Over the past two decades, the internet has gradually become monopolized by a handful of large corporations. A decentralized internet system, where every user is a part-owner and has control of their data, is being proposed as a significantly safer and more secure option. 

When the world wide web was first invented in 1989, computer-users communicated directly with one another. But after the turn of the century, the way we communicate online drastically shifted. We started sharing messages, images and information via platforms run by the likes of Facebook and Microsoft. 

This domination of the web by big companies means the internet is now seen as being largely ‘centralized’. We have switched from being users to being products; our data is now saved in huge storage centers and sold to help advertisers run campaigns tailored to our online habits and interests. Recently, Google Cloud launched ‘Big Lake’, a new cross-platform data storage engine, which will be purpose-built for analyzing and utilizing our data. 

One potential problem with centralization has been highlighted by the Ukrainian crisis. There are currently 34 data storage centers located around Ukraine, and should any of these fall victim to Russian missile strikes or hacking, access to crucial information would be crippled. A fact that has been made even stronger when realizing that the initial targets of missile strikes were on a TV tower located in the Ukrainian capital--disabling access to news and broadcasts, which later expanded into residential neighborhoods in the Kyiv and Kharkiv areas. This emphasizes how there is no better time than now to appreciate the weakness of the current centralized internet system.

Entire currencies can even be wiped out in the process. Taking into consideration that 70% of Ethereum nodes are running on hosted services, referring to cloud providers--a fact that shows how vulnerable they are in the case of outages and attacks.

Another key issue is that of access and internet poverty. Data centers are mainly located in wealthy locations, such as the US and Europe. The global app economy is situated in a handful of high-income nations, with developing economies accounting for just one percent of the total value. This greatly reduces data accessibility and increases the cost of connectivity for emerging regions such as Africa and South America. This severely reduces local business growth and opportunities in these regions. 

ThreeFold is attempting to avoid the risks and solve the fundamental problems of the current system. Their solution is a decentralized internet, powered by devices called ‘3Nodes’, which any user can plug-in at home or in their office. Users can then directly connect to one another via ThreeFold’s peer-to-peer ecosystem, rather than communicating within the digital confines of big company platforms, such as Facebook. ThreeFold can bring greater internet connectivity to countries that need it most, and offers equal access to its network to all. 

By connecting to the decentralized ThreeFold grid, which has already been deployed in 75 countries and counting, users can earn a digital currency, ‘TFT’. This essentially democratizes the internet and makes users part-owners of the ThreeFold system, hence why the company bills itself as ‘The People’s Internet’. The decentralized system also provides stronger protection against hacking and data breaches. 

Sustainability is a key emphasis for ThreeFold’s decentralized alternative. The current internet system consumes around one tenth of the world’s electricity. ThreeFold’s model is carbon-neutral and significantly more energy-efficient. 

ThreeFold gets its name and much of its motivation from the widely known ‘Rule of Three’. This states that all the good deeds and energy that you emit into the world will return to you three-fold. The company aspires to create “a new internet for everyone by everyone. Everywhere”, and the ThreeFold team includes technicians that were involved in the creation of the original internet a few decades ago. They have grown disillusioned by how obscure and complex the centralized system has become, and aim to help us return to a more transparent decentralized model. 

Increasingly, big tech companies are struggling to contend with questions concerning data privacy, online security and internet poverty. ThreeFold positions itself as the data-sovereign, digitally-secure and equal-access alternative that can solve these pressing issues.