Are We Decentralized Yet?

My friend Chris Burniske told me about this site last week and then tweeted about it last night:

So the answer to the question posed by the name of the website is “not really.”

But that doesn’t mean we won’t be someday.

This chart also shows the issues with highly valued chains like Ripple, Stellar, and NEO.

These chains offer some things, but certainly not decentralized consensus.

It is still very early days in the development of decentralized consensus systems and there is a lot more work to do.


Comments (Archived):

  1. LIAD

    “are we decentralised yet, and what’s the plan to get there”.Whilst NEO as an example with only a handful of nodes all centrally controlled appears on the surface to be a private company, there is a detailed decentralisation plan, roadmap and timeline .Most worrying on that site for me is actually bitcoin. Pushing 10yrs old and mining power still massively centralised.

    1. JamesHRH

      It’s more of a choke point, a la Porfer’s 5 Force of Marketing, but yes, Houston, we have a problem up here.

    2. jason wright

      BTC money supply % is more reassuring, and a number of the top 100 BTC accounts are dead. all hail BTC.

    3. Matt A. Myers

      Economies of scale will always be the winner(s) – that’s pretty universal..

  2. awaldstein

    More and more, I believe that aspirational drivers are what matters.We are never really at the end, always toiling to get there which as to the Sisyphean reference a way back, is just fine as long as we are happy in the process and not dependent on the end for success or satisfaction.

    1. JamesHRH

      Interesting though.

    2. mplsvbhvr

      Camus rears his head again? 🙂

      1. awaldstein

        reread the essay over the weekend. about to download The Stranger.a lovely tangent.

      2. jason wright

        He was a goalkeeper.

        1. mplsvbhvr

          Hah – never knew this. Quite a lot of thinking to be done in the back I suppose… Also really puts the Sisyphus quote into perspective..

    3. cavepainting

      yeah, aspiration, mission, and the passion it engenders are game changers.From Christianity in the first century AD to tech in the 21st century, there is a preponderance of evidence that a few passionate and fanatical believers with a vision for a better future can truly create incredible change.

        1. cavepainting

          Very well articulated! I feel exactly the same way. I was at Block2the future, a 3 day event in San Francisco last weekend and came away with similar impressions.The air is pregnant with a sense of possibility and this is a very real movement. None of us can predict the future and when it will arrive and how, but it would be foolish to predict against a global community of smart people innovating at a dazzling speed.

          1. awaldstein

            Glad you liked it.Yup, stuff is changing and there is no power like the belief of a community to drive change.

  3. kidmercury

    increasingly i think the decentralized swing is over, and the swing to centralization is under way. decentralization gets you early adopters, but for mass market product/market fit centralization will prove to be necessary IMHO

    1. LIAD

      When done properly. End users won’t even know if what they’re using is decentralised

      1. awaldstein

        I’m not so sure. I used to think that way that this was just smart plumbing which of course it is. But the amount of talk, education, interest at a mass market perspective makes this rollout–if it does rollout–into the market with a greater sense of awareness marketwise than anything else I’ve been confronted with.

        1. Matt A. Myers

          There will be an anchor point, and it will be brand and brand trust — trust being the final layer of competition, existing through good governance.

    2. Matt A. Myers

      It’ll be a mashup of all the good bits.

  4. Vinish Garg

    And then we have Peepeth, – A blockchain powered microblogging, a decentralized alternative to Twitter. I see some folks talking about decentralization primarily about “technology > governance > ownership” and which is not true. We are yet to get off the mark.

  5. Alan Warms

    Premise here is we’re measuring the success of the protocol based on distributed or lack thereof of ownership of tokens. Not sure that’s right. I am a huge believer in Stellar and currently working on some exciting Dapps (although Stellar calls them “Stellar Integrations”) with top enterprise architect partner – that is a protocol that scales, is fast, and is designed for the get-go for developers to build real applications on top of it. On the other hand, as this blog post articulates (… ) , I am not sure the “value” of XLM will rise accordingly with Dapps as transactions have to stay cheap in order to make it an attractive protocol. So I think there’s other ways that will be needed to measure “decentralization progress.”

  6. JLM

    .Not only is it not decentralised, it is incredibly centralised. [Warning: adopting the English spelling to show off the international appeal of the subject. Nobody likes a Z any more.]”Meet the new boss … “JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

    1. LE

      Agree. The column that matters is the number of entities that control more than 50% of votes [1] and the codebase say it all. As far as % of money supply I’d rather see it expressed in a way that indicates who has enough power to manipulate the day to day price.Importantly all this assumes that the chart is correct to begin with.[1] But I think the distribution below that could be significant as well ie 12 Opec members.

  7. Sebastian Wain

    It is highly probable, based on computer science fundamentals, that we could never be fully decentralized and this is why it is extremely easy to spot scammers or projects who are taking advantage of the decentralized marketing jargon.Sharing a comprehensive list of the latest research in the field here.

    1. Matt A. Myers

      Along with a few other borrowed or misappropriated terms or structures — crypto-“currency”, stock market, etc.

  8. Twain Twain

    Learn the maths of graphs. Examine how consensus mechanisms are mathematically defined. Ignore all the marketing spiele.Voilà, there’s no true decentralization.

    1. Matt A. Myers

      Just people who want to control perception, when in reality there’s no such thing as control.. Fly!

    2. Michael Elling

      Decentralization runs counter to network theory and laws. That said, pure centralization does not work either. The solution is centralized/decentralized hierarchical networking (CDHN). Nothing is ever static, no end-point is every achieved; pareto and standard distributions rule the day. Zipf, Bell, helped along by Moore and Metcalfe. To understand how they work together at the network level to clear marginal supply and demand ex ante:

  9. Poe

    Jackson Palmer who created that site ( – co founder of @dogecoin) is a great source for updates in the space he does one video per week on the news, one per two weeks on a technical breakdown worth the follow imo-

  10. Richard

    Things could change, but between bird schooters and bitcoin decentralization events, there is a lot of trash being throwing around Santa Monica.

  11. JamesHRH

    I am now quite convinced that chains are a thing, but that they are a plumbing thing and not a sure thing.It’s like PVC pipe replacing copper. Eventually, when I spring a leak or do a major reno. But no one runs out to replace the copper unless it breaks.I mean – can you imagine having something like this happen to your bank, today:…I also think it is 10+ years away, as you will find large financial institutions who are considering an audit trail reno saying ‘ It costs WHAT to decrypt an internal chain?’

    1. JLM

      .Dude, you want PEX with SharkBite fittings.A pal redid a huge house in three days using PEX and SB.Easy installation, no fittings, no friction loss, comes in a roll, flexible.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

      1. JamesHRH

        There you go, perfect analogy tree:First we dialed in – copper pipe.Then we did LAN / WAN / Cloud – PVC.One day, we will Chain – PEX w Sharkbite.

        1. PhilipSugar

          I’ll continue the analogy. It’s easiest to go to PEX if you are:NewVery old and outdated (I have PEX in my 1839)

      2. PhilipSugar

        I have 100% PEX in my 1839. I could not go with SharkBite. I am sure they are fine, but somehow I like the totally permanent compression fittings.

        1. JLM

          .SB has a huge product line of fittings including copper compression. I wonder if you might have used one of their products?The key to all plumbing is pressure testing. I have never done anything from high rises to single family in which pressure testing did not reveal at least a drip.PEX is a huge advantage over copper because of the ability to forego fittings and their attendant pressure losses.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

  12. jason wright

    perhaps the secret (i like secrets) is to not begin creating from a central point. identify an already distributed unit of value and attach a token to it. I’m sure there’s something common to each of us that we value. blockchain has already become very conventional, predictable, and uninventive. i’m not that much excited by what i see in the space at the moment.What we need is an injection of chaos. Things need smashing up. Collisions and impacts and general discontinuity. anarchy.

    1. Matt A. Myers

      Why not USD or CAD? We already know the value of each and in comparison to each, and it’s already distributed amongst the world (albeit not as well as it will be in the future).As I keep proposing as a solution to one of the problems with incentivized crypto-assets: when buying into incentivized crypto-assets, the USD or other currency isn’t destroyed, instead it’s being exchanged – given to someone in return for a digital crypto-asset. If USD/other was actually destroyed or rather transferred into a crypto-asset blockchain, that would be solving part of the problem.I will be doing this as part of my overall ecosystem plans, as quickly or as slowly as support allows.

      1. jason wright

        I *really* like that idea.

  13. Matt A. Myers

    That chart can’t really speak to anything if it’s not contrasted to anything else, contrasting with blockchain operations is comparing apples to apples.It’s of course likely the most difficult to track true decentralization, especially once decentralization is tied with a “right to be forgotten” or “pure” data ownership privileges; I say privilege, as for example, we’d likely need to track as part of probation (or what not) what people convicted of certain illegal activity are doing – like a ankle bracelet tracker, for digital.

  14. Matt A. Myers

    It is truly incredible how much creation and innovation can happen once everyone is aligned, to collaborate, to work together.We will find a way to do so without unreasonably incentivizing behaviour.

  15. Frank W. Miller

    Distributed consensus has a variety of facets. We discuss this in my graduate database course. I would refer you to several seminal papers on the topic. Many of these concepts form the basis of the distributed applications we are seeing now, like Cassandra and blockchains.Lamport,L., Shostak, R., and Pease, M., “The Byzantine General’s Problem”, ACM Trans. On Programming Languages, 4,3 (Jul. 1982)Lamport, L., “The Part-Time Parliment”, ACM Trans. On Computer Systems, 16, 2 (May 1998)Agrawal, D., El Abbadi, A, and Steinke, R., “Epidemic Algorithms in Replicated Databases”, ACM Principles of Database Systems, 1997.

  16. Alan Warms

    That’s not my understanding of the Stellar Consensus Protocol. I do know that for the Dapps that get build you have truly distributed and transparent ledgers. Yes there’s the concept of trusted nodes – but far from one entity – it’s not a “private” blockchain.