Whats the difference between distributed and decentralized?

Whats the difference between distributed and decentralized?

Decentralize all the things, or distribute? Cloud computing is closely tied to the decentralized movement, but distributed systems are not the same as ...


What's up, party people? Chris DeRose here, Community Director of the Counterparty Project. And today I wanted to answer some questions on what is Eris Industries? So, I've been watching this product a little bit. It's a new project and Preston Byrne is really into it. I think he is, himself an employee of this company. I thought I'd explore it a bit on my channel, figured it is a good place for it. Certainly for anybody who has opinions, we always love your comments.

But yeah, let's talk about this project a bit. So it came on my radar, I think with the rest of you, the last two weeks or so. By the time you're watching this, it may have been some time. And it's comprised of I think three programmers, two of which came for the Aetherion Project. There's some other individuals involved, as well. It seems to be some kind of a company, I haven't quite figured out if there is a profit incentive for them or where the profit incentive is.

But it's a set of tools for making your own blockchain and making your own serpent contracts and following them on that blockchain. There is an option to store your contracts and another Bitcoin blockchain or even the Aetherian blockchain. It's this sort of rubric for which you can start creating your own blockchains. I've been looking at the project and the tools are really slick. I mean, I like what they've done. Is open source, they're not charging money, they're not collecting money, so I mean it can only help the community.

It's this really nice stuff. But it kind of begs the question certainly, "Why do we need personal blockchains?", "What value is there to that?" I've been thinking about it a lot. I've been trying to find uses for blockchains. But I don't think that there are that many uses for blockchains outside of the counterparty features of blockchains, wherein a third-party risk is no longer present between two individuals wishing to conduct transactions. I think the blockchains are really good for sidestepping onerous regulations. So, when you have a company that's your own, you don't really have to worry about the counterparty risk because it's your own company.

Similarly, you don't really have to worry about regulatory issues because it's your own company. So, I'm not sure what really this problem is that they're solving and then I think to compounded it, one of the problems that we have with Eris Industries is that there is no escrow of value in their software, which was really kind of strange for me because one of the things that we think about with smart contracts is this notion that the money itself is handled, and allocated and that is the power of smart contracts. In legacy systems we had to have an attorney that held these things and we maybe had to have a bank that held these things, be it bitcoins or dollars or whatever tokens you want. With Eris Industries promoting this project, they left that out. You can execute a smart contract but it begs the question, "What happened if there was no money awarded in this reference implementation?" I suppose what happens is that the people that have participated the contract then willingly fork over the money. But you can't do things like betting, you have to have a lot of trust in this model and then of course if we have trust already, then why do we need sort of a token side, why do we need a system to do this? I'm not sure that I get that.

Again, I like the project, because it is a nice set of tools but what will happen, I think, is that most developers are going to find that the reason they're using smart contracts is to hold something in escrow. What's cool about Eris Industries, I think it's really fantastic, is that they use the same language, Serpent, that Counterparty uses. For a developer who maybe wants to try out some ideas, it's a wonderful place for them to do that. Go ahead, have fun. But then as soon as you get to a point where you need escrow value with your contract, you're gonna have to come to Counterparty. That's great.

We'll take you. We'd love to see you come and play with our system. But it does begs the question, "What is Eris Industries?" I'm having a hard time with it, really, to really understand exactly what it is that they're out to achieve. Nonetheless, I wish them luck with the project. It may be very successful. Maybe there is a lot of use case for this.

This kind of gets into another issue, which is the difference between decentralization and distributed. There's a lot of misconceptions about that. I think a lot of people, you know, they say, "Decentralize all the things." That's possibly fine, but they often probably mean, "Distribute all the things." There's a very specific difference between decentralization and distributed. Decentralization is something that you do, that provides a database, if you will, without a center of authority.

And distributed is what you do when there's not a center of geography. So, we have things like distributed hash tables, which is what you see in certainly Google's case. They use them all the time. They have a data base that needs to exist in millions of places or thousands of places, who knows? And various values need to go to various parts of that system. We need redundancy in various places. So, they use distributed hash tables.

REAC is a wonderful piece of software that if you have this need, you can use. But the thing in Google's case, the thing in REAC's case, is that there is a center of authority. We don't have to subvert or avoid any sort of counterparty risk or mitigate any sort of regulatory encumbrance and because of that, they're really efficient. Google search results come instantly, they're indexed. They're easy to work with. None of that is true for decentralized systems.

Decentralized systems, and I love them, I'm here talking about talking about them all the time. But they're really inefficient for all of the reasons that you would use a distributed hash table. So, Eris industries has their thing and I don't know what makes it functionally different than a DHT with journaling. Journaling is a feature by which you have versions instances of your persistence store. It seems like they've gone about creating a decentralized solution for centralized places, thus creating nothing more than a distributed database with smart contracts, I guess. But then why not just use Dropbox and Microsoft Word? I mean, we trust everybody so we don't need to hold anything in escrow.

Why don't you just read the contract, shake hands, and be done with it? I don't know. Maybe they'll do a video to explain the differences to me. Maybe you'll do some comments at the bottom here and tell me where I'm wrong. Certainly if you have more questions for me, I'd love to answer them. So tweet me @derosetech on Twitter and email me chris at And subscribe to channel.