Are Blockchains Slowly Devolving Into Centralized Databases? Here’s How We Prevent It
For the past 10 years, the crypto community has pushed the importance of decentralization as a means for people to create and exchange value in an open and censorship-resistant manner.
However, in recent years, the term ‘decentralization’ has slowly regressed from being a clearly defined criterion for what makes blockchains valuable to simply a marketing pitch.
Just like many disruptive cultural movements and trends eventually become commoditized, blockchains are going through a phase transition in which the search for commercial viability begins to take hold over the responsibility to uphold the principles of privacy, security, and censorship resistance that make this industry truly worth its $2 trillion valuation.
In the past, we have seen trends like P2P file sharing and social media start off with the goal of decentralizing ownership and democratizing access to information. Yet what tends to happen over time is that consumers favor convenience and cost savings over privacy, security, and censorship resistance, which incentivizes businesses to develop more centralized versions of distributed services in order to appeal to consumers’ needs and investors’ demands.
As network effects begin to take hold, much of the value of these technologies become concentrated in the hands of a few players like Twitter, Facebook, Spotify, Netflix, and Amazon.
Today, these platforms represent the reconsolidation of the media industry under new tech monopolies. While their existence provides limitless convenience to consumers, it comes at the price of censorship of free speech, an imbalance of power between platforms and content creators, and increased privacy and security risks to consumers.
Upholding decentralization is both an ethical and an engineering problem
Bitcoin and blockchain technology was a direct response to the centralization of power in the banking sector. Yet as Defi and NFTs propel blockchains to mainstream adoption, we are beginning to see consumers chase the most convenient and low-cost versions of decentralized applications, which in turn leads to developers building more centralized yet less secure and censorship-resistant solutions in order to meet the needs of users who wish to transact faster and for cheaper.
It is to be expected that consumers will always choose a product or service that offers more value for a lower cost. The burden is on developers to solve what is commonly known as the blockchain scalability trilemma, which describes a series of tradeoffs that blockchains must make between scalability (speed), security, and privacy.
Only through developing solutions that enable consumers to benefit from low-cost and efficient decentralized applications that do not compromise security or privacy can our industry avoid devolving into another form of the traditional financial system that we have been aiming to disrupt.
Horizen, a zero-knowledge proof enabled network of blockchains
To address these challenges, Horizen is building a zero-knowledge proof enabled network of blockchains with the simple goal of helping developers build massively scalable, secure, and privacy-preserving blockchains without compromising decentralization.
We achieve this by developing an infrastructure that consists of more than 45,000 distributed nodes, the largest of any blockchain network in the industry.
We’re also the only blockchain to build a more secure version of the proof-of-work consensus mechanism, leveraging what we call a ‘penalty system for delayed block submission’ to enhance protection against 51% attacks.
Based on this robust infrastructure, we’ve developed a crosschain protocol, Zendoo, with an all-in-all SDK that enables developers to build their own custom blockchains. Developers can choose what consensus mechanism they wish to run ( PoS, PoW, DAG, PoH, etc), how many transactions they want their network to handle, and what degree of privacy protection they offer using zero-knowledge proof cryptography.
As a developer on Horizen, you no longer have to compromise decentralization in order to meet the demands of consumers looking for faster and cheaper applications.
While other blockchain networks force you to build dapps that are restricted to the scalability limits of the underlying blockchain, with Horizen, you can build thousands of independent blockchains that can each accompany specific types of dapps based on their own unique design and capacity to scale. Each of these blockchains has a throughput of 1,000 transactions per second. So if there are 4,000 blockchains running in parallel on Horizen, altogether, the network of blockchains can achieve a speed of up to 4 million transactions per second!
While history has shown that decentralized movements tend to regress towards centralization, we strongly believe that this time will be different, because we have the technology to make it so. A decentralized social network with the scale of Twitter, or a BitTorrent-style network that offers convenient access to the libraries of Netflix and Spotify while rewarding content creators in a fair and transparent manner are only possible on platforms that offer the flexibility and scalability of Horizen.
We’re on a mission to anchor disruptive social technologies to the ethos of privacy, transparency, decentralization, and censorship resistance.
We believe these components are essential for enabling massive value creation from transformative innovations to be more fairly distributed to all stakeholders, which in turn allows technology to truly serve as a net benefit for society.