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The web, as we know it, is a series of centralized repositories that are very large and full of data (i.e. all the data in the world). Some repositories, such as Google, Facebook, Amazon and YouTube, are owned and controlled by one, or a few entities, generally the people or companies who built them.By the nature of the centralized web, it is very difficult for most of us to get to know the people who created and run these repositories., and once we do know them, we tend to see them as our own personal friends.
That social relationship can be a powerful tool.
With the decentralized web, however, it is not only possible to own and operate these repositories, we are encouraged to do so!
The web is not what it used to be anymore. It’s evolving to an open platform where anyone can publish content; anyone can be compensated for it; and no one owns or profits from it or from its use.
The web 3.0 (or Web 3) is a network protocol that allows any user to publish content anywhere on the internet, while allowing users to benefit from other users’ content without being subject to its censorship or its scrutiny. It enables individuals to own, and be properly compensated for, their time and data, as well as allows greater monetization opportunities for content creators and publishers on various topics across all platforms.This is what we call Open Web 3.0: a system in which everyone has access to everything because everyone owns everything everywhere, and the content you create is no longer owned by a single big company which is making millions of dollars in profit, on your content!
How We Got Here
The web was born as a direct response to the commercialization of the internet. Every day, billions of dollars are poured into the network’s infrastructure by the big players in search engines, advertising and cloud computing.
The blockchain however, is an independent endeavor, and is not necessarily tied to any particular technology or business model. But why should we care about one of these fledgling technologies? What have they got that we haven’t?Bitcoin, a decentralized digital currency and blockchain protocol, is an exciting example. Even with its limited number of users, it has managed to create an ecosystem that has attracted more than one million developers worldwide and hundreds of thousands of businesses to join it (including those in finance, banking, insurance and retail). Bitcoin opened the door for thousands of startups to participate in the network before them; it also opens new opportunities for traditional enterprises and banks to participate in this new economy.
Other interesting examples:
- Ethereum is a decentralized platform that facilitates creating smart contracts;
- Crypti allows anyone to buy or sell digital goods on pre-defined terms;
- Siacoin is a distributed storage system;
- NEO is a blockchain that promises “smart contracts” based on first-class data structures that can be easily accessed by third parties without server access.
Perhaps most intriguing however are Zerocoin Protocol (ZCP), EncryptoTelnet Protocol (ETP), Loom Network Protocol (LOC) and Cosmos Network (COS). These are protocols for cryptosystems specifically designed for use with blockchains like Bitcoin, but their applications extend far beyond:
- Crypto-currency: ZCP allows you to send money from one person or institution to another through encrypted instructions (similarly encrypted instructions may be sent between two parties who don’t know each other).
- ETP allows you to send encrypted data from one person or institution to another through established networks like VoIP or email.
- LOC offers privacy services like VPNs for businesses and individuals working overseas.
- COS, Cosmos, is a protocol for building financial applications and developing decentralized autarchies with APIs on top of blockchains like Bitcoin.
All these protocols have something revolutionary going on: they allow you to operate your own blockchain network where you control your own tokens. These are all very exciting initiatives because they represent a paradigm shift with profound implications — not just in their specific application areas but also in how we think about business models in general.
Web 3.0: The Rize of the Decentralized Internet
There are a lot of exciting things happening on the web today — many of which I’m very excited about. But one that is getting a great deal of attention is Web 3.0, which aims to transform the internet into a decentralized network.It’s not just cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin that are important to this vision. The web has many other applications besides simple payments and advertisements, but the underlying infrastructure and protocols that make it useful to the internet itself are where the true power lies.
Web 3.0 will fundamentally change how we use these protocols, allowing us to decentralize and monetize our data in ways we couldn’t before or at all with existing models.The importance of decentralization is huge here, because in a truly decentralized system, every node (or “user”) needs to be willing to share some or all of its data with everyone else on the network, so everyone can have access to it and use it for their own needs (and not just for advertisers, as it currently is).
This sharing is done by using tokens – much like bitcoin does (though there are some key differences). Tokens represent ownership or rights over data, but they can also be used as payment for services offered by nodes on the network (e.g., storage and support).In addition, because tokens will be able to represent anything they want (such as money or shares) they would need an explicit way of distinguishing between legitimate users and illegitimate ones, i.e., a system where transactions could only be made when both parties were willing to reveal their identities — something that isn’t currently possible with existing systems like bitcoin because information must always be revealed upfront in order for transactions even make sense (and Bitcoin was never designed with identity integration in mind).
Web 3.0 is centered around two protocols: Web3 and Ethereum Virtual Machine (EVM), which will enable us to implement new applications on top of these protocols without requiring specific programming knowledge from us. This means anyone who wants something done will be able to do it without the need for special skills — just having an internet connection!
Web 3.0’s protocol: The InterPlanetary File System (IPFS)
What’s with Web 3.0? Sometimes it seems that the only people who are excited about it are the ones who have had a chance to read about it. The internet has been evolving at a very fast pace for some time already and many people have been somewhat skeptical of its future. I am not among them.
I believe that new technologies promise to change the way we interact with each other on the internet and in our lives as a whole. But most of these technologies remain just that – new technologies. Nobody really knows what they will look like yet, or how they will affect our lives in the long run. And that’s ok – each new technology is going to take some time to develop and mature before being adopted by everyone (in accordance with the Law of Accelerating Change).
The internet itself is an example of this phenomenon: it’s still quite young and has been growing steadily since its birth even if it is getting more complex all the time. There are still lots of questions left unanswered about how it works and how we should use it; but there is no doubt that we can grow from what’s there today, and get pretty excited about what ‘Web 3.0’ could be in years to come.
However, nobody knows what this web 3.0 will look like yet; nobody knows how we are going to use it or interact with it – so when you hear people talking about Web 3.0 you might be misunderstanding them entirely if you think they are talking about an easy-to-use application for uploading data online (provided by big companies like Facebook or Google). They probably aren’t! And by using simplified terms (for example: blockchain) which don’t cover even a small part of all possible uses, you might miss out on some important features which could make blockchain exciting as a technology while also leaving yourself open to being confused by any misunderstandings relating to specific applications which such features may enable (such as decentralized applications).
And while we’re on the subject: I must admit I am a bit concerned when I hear so many people talk about Web 3.0 using terms like “decentralized” or “distributed”. In my opinion, decentralization refers specifically to true decentralization; this does not mean things like “there are no servers anymore” or “there is no central authority running everything” but rather something much more like true ownership by everyone (who wants to).
In comes IPFS. In the InterPlanetary File System, there are no centralized servers which hold all the data, but, more like bittorent for instance, it is built by user-operators running an IPFS node, and sharing parts of the overall data. This creates a decentralized network, where it is extremely difficult to take down data, parts, or even the whole network.
Some interesting examples of IPFS implementations:
- The Catalan Pirate Party, which mirrored their website on IPFS after their regular website was blocked after a court ruling
- During the block of Wikipedia in Turkey, Wikipedia was mirrored on IPFS, allowing access to the content of Wikipedia despite the ban.
- Filecoin is a distributed file storage system, based on IPFS
- Brave uses Origin Protocol and IPFS to host its decentralized merchandise store
- Cloudflare is running a distributed web gateway on IPFS
IPFS: How it can revolutionize your life
I want to talk a bit more about IPFS and the growing phenomenon of decentralization. While it might not be the first thing you think of when you hear the word “decentralization,” it is as important as any other aspect of cryptocurrencies.Some of the most exciting developments in blockchain and cryptocurrency are emerging from new projects like IPFS (IPFS, see also above, is an open-source distributed file system that aims to make storing files easier than it has ever been before).The file system underlies a whole lot of interesting work happening in blockchain and cryptocurrency, but it isn’t tied directly to Bitcoin or even other traditional blockchains. Instead, IPFS is designed to be used with other systems and applications built on top of it, like Ethereum and Hyperledger Fabric.
As more people get involved with cryptocurrencies things are changing quite quickly. A few years ago, Bitcoin was seen by many as the future. It has become very clear that this isn’t the case at all. There are several distinct camps working on different projects, many of which have nothing to do with one another.
But at this point we should probably also mention something called Ethereum, which is a very popular blockchain project that has become synonymous with decentralization. There are multiple versions or forks of that project out there — but Ethereum itself seems to be universally accepted as being part of a larger ecosystem.
I would love for everyone not involved in one camp or another to take a look at what others are doing — both technically and from a consumer perspective — which offers major potential benefits for everyone else in the world who uses computers or networked devices on a regular basis.
That’s what IPFS does: it allows users (or nodes) who host files on their own computers or networks to own those files from a decentralized perspective: they don’t have any central repository controlling where they can be found; they don’t have to pay money just because they want someone else’s files; they don’t have access controls based on centralized repositories; etc.
This concept gains tremendous applicability beyond just file storage solutions: imagine being able to store your favorite TV shows or movies on your phone, so you can watch them anywhere without having to worry about bandwidth limits or DRM restrictions? Imagine being able to sell your own video games on Steam without having too much trouble securing copyright licenses?
The concepts that make up Web 3.0, like blockchain and IPFS, are the building blocks that will make all this possible.
Web 3.0 is a standardization process that aims to create a new generation of the web, which is more decentralized and democratized. The web today is owned by a few major technology companies who have access to giant databases of data which are then used for monetization, to make these few big companies even bigger. Websites such as Facebook, Google, Amazon, etc. have huge amounts of data about us and hold our personal information in their huge databases at all times, and earn tremendous amounts of money on it.
Some argue that this data should be owned by us because we are the ultimate creators of it (and we want to, and should, get paid), while others argue that no one should own it because it’s largely useless and should be broken up and shared with the rest of the internet (which would make it more useful).
But what if we had our own database? What if we could move all our information into something like WordPress or Joomla? With open source software like Drupal and WordPress, anyone can develop an entire site, build an entire platform on top of it, so why not give everyone a chance to monetize their data? And what if we could do this on a scale? Right now, there are services like Mixpanel that help developers measure user engagement: what do people actually like about your sites/apps/applications? You can purchase these reports for hundreds or thousands of dollars each time you need them. Think about that for a second: you pay hundreds or thousands of dollars each time you use your app, but that’s only because those reports cost money. If all your apps were built with open source software like Joomla or Drupal (and you were able to charge for them), you would never pay any money because they would sell themselves on your behalf without any additional cost!
Imagine how much money there would be in an open source platform where everyone gets paid; imagine how much easier things would be when everybody got paid!
I’m not saying this is going to happen anytime soon (or ever). But I think web 3.0 will start out with relatively small scale experimentation (like Mixpanel) before getting bigger and taking off larger-scale applications down the road. The long term plan may not be as centralized as many people assume at first, but I think as users start using such platforms in their daily lives they will form their own consensus on how things should change, so even though there may be some big companies involved early on, I don’t think they will remain dominant forever — just like the early days.
How do you feel about Web 3.0? Where do you think, or hope, this will evolve to?