The Decentralized Web: Hope or Hype?

Article by Inga Trauthig: “The heavy financial losses of cryptocurrency holders in recent months have catapulted a relatively niche tech topic into public view. However, many investors originally did not emphasize economic gains as their primary motivation for supporting cryptocurrencies. A different motive was driving them: decentralization.

Cryptocurrencies, together with blockchain, belong to a broader field related to the decentralized Web (DWeb) or Web3, which is, however, characterized by some obscurity. In August 2022, many informed readers are likely to be able to explain bitcoin, but fewer will be able to explain differences between various DWeb services, or how content moderation on a new version of the internet works — or could work in future.

The DWeb currently is a movement of which some parts are heavily tied to blockchain as a revolutionary technology purported to resolve the current ills of the internet. But some in the movement disagree on the dogma of blockchain (together with incentive stimulus and game theory) as the Web’s saviour — while concurring on the basic tenet that the current internet space, Web 2.0, has been corrupted by centralization. In other words, the DWeb is a movement whose members share many ideals but differ in their approaches to achieving them. And, some parts of this movement have much broader reach than others. While bitcoin has swept the globe and managed to draw adherents in the Global North and South, social media DWeb services are still mostly used by the technological cognoscenti.

In effect, at the current stage, successes of a decentralized Web are few and far between. They relate to two main aspirations: first, the empirical (re-)decentralization of the internet, and second, an appeal to make the internet a good place (again). The latter is certainly tempting given that the Web 2.0 is regularly accused of enabling authoritarian movements and actors, or online radicalization…(More)”.