Decentralized solutions are gradually removing control from Big Tech companies and returning it to developers and users.
Marc Andreessen’s seminal 2011 essay, “Why Software Is Eating the World,” was well-regarded even at the time it was written and has since shown to be even more prescient than it seemed. Andreessen stated that every firm was now ostensibly a software company, whether the company wanted it or not, at the beginning of a decade in which software would prove invaluable to almost every facet of modern life.
His ideas eventually applied to businesses that either hadn’t fully defined their markets or didn’t even exist yet but would go on to generate billions in market share, including Uber, Lyft, TikTok/ByteDance, Robinhood, and Coinbase, to name a few. He adapted his argument to many of the market leaders at the time. Software was probably going to be a crucial component in becoming a unicorn in the twenty-first century.
The rise of actual cloud computing and cloud giants, an industry in which Andreessen himself had been a pioneer at a time when many within and outside computers were scoffing at the notion, was the covert force behind this entire transformation of modern economies and life.
But making so many aspects of life so simple came at a high price.
They had stopped scoffing entirely by the second decade of the twenty-first century. Global spending on cloud computing increased by more than quintupling in the 2010s, going from $77 billion to $411 billion. The computer in our pockets relied on it to make everything available at the touch of a button.
As with anything else, the mobile-powered software revolution had trade-offs even if it made life as simple as pressing a button. Software has taken over the globe, making very few, very huge cloud hosting firms the dominant force. Currently, 65% of the market for cloud hosting is dominated by Amazon, Google, and Microsoft.
By using cloud hosting, this established a monopoly of sorts. For instance, hosts can remove services from clouds when using cloud hosting, like Amazon did with the infamous social media service Parler. The Apple App Store likewise prohibited Parler from using it.
Whether or not you concur with a service like Parler doesn’t matter when it comes to the bigger issue at hand. The episode proved that, in the post-software world, it just takes two corporations—Amazon and Apple—to totally shut down a service, effectively forcing it out of existence.
What happens if a developer or service violates a less serious Amazon policy or term of service? The internet has been forced into a corner where it can no longer fully function as a marketplace for open ideas and growth, especially if that development is in some way seen as a threat by businesses like Amazon and Microsoft.
Creating a new world is possible with nodes.
Newer blockchain protocols have the potential to “break” data in a world where software and oligopolistic firms have taken over, just as Bitcoin “broke” money and allowed people to think about the exchange of value in new ways. Web3 and the initiatives it will spawn promise to fundamentally alter how information lives and is transmitted via the internet in a transparent and self-sufficient manner. Ecosystems that prioritise decentralisation and community promise to return control to creators and users. This will make it possible to create a common framework that supports best practises and economies of scale and can compete with the biggest centralised internet corporations. Ecosystems that prioritise decentralisation and the community offer to return control to programmers and, by extension, the users of their decentralised applications (DApps) and software.