Three Trends Killing Web Privacy and Decentralization

Three Trends Killing Web Privacy and Decentralization

(Ludovic Toinel/Unsplash)

The World Wide Web has revolutionized human communication, but it’s under threat.

We at Brave think this distributed and interlinked information system is unique among platforms for many reasons: Its design and direction aren’t controlled by any one organization. Its pages and applications are modifiable by users (e.g., extensions, ad/tracker blocking, more general browser configuration, etc). And its decentralized design gives the web the potential to be more privacy-preserving than any other system.

Brave may be best known for protecting privacy on the web today, but we’re concerned with long-range trends, too, particularly those that could weaken, or effectively end, its decentralized nature. And while it is difficult to build privacy-preserving decentralized systems, preserving privacy on the web will become even more difficult as more and more control is centralized in fewer organizations.

We’d like to describe three threats to the web’s decentralization, and explain why we think they should concern everyone.

The growth of centralized distribution systems is harmful to web decentralization. More specifically, while we’re concerned about more and more of the web being served from fewer and fewer CDNs [content delivery networks], we’re especially concerned about systems like or a potential WebPackaging based AMP follow-up, which impose design decisions on publishers (and so, indirectly, on other browsers, too).

The more of the web that is served from a single party, using a format designed primarily by a single party, the fewer voices and goals end up in future design of the web. And while Web 3.0 cannot ensure that the web reflects a broad range of uses and needs, a centralized web nearly ensures it won’t.

We think it’s obvious that the future of the web is privacy-by-default: Privacy-focused tools like Brave are rapidly growing in popularity, and legislation like the GDPR and increasingly recognize that people have a right to privacy. However, the proposals from tracking companies on how current systems can be maintained are tragicomically complicated, piling layers and layers of machinery on top of outdated, user-harmful systems to try and resist change.

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