When the Web's Backbone Is an Oligarchy of Cloud Providers

27.03.2024|Christian Kreutz

I often find myself getting sentimental about the early days of the World Wide Web. It was a time when my local Internet Service Provider hosted my website and my email, truly showcasing the decentralized nature of the internet. Now, in 2024, we are witnessing an incredible concentration not only in social media platforms, but also in the underlying internet infrastructure—essentially, website hosting.

Statista reports that a whopping 66% of "cloud hosting" is controlled by Amazon Web Services, Microsoft, and Google. This trio doesn’t just dominate the market; they're increasingly the choice for government hosting as well.

These cloud providers have built an ecosystem of services and hosting options that make it challenging for traditional web hosts to compete. For instance:

"42.5% of EU enterprises used cloud computing services in 2023, mainly for email, file storage, and office software." Source: EuroStat

Moreover, this consolidation has fostered the development of additional technical services that benefit sites like this one, alleviating concerns over website speed or cybersecurity. However, this shift towards centralization veers away from the internet's decentralized ethos. What if the countries where these dominant companies are based were to adopt a censorship regime? Would we comply, or would we consider rebuilding a decentralized internet?

The reality is that this trend towards centralization challenges the foundational principles of the internet. As we navigate this landscape, it's crucial to reflect on the implications of such concentration and what it means for the future of the web.