The days of "big tech" may not be "over", but the days of its monopoly over communications and connections are coming to an end.
(Picture: me at an event inside Google's DC office. )
Enter the world of the decentralized web, also known as web 3.0.
In this world, centralized servers and websites that reside on them will be slowly pushed aside by app-based communities built on a mesh network that utilizes the computing power of millions of users.
Finding these communities may be the biggest challenge, and web 2.0 spaces may continue to be the basis of presenting them until search apps, also using distributed computing power, are made which do the job.
The decentralized web will put a primacy on software developmemt first and then on design. One might expect open source platforms, like WordPress, will evolve into apps which install on users phones and computers and take almost all, if not all, of the community (previously the website) off a central server. Many premium platforms that provide their own hosting now, like Mighty Networks, will focus more on licensing their software for use. A central hub may deliver that and interact with customers, but if the hub goes down it won't affect the users.
How will this happen?
Now that virtually everyone knows about Bitcoin, many also know about the blockchain. This is decentralization. But it is not yet total, as it also relies on centralized marketplaces, like Coinbase, and when these hubs go down people cannot access the digital currency they keep in the hub. But this is moving toward web 3.0.
The power of quantum computing will be what drives web 3.0. Bandwidth and storage will become less and less of an issue. Peer to peer apps, instead of urls, will be the main way people create, communicate, and access content. The two dimensional web becomes a three dimensional web mesh. Apps will connect with apps and users, users will connect with apps and users. Everything will be conveyed through private and public mesh networks which also rely on distributed computing power.
It's too early to predict the balkanization of the web, but web 3.0 communities will include many very unique and specific gathering "places", via decentralized "apps", that cater to specialized audiences. The amount of space given to an open marketplace of ideas will be minimal, compared to what exists today.
Control over content will also be a problem. This doesn't mean such control cannot happen in a limited fashion, but it does mean that it will be difficult. Each user is their own node, and the entire app-based community is not going to be able to police the whole, even if they try. Social pressure and shaming from other peers will be the primary means of regulating content that is beyond the pale. But abuses will abound, making abuse a high crime in some jurisdictions which use the few caught individuals an object lesson for everyone else.
Once an app goes out into the webmesh, once it reaches a point of viability, it will be difficult to regulate its content or activities beyond an individual basis. In other words, catching abusers will require cyber and real sleuthing, but blanket algorithms that regulate for content or activity will have limited use. In fact, app-based communities that contain such blocks will be "un-jailed" by clever users who remove those blocks.
What is not clear is how fee-based content providers will adapt to this new model. Though even today there are apps that charge fees for their premium version, most of the computing power is on the user's device. So perhaps the paywall will be enhanced by this technology, especially where content is still pushed to users from a hub. (What is important here is that even if the hub goes down, users will still have the latest content, and the hub itself may still rely on the combined computing power of its community of users.)
Memory and bandwidth will not be an issue. Consider 1tb ram in your cellphone with multiple tb's of memory on the device to be the norm. There will be no need to throttle content, either, as bandwidth will increase without an increase in cost. Instead, we'll start to see private meshnets which connect the signals of user hotspots, where possible, and the traditional internet, where necessary, in such a way that where users of an app are within a few miles of one another, their devices bypass the internet and connect in a local mesh. We may see meshnet devices which transmit data to and from messhnets, and which use hundreds of frequencies at the same time.
In this scenario, the only way to shut down a private meshnet will be through taking user devices. Simply blocking frequencies would interfere with the broader net and other private meshnets, which will use the same frequencies. Add to that a meshnet will be able to use frequency-hopping systems and you can see how difficult censorship will become.
On the plus side you will have more control over content you receive, censorship will be dofficult, and connecting to others without even having an internet service provider will be more difficult but not at all impossible.
On the negative side, criminals, people who spread actual hate, and pedophiles will have an easier time connecting to each other or communicating with others. This does not mean crime will increase so much as the ability to use the internet to bust such criminals will be decreased, possibly significantly.
But what about ads?
I think the model of the future will be app-based communities that award users for viewing ads. So ad revenue will tend to go mostly to users, with some going to the app developer and manager. User control over what information about them goes to advertisers will be more transparent and easy to manage at a granular level, even from advertiser to advertiser.
The webmesh network will still use the existing internet, especially as it emerges, but by 2030 most computing power and connections and communication will occur through app-based communities using decentralized quantum computing power. Connections between users and apps will be through a combination of private and public meshnets in which every device is a node in the mesh, with specialized devices attached to users' homes, cars, and businesses.
Today's big platforms with their overt political bias will find it more difficult to both maintain that bias and retain users who don't appreciate that bias. Their business model will either evolve to accept decentralization of computing power and content or they will have to cater to a much smaller audience who appreciate their bias.
Regulators who wish to curb criminal activities or who are alarmed by hate speech and terror recruiting will have to become more focused on tracking individual activities and infiltrating criminal or terrorist groups and less on controlling algorithms and enforcing blanket speech controls. Cyber intelligence will have to have a huge human intelligence component.
Web 2.0, url-based, two dimensional sites will give way to a webmesh network of decentralized app-based communities served mostly through private and public meshnets that utilize user devices and not central hubs.