Early in July, Facebook experienced technical issues, preventing users from viewing or uploading images across all its platforms, which includes Instagram and WhatsApp. The problem persisted for nine hours before the company was able to restore normal service.
For the average user, these kinds of outages are an inconvenience at worst. However, many businesses now depend on social networks for advertising and marketing. An outage means they are literally cut off from their customer base. As Facebook’s reach extends further, these outages have more potential to create economic havoc. They demonstrate our precarious dependence on centralized services.
Libra’s Weakness is Centralization
Now, if the Libra project goes ahead as planned, Facebook looks set to take over the cryptocurrency space. It’s already onboarded several financial heavyweights, including Visa, PayPal, and Stripe. Although Libra is based on distributed ledger technology, it’s far from decentralized and these big companies, among other partners in the Libra network, will be acting as node validators.
Regulators in many jurisdictions, including the US, the EU, and Japan, have made it clear that they don’t plan to let Zuckerberg’s plans roll through unchecked. Unsurprising, given that Facebook has proven itself extremely untrustworthy at controlling our personal data.
It’s worth bearing in mind that Facebook’s centralization is its weakness. The entire Libra network is comprised of organizations that have a central management team, which can be compelled by regulators to act — or not act — according to legislation.
Conversely, regulators have struggled for years with how to control Bitcoin, Ethereum and other truly decentralized networks precisely because there is no one party in control. Therefore, to protect against the impending regulatory oversight that Libra will inevitably invite, the crypto space needs to ensure that decentralization isn’t an option, it needs to be imperative.
Exchanges tend to present a problem to the principles of decentralization, as most of the major trading platforms are still centralized entities. There are signs that this is starting to change. Particularly since Binance began developing its own blockchain and DEX, others such as OKEx and Huobi are following the same path.
Using a DEX that’s decentralized from the outset is still also a great way to support decentralization. BQT is a P2P exchange platform looking to build a global community of crypto traders. The service is more than just a straightforward DEX, though. The BQT trading platform offers social trading, enabling users to share their trading strategies and tips with one another. A P2P hedge platform is also under development, which will allow traders to leverage their own crypto holdings to acquire new assets, without relying on margin.
BQT also offers access to the BQT University, which provides certified educational courses in blockchain and crypto trading. Beginners can access entry-level lessons for free.
How Can We Support Decentralization?
The single best way to support the decentralized ethos is to choose to put our money into the truly decentralized blockchain projects. Perhaps one of the best general examples is Ethereum and the decentralized finance (DeFi) movement.
The principles of DeFi are based around applications that are interoperable with one another, open-source, and accessible to everyone. Although the “official” DeFi group comprises only a few members such as Maker, Augur, and Uniswap, the principles can be extended to any project that offers financial services on a truly decentralized basis. Fortunately, a helpful Github user has put together a useful list of DeFi apps.
A Decentralized Web?
Perhaps one of the more ambitious plans is to decentralize the entire web. The creator of the internet, Sir Tim Berners-Lee, has been working on a project called Inrupt, in collaboration with MIT. It involves offering access to the internet using a decentralized infrastructure.
Berners-Lee has been outspoken about how the internet has evolved away from his original vision of an open-source infrastructure that can empower people. The central principle of Inrupt is that users will have control over their own data and how it’s used online. A far cry from the Facebook approach to user data.
The Libra announcement has indeed done much to put the concept of cryptocurrency in front of billions of users. However, now is the time for the crypto space to galvanize and educate the world about the benefits of a truly decentralized blockchain. Only in this way can we avoid Facebook — and the regulators — taking over what we’ve spent so long building.