With the Blockchain we take back the power

Things used to be better in the old days

Anyone who wants to write an e-mail is not forced to use a particular application. With most e-mail accounts, you can decide for yourself with which program you want to use them, for example with Microsoft Outlook, the mail app on the iPhone or via the e-mail provider’s website. And when one application no longer pleases, you move on to the next. In most cases, it’s easy to take your data with you, i. e. e-mails and contacts.

The same goes for the Web. You can choose between many browsers to get a page: Google Chrome, Apple Safari and many others. And when publishing websites, you can also choose the software that best suits your needs. And again: the data belongs to the user. You can switch from one app to another at any time.

Those early Internet applications such as email and WWW, only define how the various programs work together. They do not specify how exactly the programs look like or even how they have to store their data.  This definition of a common’ language’ and uniform processes is called a protocol.

Open, freely available protocols make it possible for users to decide which applications are best suited to them and how and where they store their data. There are few compatibility problems. And the services work completely decentralized – distributed among millions of servers and providers.

With open protocols, every user can create his own’ zoo’ of applications and exchange individual apps without any problems or extend the functionality himself. The applications are grouped around the users. In this world, users are at the centre and they are powerful.

Then came the large platforms

The situation is quite different with the large platforms that we mainly use today. The users of Facebook, Google, Apple Health are powerless. The platforms are the focus here. The users gather around them.

If we want to use different services, we have to log in each time anew, enter the data again and again. And you are lost if you want to take data from one service to another. Switching from the Apple universe to Google or vice versa involves a lot of effort. The large platforms are doing everything to’ lock us up’.

It is the users who create all content on Facebook: Likes, shares, posts, comments. They should be able to do what they want with their data. But Facebook alone determines what happens to the content. And Facebook uses its website and app to define what you can and cannot do with the content.   

To be fair, the large platforms have not been able to offer most of their features in any other way. It is not only the business interests of the platforms that require linking applications and data on a central server. Until recently, there was also no technical concept to implement the function of Facebook, Apple Health or Amazon with open protocols. Until now, the open Internet has not been able to handle transactions where partners have to trust each other.

Blockchains bring the power back to the users

The blockchain technology was originally developed for Bitcoin. With blockchains, data and transactions can be securely stored and processed in a decentralized manner without the parties involved having to know and trust each other.

Through the open Bitcoin protocol, values of several billion euros are transferred every day without a bank or other central office having to ensure order and security. And as with the above-mentioned open Internet applications, every user of the network can freely decide with which software he wants to manage and transfer Bitcoins. And even more: every user could become a maintainer (Miner) of the Bitcoin protocol without having to ask for permission.

Blockchains and related Distributed Ledger technologies (DLT) can easily be transferred to other areas.

For example, a decentralized social network is possible; let’s call it de-Facebook. The user profiles are stored (encrypted) in a blockchain. Transactions such as likes, shares and comments would also be stored in the database. The open de-Facebook protocol would specify the format in which user data and transactions are stored in the blockchain. Any application could work with this data if it adheres to the protocol.

You would not be forced to participate in de-Facebook with a certain app. As with e-mail and the web, every user can put together his or her very special application portfolio to process and analyze the data and transactions exactly as he or she wishes.

The blockchain makes such open systems possible in almost all areas of application. Everywhere, users put themselves back into the centre of their network and regain the lost power.

Author: Collin Müller
Online professional for over 20 years, more than 10 years in the communications and media industry.