For however long many of us have been caught up in the fact that we think the web should be as decentralized as possible because there just seems to be so many benefits to it. For example, file sharing was great with IRC, but became even better with the advent of peer-to-peer networking which used a decentralized model for sharing. It can be argued that the system never starts off as being decentralized since the source has to start from one point, but that is another discussion. With the idea of decentralization being around for a while now how much of the web is really decentralized though?
When we started 9rules we intentionally didn’t want to start a Network where we owned all the sites because the idea of having something decentralized appealed greatly to us. However, 9rules could be considered more of a hybrid model because the 9rules site itself could easily be considered the hub with all of the other sites sprinkled around it. Because of the decentalized system that we use we can grow or shrink at our own choosing without any worries of how it will effect us resource wise.
The biggest movement for decentralization though seems to be coming from Identity systems with OpenID getting the most press lately. The idea is that if everyone uses the OpenID then you no longer have to worry about remembering a thousand different logins and you can focus on having one identity on the web. A great thing right? Well not so fast, let’s think about this one for a second.
Offline don’t we have a system that identifies us as unique individuals already (at least in the United States)? Yes, and its our Social Security number. What happens though when someone gets a hold of it and uses it for themselves? Lots of bad things can happen. A couple of years ago my credit card company called me to inform me that some woman shared the same SSN as me and after doing some more research found out that she was an illegal immigrant.
What can you do though once someone has your identity? You can get your SSN changed and then proceed to change the one million other accounts that use your SSN as their basis of information which becomes a pain in the ass. That one point of identification can be great for a lot of things, but once things go bad they can go really bad.
Large corporations with datacenters never maintain their data backup in the same place as the live storage because what if something were to happen with the building? They decentralize their data to provide failsafes and this provides another level of security. Maybe I’m not versed enough with OpenID to understand all of its logistics, but what happens if my one single ID gets corrupted or stolen? What do I do then?
When building my.9rules we had two options:
- Build a system that was the end all solution for all your needs: photo storage, blog creation, video hosting, etc.
- Build a system that utilize your accounts from all over the web.
Option #2 is what we envision as the decentralized way of doing things and that is what we like. What if you have everything on MySpace? Your photos, blog entries and videos and then one day they just shutdown without warning? What are you left with?
Maybe I am getting too caught up in semantics to see how the “decentralized” OpenID system is truly a good thing or how its really even decentralized in the first place.