. But it’s going to take time, simply because it’s a chaotic and difficult environment to navigate. And we might risk running out of goodwill before it properly establishes itself as the dominating modus operandi, with a set of mature omnipresent offerings. I remain optimistic.