Decentralization sounds like a scary concept. But in reality, it’s merely the natural next stage to human organization, and it’s much easier to do than you think.
We have existed in a world run by centralized organizations. Banks, Companies, Governments are all examples of centralized entities. Looking at the world today, the imbalance of power and wealth, you have to ask yourself, are these entities in their current form really the way forward?
In a centralized entity, the people at the top make decisions and everyone beneath them has to just deal with it. Sure, in the case of governments you can vote for a different party at the next election, but what if a company with a monopoly on an industry decides to make a change that benefits the people at the top, but hurts the people at the bottom? You can’t get rid of a CEO unless you have considerable sway.
Discussing the greater implications of decentralization like Decentralized Finance (DeFi) or Governance Protocols is something you should explore further on your own after you’ve read this article.
This article is merely a fun, light-hearted introduction to some projects that are decentralizing things to allow a greater dispersion of power for the benefit of everyone involved, rather than the few at the top.
Music – Audius
First up let’s look at Audius, a Decentralized Protocol for Audio Content. Lifting from their Whitepaper (a document released by the crypto project that explains it’s concept among other things): “The music industry generates $43 billion in revenue but only 12% goes to content artists. Furthermore, artists have minimal control over how their music is distributed and little visibility into who is streaming it.” Audius uses blockchain technology and its own native token called $AUDIO to give artists a greater degree of financial and creative control over their music, rather than a centralized entity like Spotify determining how much a musician gets paid for x number of streams.
Videos – Theta
Looking to take on Centralised Delivery Networks like YouTube and Twitch, Theta is trying to create a decentralized video streaming service that allows members of the network to share their bandwidth to increase the quality of streams, and earn the native $TFUEL token in return. This process aims to undercut CDN’s by making our reliance on their servers unnecessary and give power to the community instead.
Social Media – Mastodon
The stranglehold on social media by the likes of Facebook and Twitter makes it incredibly difficult for a new challenger to arise, but Mastodon is an example of a decentralized micro-blogging site. No one server controls the network that would have full control over the network, selling data and imposing blanket rules via algorithms that ultimately frustrate a lot of the people that it’s trying to protect. Anyone can create their own little world, and it is run by the people within that world. And before you ask, Mastodon has tools in place to stop these little worlds becoming safe havens for hate speech or dangerous ideologies.
Reviews – Revain
With new projects popping up every week, each one trying harder than the last to convince everyone of its legitimacy, its easy to get lost in the sea of “world-changing” projects. Revain is specifically for these projects and while it is in itself a small project, it can be instrumental in understanding certain tokens and projects. By operating on the blockchain and therefore not controlled by a central entity, it guarantees the reliability of reviews by storing data on the blockchain and the high quality of content by applying AI filters.
Investing/trading – Uniswap
Unlike some of the projects mentioned, Uniswap is HUGE. It has billions worth of assets under management and one of the most powerful treasuries in all of the decentralized Finance (DeFi) space. Individual members provide liquidity for assets like Bitcoin and Ethereum removing the need for a middleman centralized entity. In return they earn a cut of fees and use the native token $UNI to make decisions for the whole protocol.
Governance – Meryt
Almost every structure in the emerging Web3 space struggles with governance issues, even Uniswap. How to incentivise members who contribute and ensure that decision-making power is distributed fairly, or weighted to those who truly have the projects best intentions at heart? Meryt is a small project that aims to allow projects to present a vote to their native population, and implement the results of that vote through smart contracts (autonomous computer programs). It’s still in the earliest stages, but its potential impact on governance could be industry changing.
Creation/gaming – Decentraland
There are a lot of blockchain games out there, but none so encompassing, or as impressive as Decentraland, the first ever virtual world governed by the players that use it. Players earn the native token by building fun things on purchased land which other players use, and those with tokens can vote on proposals that can alter the entire virtual world. If you’ve ever heard of the game “Second Life” it’s a bit like that, except run by the players not a centralized entity.
Shopping – Particl
Obtaining goods and services from an online marketplace using crypto probably conjures thoughts of the dark web. But Particl is very much above board and it’s open-source code means that people are free to look into every nook and cranny. By using blockchain technology, Particl connects buyers and sellers directly and in a secure manner without a middleman recording your transactions to sell later, or take a fee for facilitating the exchange of goods in the first place.
Emails – ProtonMail
This one is a bit of a cheat. See, proton mail isn’t exactly decentralized. Instead, it runs multiple servers behind a strong, open source encryption. So while it might not be decentralized per se, the open-source code and level of encryption meant I could include it on this list. With ProtonMail your emails are very secure (you can even set a “self-destruct” time, where an email will delete itself and all forwarded copies of it). All the code is fully open to be audited by anyone which has allowed it to grow stronger over time. And even though the servers are run by a centralized entity, not even they can access the information contained with thanks to the level of encryption.
Work – Braintrust
I used to do a lot of freelance work, and still do from time to time. So I know what it is like operating on a freelance platform like Upwork. Because they are the biggest and one of the most trusted, they can take a whopping 20% of your earnings and you can’t stop them. Try and organize payment off platform and you get banned (like I was for a while). That happened because it turns out Upwork actually monitors your private messages to make sure you aren’t trying to keep all your hard earned money. So when I saw Braintrust, I immediately fell in love. Keep 100% of your earnings and be able to influence the entire protocol by holding the native token? Yes please!
So there you have it! This list is not extensive by any means and of course you don’t have to abandon stalwarts like YouTube or eBay, Spotify or Twitter, but there are alternative options which treat its users better. And in time, as Web3 becomes more commonplace and more widely adopted, these giants of Web2 will struggle as people realise that centralization doesn’t work.
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