Before sleeping every night, I tend to mellow down a little bit by listening to soft music on my Amazon Echo Dot. This had become an integral part of my routine. However, I never evaluated the flip side. What if I cannot get that ‘mindgasm‘ some day? Is it going to be a disturbed sleep? Turns out YES. For past couple of days, we are facing an electricity outage every night for 30 minutes due to some repair work nearby. That also means, I couldn’t operate my beloved Alexa. For some reason, my phone ditched me as well in terms of a constant data supply. And that’s when there’s nothing to do, my brain gets activated. Activated to the extent that I can light up one with mug of coffee searching for answers all night!
On most days, these questions are more spiritual. I often think myself to sleep while pondering over them. However, there are days when these questions take a much practical form. That’s when the urge to find answers is at it’s peak. Today, I plan to share one such question that kept me awoke for a while last night. Don’t worry, I was able to find answer a couple of hours later. I won’t keep you up all night. So we keep on hearing two words in the blockchain parlance. It is a distributed and decentralized network of nodes. This words are used interchangeably in almost every sense. But do they mean the same? Let’s settle this out for once. Distributed Vs Decentralized.
The Game of Antonyms:
The entire thought started with me looking for antonyms of random words (Crazy right?). When my brain stumbled upon the word ‘Decentralized‘, I quickly came up with ‘Centralized‘.
On a similar note, when I thought of the word ‘Distributed‘, the best guess I could make was again ‘Centralized‘.
So does it mean that Decentralization == Distributed?
And I kept on scratching my head on this question for a while. Is blockchain decentralized or is it a distributed ledger? Is it both? Do these terminologies mean the same?
Let’s explore the in depth meaning of each of these terms.
What does Decentralization Mean?
In usual terms, whenever someone talks about decentralization and centralization aspect of blockchains, they refer to the authority or governance of the system. In a centralized system, a single authority would be responsible for all the decisions pertaining to the system. However, in a decentralized world, this authority is spread across multiple nodes. No single node can decide the fate of the blockchain.
The best example of a decentralized system is Bitcoin. There is no central authority governing the transactions. For each transaction to be validated, there has to be a consensus from at least 51% of the nodes.
What does Distributed Mean?
When someone talks about distributed, they are generally referring to the physical locations of the servers governing the system. A distributed system is usually adopted to make the infrastructure more reliable. How? If there is a failure at one node, all other nodes would still be up and running, hence preventing the entire system from collapsing.
Also, the overall load on the network gets distributed amongst various nodes, making it efficient and scalable.
One noteworthy point would be that the nodes involved in the system can be either centralized or decentralized. Which means a single authority might chose to spread the system in various geographies to prevent a global outage or mitigate political, legal risks of operating from one location.
Few key examples of a distributed system would be Amazon, Facebook, Google. While these tech giants call the shots on the day to day functioning of the company, their servers are still set up in various locations.
Decentralized Vs Distributed:
The decentralized and distributed are usually used interchangeably in blockchain and crypto space because blockchain technology is actually both of them. All the nodes are geographically placed across the world (distributed) with no single node having the authority over the blockchain (decentralization).
However, in a non blockchain landscape, these two words are quite different. You can think of decentralization as a subset of distributed. That would mean that all decentralized networks are distributed in nature by default, however all distributed networks may not be decentralized. Still scratching your head around it? Refer to the image which was really helpful for me in dissecting these concepts.
Good night may be? Finally I know the difference between these close cousins. I hope it provided you the sense of satisfaction and ‘Zen’ that it did to me. Now what are you waiting for? Go ahead and nail those dining table conversations by dropping this question in front of everyone. Distributed vs Decentralized networks anyone?
Or is it just me who is absolutely NO fun at the parties? E
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Until next time..
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