Response to Larry Sanger: What Decentralization Requires.

in LeoFinance7 days ago (edited)


Earlier today I have read a brilliant article titled What Decentralization Requires by Larry Sanger who is an accomplished intellectual, co-founder of Wikipedia, and an author of Essays on Free Knowledge. The article outlined principles and proposed requirements for decentralization in social media platforms. When I read it first time, immediately I was thinking of how it was describing what Hive blockchain does. Feel free to click the title of the article above and read the article yourself. If you do let me and Larry know what you think, and if Hive indeed is doing what is described in the article.

I did let Larry know on Twitter that article was great and it describes what Hive does. He wasn't convinced, which made me doubt myself and I read the article again. I came to the same conclusion. I am fascinated by the article. So, I decided make a post responding to the article and why I feel Hive does most of the things described in the article. Article is structured with explaining principles first and then the requirements for decentralized social media. I will follow the same structure and respond with my thoughts.



On Hive blockchain/network we attribute self-ownership to account ownership. Each user or participant of the Hive blockchain/network must have an account. Once account is created, the person in the possession of the private keys is the only owner of the account. Nobody else owns that account. Nobody else can sign transactions, be it social or financial transactions from that account. Nobody can alter or delete that account.

Using this account owner/user can present their identity to the network as they choose. Some choose to be anonymous, some don’t. It is a personal preference for each user.

With this ownership comes the responsibility for the owner to secure their private keys and keep them secure. Hive has several features that make keeping account secure easier. One of those features is each account has 5 private keys:

Posting key – used for social actions such as posting, commenting, voting.
Memo key – used to decrypt private transfer memos/messages
Active key – used for financial transactions/transfers
Owner key – used to reset all other keys. It is recommended to keep it offline at all times.
Master key – can be used instead of posting, memo, or active keys. Not recommended.

Moreover, Hive has an account recovery feature. To create an account on Hive, we need an account, which means somebody needs to create an account. Creating account on Hive blockchain costs small amount of credit resources or Hive tokens. That’s why transactions should be singed from an existing account. Usually, Apps, platforms, and games offer account creation for free for new users.

In case an account is compromised or keys are lost, using account recovery feature the account that created the account can help in recovering the account.

2.Data ownership.

While all social actions like posts, comments, upvotes, downvotes are all stored in the blockchain and publicly available to all, the ownership of the data belongs to the account owner. Only the account owner can publish posts, make comments, edit or delete them. When editing and deleting, once thing should be kept in mind is that original data would still be available in the blockchain, since data stored is immutable.

3.Platform-independent following.

Just like any other actions, following action can only be done by the account owner and only the account owner can follow, unfollow, or mute other users/accounts. All the followers of the account automatically follow the user/account on all platforms, apps, games as long as they are within the Hive network. Hive is an open source software, and is an open network. Any Apps, platforms, games can connect the blockchain and start implementing the use of the userbase and their following.

Hive already has a large and healthy ecosystem of Apps, platforms and games. The ecosystem keeps growing and any new Apps and platforms that connect to Hive automatically inherit the userbase with their following and followers intact.

4.Platform-agnostic posting.

On Hive we have general blogging platforms like,,, Dapplr mobile app, etc. Posting in any of these platforms will automatically be displayed on others and same as posting on any of them. This creates a competition among these platforms to deliver a better user experience.

In addition to these platforms, we have community or interest-based Apps and platforms like,,,,,, etc. These platforms may not display all the posts from an account, but rather focus on the posts relevant to the community and the interest. However, all posts published on these platforms will still be available on platforms that display all posts. All data is stored on the same Hive blockchain.

There are games on Hive like Spliterlands, Dcity, Brewmaster, Rabona, etc. Video sharing Apps like 3Speak, and streaming platforms like, microblogging apps like There are also services like that help content creators to create personal blog website while still being connected to Hive ecosystem.

5.Decentralized moderation.

Hive has a unique way of appreciating content. Authors get monetary rewards for their posts and comments from Hive blockchain based on the result of upvotes and downvotes. Posts and comments have 7-day window for network participants to evaluate and cast their upvotes or downvotes. At the same time those who upvote also receive some upvotes. In the simplest terms 50% of the rewards go the author, and the other 50% distributed to those who upvoted based on their upvote weight and hive power (stake in the network). There is some gamification in place like those who discover under-rewarded posts first and upvote earlier than other may get higher rewards. There are author rewards and curation rewards. Crowd wisdom and stakes decide which posts get rewarded how much.

At the same time, since participants of the network have skin in the game, they would prefer the blockchain resources/rewards used for the benefit of the network and its growth. Any abusive behavior, plagiarism, illegal content, etc can be downvoted and deprived of the potential rewards. Some front-end Apps/platforms may also choose to make posts with negative rewards to be hidden. Even in those instances, there is a button that would make those posts visible if the user chose to see.

Usually higher reward posts move higher in trending page. All of these upvotes and downvotes rely on the participation of the users in a decentralized fashion. There are no central companies or entities that can unanimously decide on rewards distribution.

There is also communities feature on Hive. Anybody can create a community and users can choose to subscribe and unsubscribe from the communities. Moderation for communities is for the community admins, moderators, and members to decide.

6.Single conversation.

This sounds like the communities we have on Hive. People can create or join communities based on their interests and the community itself can assign roles to members, mute members, and moderate the discussions and content shared. How big the conversation is, I guess, would depend on participation and engagement.


Hive uses Delegated Proof of Stake protocol for governance of the blockchain, approving/disapproving community proposals, rewards distribution from Decentralized Hive Fund to work done to benefit the platform. There is no single entity that controls Hive. There is no single person who controls Hive. It is a truly community driven blockchain/network.

In fact, Hive was born as a result of a hostile takeover by Justin Sun when we were on Steem blockchain. Community fought against centralization and monopoly by a single company, by a single person. That’s why we have forked out and started Hive blockchain. Decentralization is our goal. It is not an easy task. It is not a state. It is what we advocate. It is what we promote. It is what we are building.

There is no company that can dictate governance on Hive. Governance of Hive, development on Hive, and where it’s heading is decided by the community in a decentralized fashion based on DPOS.

I believe nobody can take over the Hive blockchain to establish monopoly, which would require very large amount stakes. Even if someone attempted to do so, it would drive underlying asset price so high, it would become impossible.


1.User exportability.

The Hive blockchain is open and available for anybody. Users can easily export their data with running simple scripts. We have a vibrant and knowledgeable community of developers who are usually available to help. I have experimented with python a little bit and know exporting my posts can easily be done with python script.

Hive also has HiveSQL service run by a community member and provided for free. Users can export their data or any data on the blockchain using this service as well.

As users have full ownership of their accounts, they also have responsibility how to export their data to other platforms or personal websites if they choose to. There are plenty of tools and APIs available to accomplish such tasks on Hive.

2.Data exportability.

Same answer as above for data exportability. However, exporting followers would only be possible if the platform is within the Hive ecosystem or platform is connected to the Hive blockchain. For example, if you would choose to export your data to a personal website, you would also need to continue to be connected to Hive blockchain for your followers to be able to login using same account credentials and perform social actions.

If you chose to stay connected to Hive blockchain, there would be no need to export data either. Data can simply be streamed from the blockchain.


This would require platforms to connect to the Hive blockchain. This requirement is the main one I believe there is much more work can be done on Hive in the future to create bridges with other decentralized networks. For centralized platforms, they will have to make the decisions to be part of the decentralized network by implementing Hive blockchain solutions.

4.Data inalienability.

I think I covered this requirement above responding to self-ownership and data ownership. Data is stored in the blockchain. It is immutable. Only the owner of the account can post, edit, or delete.


Users can choose which communities to join or not, which content to view or not on Hive. Users can easily mute accounts and never see their content on their feed or elsewhere until user decides to unmute. Hive Communities can decide themselves who will have what roles such as admin, moderators, etc.

6.Text representation.

I talked about this in data exportability that user data can easily be exported in json format using various APIs or services like HiveSQL. One more thing to add is that I believe data is stored in json format in the blockchain and can be retrieved in json format.

Moreover, simply adding .json at the end of a post or comment url in the browser will convert the post or comment to a json format right on the browser. You may try it on this post. Add .json at the end of the url and see what happens.

This method can be used to get basic user data as well. For example will show my data in json format.

7.Permanence (or uncesorability)

I am not sure why you don’t trust blockchain , it does make decentralization possible. Especially when applied to web applications, games, finances, and social media networks. User data stored on the Hive blockchain is immutable and nobody can delete it.

I tried to express my thoughts how the article described what Hive does and its ambitions to decentralized web, apps and gaming. I am sure I failed to answer some parts, or forgot to mention others. Building on Hive is ongoing and it is really not easy to keep up with all.

I do want to mention one of the best aspects of Hive. It is the Hive community. We have a vibrant global community from all corners of the world, from all walks of life. That is what makes Hive the truly the best.

I hope Larry Sanger will give Hive a try and find out for himself how awesome this place is and what a great potential it has to change the web towards more decentralized future that empowers ordinary people doing ordinary things in an extraordinary fashion.

Posted Using LeoFinance Beta


Good job. I like your perseverance! It helped bring this to @good-karma's attention and he wrote a great piece too! Very cool community collaboration!

Yes, just read it. Great explanation by good-karma.

That's cool. I didn't know about the .json URL trick.

After reading Sanger's post and both yours and @bil.prag's responses, I think the only thing lacking from Hive is a private data and removable data. You have control of your data in that your keys can publish or edit posts. But, there are limits to what you can control. The public, immutable ledger prevents you from storing confidential data and prevents you from erasing your data.

I guess you could argue encrypted memo's fill the need for confidentiality. But, there's no hope from erasing data once it's in the chain (short of a hard fork).

yes the deleting it is the "problem" but if you can delete it there would probably be an option for someone else to delete it so it is a compromise.

encrypting it could be a solution, but for me it looks like it would complicate all the other points in it.

Wonder why he doesn’t like blockchains. I guess the financial aspect makes people think there is a philosophical clash with “free information” concept. Goes to show you how unique and undervalued Hive is.

Posted using Dapplr

i don't know, but yes from his replays it is obvious that he is not found of blockchains. it will be interesting to see what he thinks is the problem and what is not in line with what he wrote. from my point not a lot.

Deleting data would kinda go against blockchain, no? Doesn't the immutability of the data what makes blockchain secure?

At the same time, I think storing private data and removing can be possible on layer 2. It is for Apps to develop and come up with solutions. For example, Hive has 'custom_json' operation where we can store any kind of text data.

Sometime I wonder if following scenario is possible. We could build an app that would encrypt the data and store the data in the encrypted form. Only user would be able to access that data in a meaningful way. For everybody else it would be some random text with no meaning. When we need to delete the data, we destroy the link between the data and decryption. That way nobody, even the original user can access it anymore.

It kinda like how computers work. When we delete a file on our computer, data actually is still in the hard drive, by simply clicking delete we only removed the link to the location of the data on the hard-drive.

Perfect reply .

Also thanks for letting me know about .json in url. Will use that in future .

Thank you.

you did a much nicer job then me :D

Team effort! Thanks.

Seems like we are ticking a lot of boxes but we're still a well kept secret, I don't know whats the best way to get others to click, I feel its something silly like some big media person with a loud mouth finding the site and it clicking for them and they shout from the roof tops

lol. yea why not. It probably would work.

Awesome response.

Thank you Enjar!

@geekgirl, Unfortunately people want perfect system but in my opinion we can get best possible system instead of perfect. Stay blessed.

Thank you. Yea, goal of perfection may serve as obstacle in achieving the desired outcome.

Welcome. Sounds true.

Self-Ownership : Once account is created, the person in the possession of the private keys is the only owner of the account. Nobody else owns that account. Nobody else can sign transactions, be it social or financial transactions from that account. Nobody can alter or delete that account.

This something many don't understand.

Also Interoperability will be huge because it's gonna allow many HIVE Partnerships in the future.

I did let Larry know on Twitter that article was great and it describes what Hive does

Thank you for your efforts

You nailed it! 👏👏

This is an extremely well written response.

Moreover, simply adding .json at the end of a post or comment url in the browser will convert the post or comment to a json format right on the browser. You may try it on this post. Add .json at the end of the url and see what happens.

This worked on but @peakd and @ecency gives me 404 errors.

Yes that’s hive blog specific, we will consider adding that but with better url format

That was great to hear. Thank you for the response 😆

Oh, you're not wrong. What Larry was writing about describes the function of HIVE. Unfortunately, he either doesn't understand the decentralization HIVE offers or, HIVE is not what he's looking for and he's playing dumb on a high horse. It would surprise me if someone of his capabilities doesn't understand HIVE's decentralization.

Thanks for writing this up, much appreciated. I am very new to all these techonlogies but I'm excited by the potential of blockchain and Hive.

I suppose the only issue with Hive is that it is reflective of the class system that is apparent in the rest of the world.

Those that have more have more influence by default.

One bad seed of the 'whale' category is enough to make people lose trust in the platform as an equal representation of all voices.

Because well, I bring my mind here - not my wallet because well, money has never been a direct motivation for me to be alive - I get by and in the meantime I engage and enjoy life. (admittedly, I was born in a country that has no major concern for money - however, have travelled the world as a vagrant for seven years, many times living day to day as a street musician so I have a decent perspective on 'lack').

I'm grateful for the opportunities at Hive to express my mind and to connect with others that do so but it is in no way infallible.

It is however important to acknowledge that it is a big step in the right direction.

The argument against mine, is that well, don't I deserve more influence for putting in more work and investing more mullah? To an extent, yes - however an equal footing for all is dependent then on you the large stakeholder's personal views, opinions and beliefs - because your vision of society is super-imposed onto the rest of us by your exercise of power - explicitly, implicitly or tacitly.

I have a total of 2000 dollars to my name, I run a small cafe, I play music on the street - I have no ambition to take over the world with private enterprise - yet, I live with the self-empowerment of someone that is equal to anyone with any volume of wealth because I am fearless.

Does that qualify me to have an equal voice?

Some say it doesn't but if we didn't listen to minds in the gutter of the economy throughout history we may have no societal development or emotional development.

This is a long-running debate, because as soon as a new environment/platform is created - new domains/jurisdictions are created by the participants and the definitions of freedom that that community decide to uphold are the foundations that decide the longevity of that platform.

All platforms have an end in sight - because no one foundation can weather all the changes that time brings with it. This much must be accepted to create a platform that lasts for much longer than the usual premature ejaculation of cultural and social trends.

The idea of decentralized blockchain is to have a trustless system that works and removes the need to trust one or some entities. It is important to achive the security and integrity of the network. Various blockchains user different methods to achieve that. Bitcoin uses proof of work, Hive uses delegated proof of stake.

Dpos makes the system/network work because participants have skin in the game. Of course higher stakes give higher influence on the governance and reward distribution of the network. It is free market, anybody can acquire stakes/influence or lower their stakes/influence.

However, Hive having a strong social layer and community, high stakes is not needed to have a voice.

Participant’s voice I believe has to do more with their skills to express their voice and networking rather than having high stakes.

High stakes is like a shortcut, it may draw attention with zero effort to be heard.

Participant’s voice I believe has to do more with their skills to express their voice and networking rather than having high stakes.

This is very true.

And it is also true that Hive does a better job at decentralisation than other self-proclaimed decentralised initiatives. However as you state it is still a market and this brings with it all the benefits or non-benefits of the haves and have-nots, just like in class society.

Let me present a scenario, say Mr Trump decides Hive is his new home (I'm not for or against him by the way) and brings with him 20 friends and they all together end up buying a significantly larger stake than any present whale..

They also set up 20 new witnesses, and 5,000 people come along to support him and also vote for his witnesses.

What then happens to the Hive community?

I realise this is a little outrageous a scenario but considering that even a similar scenario on a lesser scale can have a dramatic effect on the Hive eco-system... What then?

I support Hive for the moment, I'm grateful it exists. But I'm also curious if there are fail-safes against 'takeovers' like this so Hive can retain its decentralised identity as a free speech platform.

I guess it is class society if you view it from the point of influence to rewards distribution. That’s where it ends though.

Nobody can control the actions of my account, and my wallet. Dpos makes sure my assets are only accessible by me alone and my content can only be posted and edited by me. This applies to any user.

You have a great example of how new wealthy stakeholders could attack the network that may not be in the benefit of the community.

I doubt it is possible. The way stakes are currently distributed no one person or small group of people can take over the network to benefit themselves at the cost of others.

If some rich person or people decided to buy up a lot of hive to have any significant influence, the price of hive would jump up so high it would be to costly for them. Now since it costs them a lot, they would have to act in a way to benefit the platform and all participants so that they don’t lose their investment value.

Lastly, if large amount of people decided this place is hostile to them they can always fork out and start a new chain. The code is open source.

The two reason hostile takeover of justin sun happened on steem because he bought large amounts of steemit stakes over the counter behind the closed door secret deal with Ned. He would never be able to buy such amount on exchanges. This stake wasn’t even suppose to be used for governance due to being ninja-mined. Second reason, large exchanges like binance colluded with justin and used user funds as stakes.

These two things are no longer possible on Hive. Hence, I can’t think of another hostile takeovers and attempts to centralize.

Thanks for your comprehensive answers. I knew some of the history but now know more.

I have a little more faith in the platform now. Still skeptical though, as is healthy to be.

All the best and thanks for your contributions to the Hive community,



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