Nowadays, the current information society is more than ever connected to the network of networks, the cloud, the Internet. Along with this phenomenon, the centralization of the Internet has increased at the hands of corporations or public and private organizations.
But, movements and technologies have also been created, which demand and allow the reversal of this process. Movements and technologies that allow or favor the decentralization of the Internet, and return control and sovereignty of the same to the citizen, or that, as far as possible, make it more free, secure, private and auditable, and less invaded by hegemonic power of international transnationals or local, regional or world governmental powers.
For no one these days it is a secret, how the centralization of the Internet affects us all, some more than others, both as individuals and collectively. Examples are plenty, such as: The use of our traffic and data by corporations or organizations, both public and private, for marketing, social modeling, citizen control, commercial espionage or public security.
In addition, the centralization of the Internet favors its "Non-Neutrality". towards the citizen, organizations and even countries, by these same corporations or organizations, both public and private. An issue that is reflected, for example, when a country or organization is affected by its connectivity or access to it, by arbitrary, unfair or unilateral decisions of others.
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A possible decentralized Internet may cease to be a utopia, if our connections do not go directly to an Internet Service Provider (ISP), but rather our router connects directly with other routers, thus creating a network anywhere, to later become part of the Internet if necessary. And this is possible just by installing a software or a specific configuration in our router that allows to form a mesh network.
An example of these technologies or decentralization mechanisms can be taken from the existing distributed computing models and novel blockchain technologies with its decentralized approach. Since networks should not only be "per se" centrally. Currently a network can be of 3 types, that is, they can be:
- Centralized: Network where all its nodes are peripheral, and are connected to a central one. In such a way, that they can only communicate through the central node and its channels. In this type of network, the fall of the central node cuts the flow of data to all other nodes.
- Decentralized: A network where there is no single central node, but rather a collective center with various connection ports. In such a way, that if one of the "regulatory nodes" is disconnected, none or few remaining nodes of the whole network lose connectivity.
- Distributed: Network where there is not a single central node. In such a way, that the disconnection of any of the nodes may cause the disconnection of someone else on the network. This is because in these networks, the nodes are connected to each other without the need to connect through one or more central nodes.
Currently there are good examples of real networks of this style, which in an ideal future should grow more and become more widespread. Examples such as:
- Guifi Net
- NYC Mesh
- SAFE Network
In other parts of the world, there are interesting initiatives and experiments in this sense of creating decentralized networks. For example, in Dubai (United Arab Emirates), a test is carried out that uses the Bluetooth of all compatible devices to form a decentralized network.
And Mastodon is a great example of a decentralized network. which is not based on blockchain technologies. While others like Steem, where anyone can run a node on the network and master a full copy of all its content, if it is based on the blockchain.
As many of us already know, the information that circulates on the internet is stored in computers that are called servers. That is, these are the computers that in turn contain programs that make it possible to provide services to other programs or computers on the network or the Internet, which we call clients or nodes.
Almost all Internet Servers are turned on and connected, day and night, 365 days a year, and they are housed in large data centers, probably in a large city in a developed country, in order to manage a good part of the Internet traffic from around the world.
But, it is precisely these large data centers that form an obstacle to free and open communications. Since these favor the centralization of the Internet which in turn, facilitate the misuse, censorship and control of the flow of our information. In addition, they assume the managed information as their property, doing business with it together with organizations that monitor us and violate our privacy.
Therefore, the correct way to follow is the inclusion, massification and use of small servers, with different and innovative ways of working and tools, from different locations (countries) and maintained by different people (SysAdmins), to mitigate or eliminate the risk of misuse or cutting of our information and services.
What are they?
These small and independent autonomous servers are the counterweight to the centralized form of governance of the network and of our data. There are many existing definitions of them, but citing Tatiana de la O in an article by Ritimio Dossier on Technological Sovereignty, on page 37, it defines them as:
“Self-managed servants whose sustainability depends on the voluntary and sometimes paid work of their maintainers when they receive funding from the community they serve. Therefore, they do not depend on a public or private institution for their operation. In any case, the autonomy of these services may vary, some accept subsidies or are housed in educational institutions while others may be hidden in an office or housed in an educational or art center and do not need as much funding.
As an example of autonomous Servers operating today we have:
The benefits of using standalone servers are:
- Avoid the commercialization and monetization of our personal and collective information.
- Promote diversity without major commercial or governmental limitations.
- Increase the decentralization of technological infrastructures in favor of society.
- Increase the levels of autonomy of societies with respect to corporations and governments.
- Increase consulting services and self-training of user groups.
- Guarantee the resilience of users to possible negative political, geopolitical and commercial changes in their respective sites of origin.
Quoting the Mastodon Network:
“A decentralized network is more difficult for governments to censor. If a server goes bankrupt or starts acting unethically, the network persists so you never have to worry about migrating your friends and audience to yet another platform.
We can conclude that the decentralization of the Internet, either through decentralized networks and / or autonomous servers, is the right way to go, since a free and open Internet will never be really viable if its services and infrastructures (connections) are not decentralized.
Furthermore, net neutrality (a consequence of decentralization) is something for which we must all fight and defend tooth and nail. It is our duty to collaborate so that large corporations or organizations, both public and private, do not alter or manipulate it. Neutrality is the best feature of the web, and this cannot be missed.