The Internet is a wild west of change. From new technologies to greater access for all, there is always something new and exciting in the industry. One of the few remaining spaces for true advancement and groundbreaking invention, the world wide web offers a plethora of opportunities and interests.
One of the newer developing trends online includes that of decentralization. From apps to finances, the “new” online world is focusing on a phenomenon that eliminates the need for central authorities and instead gives a “power” back to “the people” in a unique way.
One facet of the space diving decentralization is that of web hosting. To understand this concept, it is best to start at the beginning and understand just what decentralization is, and how it differs from the more traditional web hosting options on the market today.
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The trend of decentralized apps, finances, and even web hosting all stems from the new technology known as a blockchain. It is this tech that makes the concept possible and provides the necessary framework for which decentralized applications can be created.
But what is the blockchain and what does it do?
Decentralization relies on the use of blockchain technology. In its simplest terms, the blockchain is a series of data boxes (blocks) chronologically stored in a series of linked spaces (chain). It is often referred to as a distributed ledger technology.
Within each data block is the information, which once locked inside the blockchain, is immutable. No party can change the data for any reason.
This feature offers security, but also transparency. A blockchain, by distributing said ledger to all users on the platform, is allowing for all the comings and goings on a platform to be seen by all. This distribution relies on a peer-to-peer network, and not a centralized database.
The distribution of the blockchain also eliminates that “central authority” concept. Without a central server, and instead of sharing the responsibilities and needs of a network across a series of computers, there can be no central power.
In a blockchain, there is no government, corporation, or individual that is solely responsible for the network. The peers along its chain are, as a group, making the blockchain possible.
While the focus of decentralization relies on blockchain technology, it is not a necessary component of a blockchain. Ironically, while the tech can allow for it, it is of course a feature that centralized organizations also appreciate.
In other words, blockchain platforms can also be centralized. Some big names in the technology industry as well as world governments are already seeking to harness the power of the blockchain for their uses.
For example, the city of Dubai, located in the United Arab Emirates, is turning its government to blockchain technology. In that case, the central authority (or the city’s governance) would remain in “control” as the authority. However, they have opted to turn everything from real estate to tourism, security, transportation, finance, health, and even education into industries focused on the blockchain. The result is a goal to become the world’s first blockchain city.
However, it is typically the desired goal when applying a blockchain to in fact decentralize not just from a server, but from that said authority. To tell if a blockchain is centralized or decentralized largely comes down to the fact of third-party interaction.
If another authority oversees or has control of the blockchain, it is centralized. If the “power” truly relies on the peers within the network, then it is a decentralized blockchain.
A Blockchain Example: Ethereum
One of the most popular and well-used blockchains on the market, especially when it comes to developers and new products, is the network known as Ethereum. This platform, which operates on a cryptocurrency called Ether (ETH), is the second most popular platform, second only to the worldwide phenomenon known as Bitcoin.
However, the Ethereum network does not just focus on the buying, selling, and trading of crypto. Instead, the space offers a unique feature to allow developers to get in on the fun by sharing open-source coding and space for total creation, known as EVM.
The Ethereum Virtual Machine
The Ethereum Virtual Machine (EVM) is not one specific server serving one set of specific purposes. Instead, it is a series of thousands of computers, linked together using blockchain technology to operate.
Ethereum, essentially, goes beyond the use of simply crypto and instead creates a sort of “sandbox” for people to join in on the creation of new and exciting apps.
Ethereum’s site notes that the analogy of a “distributed ledger” technology, only truly applies to a portion of what Ethereum does. In addition to a cryptocurrency exchange, it also offers creation space, known as EVM.
“While Ethereum has its native cryptocurrency (Ether) that follows almost the same intuitive rules [as Bitcoin], it also enables a much more powerful function: smart contracts.”
To understand how Ethereum, and particularly the EVM works, it is first crucial to understand the smart contract. A smart contract is a program mechanism. It works on an “If/Then” set of rules. If X occurs, then Y can happen.
In terms of Ethereum, this open-source concept means that users can build off of one another. As these “rules” transfer across the website, applications built in EVM can all utilize them. It is like accessing tools already for use throughout a community.
These contracts create solutions so that others can develop without the challenges of creating apps from scratch. Instead, this series of networks created on a blockchain allows for a community of shared tools, accessible by all. It is a framework for which one can develop without having to map out each of an app’s features one by one, and can instead rely on the networks and their solutions to create on this platform.
Rules for the EVM
The EVM is what defines the rules for computing a new valid state from block to block, doing so via the smart contract (the definition, if you will). The EVM is a powerful, sandboxed virtual stack embedded within each full Ethereum node, responsible for executing contract bytecode.
In less technical terms, it is the space with rules created by smart contracts in which others (nearly any developer with access to the Ethereum platform) can further develop blockchain applications.
Beyond the use of developmental platform supports of EVM, the concept of decentralized platforms is used most in terms of finances and digital assets. The concept itself, to move away from transactions overseen by a central power, is a primary pillar and reason that cryptocurrency exists.
With the use of decentralized blockchains, businesses began to flourish entering the market of digital asset exchanges. Blockchain platforms started to be created and developed for this use. As investors sought methods to make fast transactions, avoid high transaction fees, and skip the services of traditional banks or governments to do so, the security and flexibility of a blockchain became the solution.
Crypto such as Bitcoin led the way in creating true decentralization of finances with the development of a platform with key features of a blockchain that permitted such use. Beyond being secure, the exchange sites had to allow for business to be conducted, services to be exchanged peer to peer, and the transaction costs to be low. From there, the “digital asset” was born, and the industry has been taking off ever since.
A Shift to Decentralize
Citing the same values as these needs in the financial world, it soon became obvious that the uses of the blockchain platforms could function well beyond dollars and cents. From cryptocurrency and its early enterprise solutions, it was not hard for developers to imagine other uses for the technology.
Soon, the best blockchain platforms would have to offer far more than an exchange space for crypto. As the finance space has truly accepted funds such as Bitcoin in the daily marketplace, it didn’t take long for payment providers to embrace the platform.
With these advancements, the development of what may be dubbed “Web 3.0” came about rapidly.
The Evolution of the World Wide Web
As widespread adoption of both crypto and its blockchain platforms (and more specifically the tech behind them) grew, may theorize that the web was changing. From an initial phase of simply a space of information to today’s highly interactive interface, there have been many stages of features and solutions offered by the Internet.
Many call this system of information, services, businesses, and entertainment a living, breathing “beast” of sorts. The net is involved in nearly every aspect of today’s life. But, it had to start somewhere.
Web 1.0: Read Only
The earliest versions of the network known as the World Wide Web were a read-only format. Web 1 was considered an alternative way to access information. There was no user interaction in this model. You simply logged on (probably through a noisy and slow dial-up connection), and consumed what was available.
Internet users were simply allowed to use the space to gain access to information. It was as if you had a major connection to newspapers, stacks of data, and updates from across a globe all in one place, and this was, as they say, a “giant leap for mankind.”
Web 2.0: Read and Write
Thankfully, as improvements evolved the shape of the web, the next iteration, now being dubbed “Web 2.0” was born. In this new model, which gained traction in the mid-2000s, there were some major changes for the better.
Interaction of Internet Users
The biggest change from the first to second versions of the web was the added benefit of users beginning to interact with the space. From basic communication services, like AOL’s Instant Messenger, to the vast sea of social media platforms you are familiar with today, such as Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter, there have been some wild add-ons during Web 2.0, transforming into the beast known as the world wide web to get us to where we are today.
From additions such as blogs and chat rooms, and message boards, to social media, there were countless new examples of human interaction now made possible via the web. In today’s world, one could live completely isolated from humans, relying solely on the technologies of the Internet.
Spanning over two decades, it was not until the early 2020s that talk of another, new Internet would even be discussed, and in that time, plenty happened online.
A Big Business
During the formation of 2.0, platforms like Google, Amazon, Facebook, and Twitter emerged to become frontrunners in the space. These companies owned major portions of the net by putting products, services, and software out there for general consumption.
Early on, such companies were thought to bring order to the Internet by making it easy to connect and transact online. Think back even in your lifetime. Many of us are of an age to recall a time that there was no Internet. Minimally, you can think back to a time when it was only used for research or by major tech companies.
Today, it is a part of your daily life, whether you wish for it to be or not. Nearly every service on the planet relies on its computers and networks. From ordering a pizza to booking an entire vacation, the general population slowly became reliant on the technology brought about by the net.
Web 3.0: Decentralization
As these powerful companies continued to grow, there was soon a cry for a more decentralized style of business. As blockchain platforms became a feasible and scalable business, so too did the ability for more and more features of the net to go decentralized.
In other words, as the tech giants like Google and Amazon grew more powerful, so too did the desire for the “power” to return to “the people.”
Decentralized Web Hosting
As if a desire to make private transactions without the government or banks interfering was massive enough, the public continues to seek more and better ways to give power back to the users of the net. Web hosting is just one more facet of this growing concept.
Having website hosting services decentralized is a way of hosting sites so that they cannot easily be taken down or degraded by a service outage (whether intentional or not) of a given vendor. In other words, there is no authority on the net. But, when there is power in hosting.
Those corporations that allow for website hosting (in that they store your site on an actual, centralized server) have become the “powerful.” They offer the platform on which you can create a site, but in doing so also “own you.”
In a legal sense, you may own your business, but if your site is hosted by another company, you may be at their mercy in many ways. That company can choose to shutter your site without warning. It may go under itself, citing financial difficulties, or it may just not like your material.
If such a service has that authority, nothing is stopping a new co-founder, for example, from shutting you down.
By allowing web hosting to exist on blockchain space, much like the freedoms granted to decentralized finance, site owners would be breaking free from the oversight, governing, and “mercy” of those host companies.
Instead, again like crypto and digital assets, the “power” would return to “the people,” and owners can take ownership of a site in the full sense of the word. A peer-to-peer network, operating the distributed ledger of the blockchain, would allow for the operation of the site.
No longer would developers be stuck with the rules of the host. Instead, mutually agreed upon consensus algorithms, operating largely in an automated consensus mechanism, human-free space will allow the same sites to appear online without the control of a third party.
Beyond the freedom from the oversight of a central authority, many find that they’d gladly trade host giants for consensus mechanism features any day for a plethora of other reasons, too. Other benefits of decentralized web hosting include:
- Decreased aggressive business practices typical of big business
- Eliminate unethical uses of AI
- Freedom of speech
- Ownership of materials and creations
The Future of Decentralized Web Hosting
No one knows what the future holds, but one thing is for sure: just like the value of your NFTs in your crypto wallets, the Internet is always changing. Data is always coming in and is always changing. Corporation-based web hosting is likely on the way out, but what all will these changes bring about in the long run? It remains to be seen.
One thing is for sure: the net is changing. Where this tech will head is unclear. Will it, along with crypto and NFTs, continue to grow and prosper? Or is it a marketing ploy, destined to burn out just as quickly as it came to the forefront.
No matter where web hosting is headed, decentralization and its role across industries remain to be seen. The best thing to do to better understand its future is to keep yourself well informed. Sites such as FLOLiO create a trusted space to find data, understand trends, and react accordingly.