Most already-existing computational systems which aid human activities run on centralized systems, which management rely on a single central server (or a host of central servers). This is true for all sectors, from governance, public service, business, telecommunications and finances.
Although they are familiar and convenient to manage, the centralized systems have some limitations. The limitations include: 1) data and information flow bottlenecks and time-lag when the size of incoming data and information exceeds the capacity and speed of the central server; 2) instances of data and information manipulation, including censorship by central server operators (social media giants Facebook and Twitter are the best examples for this); and 3) data silos resulting from the use of different apps by different departments.
This is why the popularity of the peer-to-peer (P2P) network apps has risen. The P2P network stores and distributes all data and information in the system across all network members instead of relying on just a central server. It allows smoother flow of information and data, prevents likelihood of censorship and manipulation (assuming it is being programmed to prevent such incidents) and breaks down data silos by operating all the functions under the same platform.
One of the milestones of the P2P network apps happened in the 1990s and early 2000s, with the rise of file-sharing platform BitTorrent as well as communications app Skype. The developers of these networks keep on improving the efficiency and effectiveness of these apps to help them become better.
Decentralized blockchain is one of the most popular P2P network apps right now. Its use cases span financial transactions, as well as digital assets, document and supply chain management. Telegram and Signal, meanwhile, are popular instant messaging/communications apps which partially run on P2P networks.
To come back to the subject of data and information bottlenecks, the reason why Signal and Telegram are popular alternatives to the centralized instant messaging app WhatsApp (owned by Facebook) is because they have relatively clearer and more stable voice quality. Furthermore, the fact that these two telco platforms are partially decentralized gives users more confidence regarding their data privacy and, with that, their freedom of speech.
In terms of digital asset management, starting from the beginning of the year 2021 suddenly there has been a spurt in the use of NFT marketplaces , which run decentralized blockchain, among sellers and buyers alike.
The popularity of Signal, Telegram and the NFT marketplaces also attests to how easy they are to use (user-interface/UI and user-experience/UX qualities), which have evolved along with user feedback.
Current progress status of the P2P network app
Due to the different functionalities and features they have, the blockchain infrastructure solutions which we have now are very diverse, with different UI/UX and operational logic. The diversity in which the P2P network app exists is similar to the diversity in which smartphones and laptops exist (think iPhone and Android devices, for instance).
Some of the P2P network apps which target more sophisticated users to help them handle complex functions can be more complicated to operate. Meanwhile, there are some apps which handle simpler functions (like Signal and Telegram, or the NFT marketplaces) and thus are easier to operate.
The apps also have a wide range of storage capacity. So choose the ones which are most suitable to your needs. For instance, the Raspberry Pi device — which works as the central processing unit, or the “brain”, of the P2P network — has small capacity and thus is suitable for simple functions only.
Also, like Signal and Telegram, some of the P2P network apps are also still attached to the centralized systems. This is necessary, because the P2P network infrastructure availability still pales in comparison to the centralized ones. To expand coverage and operations, both are operating in parallel.
Current barriers to adoption
Current barriers to P2P network apps do not have to do with UI/UX quality or infrastructure reach. Rather, it has to do with organizations’ tendency to resist change.
Adopting any kind of technology will require a big shift in management style and work flows as well. Workers need to be retrained, workflows need to be changed and some job descriptions need to be changed along with the adoption of new technology (for instance, the blockchain platforms automate several administrative processes, which might result in job reassignment or layoff).
Coordinating organizational change is no small feat, both in terms of energy and money. The question remains: are the operational and managerial costs worth the benefits brought by the new technology? It takes strong business analysis in order to evaluate whether the adoption of the new technology is well worth it.
Finally, although most of the processes in the blockchain have been automated and require no middlemen to supervise the operations, as a client, you still have to pay money to the network’s node operators.
This article is but a glimpse into how the peer-to-peer network apps, including decentralized blockchain, works. Enlisting blockchain consultants who can help you understand more about how the system works and how to adopt it can be a great idea should you consider adopting the technology for your organization.