Instant messaging and chat applications have been around since the 1990s, but it was not until the 2000’s when they became immensely popular. The ability to instantly send short, informal messages and reply to them in the same manner with virtually no delay revolutionized the way humans communicate today. Most, if not all of us go about our day having to send or reply to at least one message in a chat application. Chat messaging applications have come a long way since the days of AOL and MSN messenger during the 2000s, to more encompassing chat applications such as Whatsapp, Telegram, and WeChat, which do far more than just delivering messages.
Although different in their own ways, all of the widely used chat applications today have one thing in common - they are all centralized, meaning all of your messages, pictures, and sensitive data are all stored in a centralized server somewhere. This means the entity that is in possession of your data effectively has control over it and can choose to do what they will with it.
As mentioned above, we have seen the evolution of instant messaging applications into the modern chat application that we depend on for our daily lives, but is this the end of its evolution? We argue no, there needs to be a way that chat applications can improve and provide more benefit to the user - we believe the next step is decentralization.
But why is decentralization important for the next step in the chat applications evolution you may ask? Below we have outlined some reasons why having a decentralized chat application is more beneficial to the user.
Your Data Now Only Belongs to You
There is no question that corporations that run today’s messaging apps, such as Facebook, WeChat, have had a terrible track record for protecting the privacy of its users. Whatsapp for example, share user data with their parent company Facebook so that they can make better and more relevant targetted ads. We believe the ability to own your personal data and then use it for their own monetary gains is not only highly unethical but a clear invasion of user privacy.
Furthermore, these tech giants can choose to censor or outright ban you on their platform whenever they want as they know exactly who you are. And if you do something they do not like or break their Terms of Service which is ever-changing, then tough, good luck getting your message out somewhere else.
With a decentralized chat application, not only will this kind of privacy invasion or policing not happen, it will be impossible. The key is in the name ‘decentralized’ - this means that your data is encrypted and stored on a decentralized network and no one, but you, can view, tamper or have access to your data - this also means you cannot be banned or censored by anyone. Since it is your data, it is only right that you are the one who should have sole ownership of it, not some corporate entity.
The Freedom of Your Finances
WeChat already operates as a sort of online bank where money can be spent and managed with their application. Facebook and Telegram creating their own so-called ‘cryptocurrency’ and wanting to implement it to their chat applications, to make the spending of their own crypto easier, we believe it is fair to say that chat applications are moving towards becoming banks for digital money.
But as mentioned before, the centralization of your data means that the entity running your application can arbitrarily censor you at their own discretion. What does this mean for your finances if you decide to put them in their hands? Most likely the same thing that is already happening to your data, they will ultimately have the final say of what happens to your money, how you spend it, who you send it to and whether or not it is even yours.
A decentralized chat application that has integrated an equally decentralized currency, will mean that users will be able to exchange value freely and easily, no questions asked. You will never need to worry about a transaction being rejected for one reason or another, as long as you have the necessary amount of currency, then the transaction can proceed.
Digital assets and currencies have so much compliance and policies, which is hindering the use of it and is frankly outdated. Decentralization will mean that digital money can now behave like real-world cash while having all the benefits of remaining digital.
Privacy has been a hot button issue for decades, and with this new age of information technology, governments from all around the world are working as hard as they can to have their finger on the pulse. Corporate entities that manage user data oftentimes comply with government requests, this has been demonstrated countless times in the past. If anyone has a worse track record for data privacy, it is the government.
This is true in the United States, Europe and especially China, where companies like WeChat are effectively operating as an arm of the Chinese government. So, not only must you comply with the rules and regulations of the chat application you use, but the government is also monitoring your actions… and you must also play by their rules too. This is without a doubt, an invasion of YOUR privacy and limit on your freedoms.
If you believe that governments, or anyone else for that matter, should not be able to see what you are doing in private, then decentralized chat applications are the most sure-fire way of achieving this level of privacy from prying eyes. In a centralized system, as mentioned above, your data is stored on a centralized server, meaning people other than you have access to it.
Now, they may say that it is encrypted and they are just a delivery system, but can you really believe that? With decentralized messaging apps, the delivery is P2P (peer-to-peer), meaning that the only people who will see the message and the data you choose to send, is you and the recipient. A centralized server will not exist where third parties can access your data.
Decentralization is the next obvious step in the evolution of the chat application. The benefits to user privacy and user freedom is unrivaled. It is about time that people make their own decisions regarding their own data and have sole ownership and access to it too.