Written by Scott Craig|Posted on December 30, 2022
In the modern digital economy, software dominates every industry, with all kinds of businesses dependent on software products and online services to drive sales, engage their customers, and handle their internal operations. A business can create its own proprietary software by hiring a custom software development company to build a bespoke system, but ultimately, the network effect means that some integration with the big tech giants—Alphabet (Google), Apple, Meta, and Microsoft—is inevitable.
This situation gives just a few companies, centered around a small number of decision-makers, outsized power over society, politics, and the economy. For example, many companies find success by developing a successful mobile app but would be hard-pressed to reach an audience unless it’s through the Google Play Store or iOS App Store. Google, Amazon, and Microsoft also dominate the cloud hosting market, effectively being able to cripple the online functionality of smaller businesses that depend on them for cloud services. Through their terms of service, these large corporations can effectively restrict freedom of speech and innovation on the Internet, and also engage in anti-competitive practices, making it difficult or prohibitively expensive for independent projects to operate.
However, there is an emerging tech trend that challenges this tendency toward monopoly: blockchain technology.
Bitcoin, the most famous example of the blockchain, has no central authority. Instead, transactions are validated by every member of the network, called a ‘node’. No node is superior to another, each keeps a record of the data and a majority must agree for the record to be altered. In a similar way, an Internet structured around decentralized nodes would be a radically democratic, anti-hierarchical system, in which the level of dominance currently enjoyed by Amazon and co. would be impossible.
This reimagining of the Internet is often referred to as Web3 and has the potential to take power away from big tech and back into the hands of users and developers. It faces several challenges—notably, how to make running one’s own node as convenient as using the services currently offered by the tech giants—but with many believers behind it, and many companies tired of having to play by big tech’s rules, it paints an appealing vision for the future.
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Kirkland, WA, USA