The Internet: from a decentral beginning…
From its earliest days, the Internet was designed as a decentralised network: instead of requiring all communication to go through one central piece of hardware, the Internet allowed all kinds of networks and computers to connect to each other as and when they saw fit. More importantly, the Internet was envisioned as a tool for humans to connect, work together and share information over long distances. People were even seeing this new network as a force of liberation, a carrier of free speech. Because of its decentral nature, no one organisation would be able to control it and governments would no longer be able to suppress information.
…into the hands of companies and governments
So, what happened? (Apart from the fact that we seem to be more interested in sharing funny cat videos than in exchanging grand ideas…) Despite its decentral nature. some hosts on the Internet are more equal than others. Most popular network applications are based on the client-server model. We, the clients, contact a server to request a service: please show me this website, or please send out this mail for me. At first that didn’t seem much of a problem, since anyone could (and still can) set up a server if they desire.