Blockchains are like duct tape. Just because you can use them to do anything, doesn’t mean you should. More specifically, decentralization has been fetishized to the point that even associating oneself with the concept is, frankly, embarrassing.
But I say we ought not throw the baby out with the bath water. The hype in this area is not unfounded; blockchain technology could truly revolutionize the way the world works. The issue is discerning between appropriate and inappropriate uses of the technology.
I propose the following question be used as a litmus test of sorts — to determine whether or not an application ought to be decentralized.
Does it solve a problem, the outcome of which, without decentralization, is unduly influenced by a centralized entity (government, corporation, individual, cartel, etc.)?
In order to understand how to apply this prompt, allow us to consider the following examples,
Bitcoin – Decentralized Money
Is centralized money unduly influenced by a centralized entity? Yes, central banks, in collusion with governments, manipulate the money supply to the detriment of society.
Filecoin – Decentralized Storage
Is centralized file storage unduly influenced by a centralized entity? Not really. In theory it could be, but in practice it is not. Filecoin offers users the ability to efficiently utilize unused storage space, but such a system could easily be achieved with E2E encryption and a centralized backend. The reason the centralized version doesn’t already exist is most likely because there is no demand for it.
Decentralized Property Registries
Are centralized property registries unduly influenced by a centralized entity? Yes, allowing government officials to be the final arbiters over property ownership leads to large scale corruption and theft — and, in some cases, their incompetence causes widespread poverty.
Viola – Decentralized Dating
Is centralized dating unduly influenced by a centralized entity? No… also Viola is a real blockchain-based dating platform and “viola” also happens to mean “rape” in Spanish.¯\_(ツ)_/¯ (thankfully, I and others, alerted them of this and they are changing their name).
Keep in mind, the fact that an idea is prime for decentralization does not mean that any given implementation thereof will be successful. Decentralized applications (dApps) ought to be judged by the same criteria we use for other technologies, products, or businesses; they must be executed properly and positioned to win in the market.
So next time you want to make a dApp, think first: why the hell am I building it this way?