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Why Decentralization Matters


During the first era of the internet — from the 1980s through the early 2000s — internet services were built on open protocols that were controlled by the internet community. This meant that people or organizations could grow their internet presence knowing the rules of the game wouldn’t change later on. Huge web properties were started during this era including Yahoo, Google, Amazon, Facebook, LinkedIn, and YouTube. In the process, the importance of centralized platforms like AOL greatly diminished.


During the second era of the internet, from the mid 2000s to the present, for-profit tech companies — most notably Google, Apple, Facebook, and Amazon (GAFA) — built software and services that rapidly outpaced the capabilities of open protocols. The explosive growth of smartphones accelerated this trend as mobile apps became the majority of internet use. Eventually users migrated from open services to these more sophisticated, centralized services. Even when users still accessed open protocols like the web, they would typically do so mediated by GAFA software and services.


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