© Reuters. The future of the Internet: is the dark web the last hope for decentralization?
The Internet remains the largest decentralized communication system mankind has ever seen. However, the trend towards centralization is sparking a fierce debate among users, authorities, and technology innovators about the future of the Internet.
In addition to attempts by governments to impose regulation on internet centralization, blockchain technology could offer a different future. A decentralized future.
Decentralized networks, such as the Dark Web, are still primarily associated with dark criminal activity. Is there a way to rebrand much needed anonymity and equality on the World Wide Web? The latest developments in the blockchain space, with projects like TomiNet, could be a step forward.
The Internet is constantly evolving
Since its creation, the Internet has developed intensively. During the first era, from the 1980s to the early 2000s, Internet networks depended on community governance and open protocols. The inventors of the Web imagined it as a space where everyone could create and access information, promoting equality.
Starting in the mid-2000s, Internet governance began to shift into the hands of big tech companies. The most notable are Google (NASDAQ:), Facebook (NASDAQ:), Amazon (NASDAQ:) and Apple (NASDAQ:). Services provided by open protocols could no longer catch up with services built by tech giants.
Users eventually moved to more centralized services. Even when consumers have accessed open protocols like the web, they have done so through software provided by major technology companies. This trend has been further accelerated by the growth in the use of smartphones. Mobile apps and mobile interfaces have become the primary means of accessing online content.
Why is decentralization important?
A fundamental premise of the Internet is that all material online should be treated equally, known as “net neutrality”. However, by providing centralized access to Internet services, technology companies have become gatekeepers. They control and generate profits by modifying access to certain information.
The algorithms of social media platforms, along with the flow of data, are a black box ruled by big tech companies. Most people’s online activity is concentrated in a few social networks and messaging apps, giving a lot of power to the tech companies that own the apps. Following the Snowden revelations and the Cambridge Analytica incident, public concern over surveillance and privacy has increased.
Only two companies, Google (Android) and Apple (iOS), dominate the smartphone market. Since buying WhatsApp and Instagram, in addition to Facebook Messenger, Facebook now owns most of the messaging industry in almost every country except China.
More than 90% of mobile internet users in major cities in China use WeChat to send SMS. The app is also used for dating, banking, taxi ordering, shopping, and other purposes. Google made headlines in 2018 after working with Chinese authorities to bring a censored version of its search engine to the country.
Decentralization has a different proposition. A decentralized network is open and controlled by everyone. No one can own it, rule it, or turn it off for everyone. Users and the online community manage decentralized networks using blockchain technology as a governance tool.
The technology also allows users to own their data, allowing people to freely move their personal data from one online platform to another. Of course, decentralized networks are not a silver bullet. Yet it solves the problems of governance and transparency of data use.
Dark Net: the hope of a decentralized Internet?
The Internet never existed without its decentralized competitors. One of the most notorious players has been the ill-reputed Dark Web. Developed in the 2000s almost simultaneously with the Internet, the Dark Web has become a peer-to-peer network that allows users to browse and interact anonymously.
Paradoxically, criminals are not the only ones using the Dark Web. Whistleblowers, journalists, activists, intelligence agencies, law enforcement, and dissidents of oppressive regimes rely on the network for their work, as it often demands high levels of confidentiality.
However, the unchecked depths of the Dark Net are a hot spot for bad actors. They sell illegal products, such as drugs, guns, illegal pornography, stolen personal data, hitman services, etc.
So, is there a middle ground? Could blockchain technology pave the way for a network that delivers the best of Web 2.0 and Web3?
Search for decentralized alternative networks
While the Dark Web retains its villainous reputation, blockchain enthusiasts are looking for ways to create decentralized networks that would live up to the idea of the Internet itself.
One of the biggest challenges facing the decentralized Internet is illicit activities. If there is no censorship and no watchdogs monitoring the network, it becomes a place for shady actors to go. It does not seem very easy to solve this puzzle. However, advances in blockchain technology governing the decentralized network could make this possible.
One of the examples recently introduced in the industry is TomiNet. By using the community-driven DAO, the TomiNet network claims to protect it from illicit activities while maintaining privacy and anonymity. Users can access the web through TomiNet’s browser and surf with an integrated VPN. This allows them to access uncensored information in countries that censor and mask IP addresses.
One of tomiDAO’s important roles is to regulate or block sites that violate community guidelines. The community votes on decisions via “Pioneer” NFTs and Tomi tokens. Terrorism, child pornography and other forms of violence are blacklisted categories to be rejected by the DAO.
Another problem in today’s Internet is the power imbalance in the governance of Web 2.0. The Tomi team claims to have equal weight with average users when voting on community guidelines and censorship. However, it will hold enough tokens to have a more decisive influence on the technical direction of the project in the early stages.
However, the network is intentionally structured in a way that creates a pathway for new web users to weed out core developers and technology leadership within three years. The exact developer of the network is unknown, but there are reports that eight well-known crypto companies are behind it. Developers prefer to remain anonymous.
The future of the Internet is still unknown. Will alternative networks be able to take the lead? One thing is clear: Blockchain opens new doors for how networks could be governed by empowering users.
on the reverse
- Even though blockchain technology has the potential to empower users and bridge the governance power gap, the future is yet to be determined. Once the WWW was developed, the creators were enthusiastic that it would facilitate democracy and equality. However, over the years, its control has solidified in the hands of big tech companies. History can repeat itself.
Why You Should Care
Web 2.0 is getting backlash for data privacy issues and manipulating data to generate profit. While the Dark Web is still primarily used for criminal activity, internet users seeking anonymity and privacy need alternatives.
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