ConTrib: Maintaining fairness in decentralized big tech alternatives by accounting work

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“Big Tech” companies provide digital services used by billions of people. Recent developments, however, have shown that these companies often abuse their unprecedented market dominance for selfish interests. Meanwhile, decentralized applications without central authority are gaining traction. Decentralized applications critically depend on its users working together. Ensuring that users do not consume too many resources without reciprocating is a crucial requirement for the sustainability of such applications. We present ConTrib, a universal mechanism to maintain fairness in decentralized applications by accounting the work performed by peers. In ConTrib, participants maintain a personal ledger with tamper-evident records. A record describes some work performed by a peer and links to other records. Fraud in ConTrib occurs when a peer illegitimately modifies one of the records in its personal ledger. This is detected through the continuous exchange of random records between peers and by verifying the consistency of incoming records against known ones. Our simple fraud detection algorithm is highly scalable, tolerates significant packet loss, and exhibits relatively low fraud detection times. We experimentally show that fraud is detected within seconds and with low bandwidth requirements. To demonstrate the applicability of our work, we deploy ConTrib in the Tribler file-sharing application and successfully address free-riding behaviour. This two-year trial has resulted in over 160 million records, created by more than 94’000 users.

Original languageEnglish
Article number108081
Number of pages16
JournalComputer Networks
Publication statusPublished - 2021


  • Accounting mechanism
  • Decentralized applications
  • Fairness
  • Free-rider prevention

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