I started preparing an essay for RL almost 2 years ago (wow, time flies) about Web 3.0. With the recent banning of Alex Jones from Facebook and other social media platforms, it’s quite relevant.
Web 0.1 was directly dialing into another computer (think movies like Sneakers, War Games, and Hackers).
Web 1.0 was Netscape. You could type in a URL (not numbers) and look at a webpage someone else made – typically not hosted on their own computer.
Web 2.0 was social media. Viewers of the web became creators of the web as everyone began interacting with each other on a third party’s server.
Web 3.0 is decentralization. “Bring Your Own Data.” You own and control your data and allow various apps to access it.
Web 0.1 was very decentralized, but on the way to Web 2.0 things became more and more centralized. To communicate with others, you use a middleman (Facebook, Twitter, etc). You upload a post to Facebook. Your friends down your post from Facebook. That is a convenient way to share information because it provides common ground to find and reach others. Web 3 seeks to retain all the good things of Web 2.0, but with a return to the decentralization of Web 0.1. Rather than Facebook’s servers being the medium to connect people across social media, communication and storage of data can occur anywhere (the cloud or at your house or on your phone). The challenge is creating a common platform where this can take place.
An early attempt at decentralization were federated social media networks like Diaspora or Mastadon (see links below). These were a step away from centralization, but they weren’t fully decentralized. Basically they created a common framework for users to connect and share data (photos, posts, tweets) from any variety of different servers. Think of email. Even though you use Gmail, you can still communicate with someone who uses Yahoo, or someone who has an email account through their school – or even someone who has setup their own email server in their basement (i.e. Hillary Clinton). Email is a common language. It’s not a “walled garden” like Facebook, Twitter, etc. The trouble was you still had to choose to use someone else’s server (unless you had the time and expertise to really run your own), and if you wanted to switch servers it wasn’t readily easy.
That was where things stood 2 years ago when I started researching. I created a Diaspora account and played around a bit. But things have come a long, long ways in the last 2 years. Why? Blockchain. Blockchain technology allows for truly decentralized common ground from which to build from. In short, you can create a web identity from a blockchain key and then build whatever you want on top of that. You choose where to store your web presence/identity (physically: at home on a usb drive, encrypted on Dropbox, or anywhere in-between), you choose who to share any part of your presence (think Twitter, Facebook, Blog, Podcast, Instagram, etc) with, and it all works as seamlessly as using Facebook but without the ability for a central entity to stop communication between your web presence and whomever you want to share it with because they don’t control the data. Through your blockchain ID, you are giving them directions to wherever you are storing your information (blog post, photo, etc). There is no Facebook middleman giving directions or hosting your data.
When I started writing, I thought decentralization/federation was a pretty cool idea that we should be aware of to perhaps start adopting as a safety measure if censorship starts getting really bad. But now it’s more of “Hey, here’s some fascinating technology that is going to radically transform the entire internet, period. You can sit back and wait or be an early adopter, but it’s coming fast either way.”
So with that, here’s a reading/watching list:
- Freedom In the Cloud: Software Freedom, Privacy, and Security for Web 2.0 and Cloud Computing 2010 speech by Eben Moglen. Transcript. Start here to understand the big picture.
- Freedom Box: Internet Free of Government Control (CBS) Eben Moglen discusses his Freedom Box device
- Daplie a much more developed and consumer-friendly version of a Freedom Box. Note that this product has been in development and crowd-funding since I first looked into all of this a couple years ago. The company appears to be a couple of well funded (note the quality of the marketing videos) Mormons from Utah who have been adept at finding various new ways of drawing in funding (IndieGoGo campaign was 1195% funded in Jan 2017) without producing an actual product. Not sure if they’re just enjoying the ride or if they’re facing some kind of legitimate opposition.
- Diaspora What Happened to the Facebook Killer? It’s Complicated 3 young computer scientists who attended Moglen’s speech went on to develop Diaspora, a decentralized/federated social network. They gained a lot of financial support, but PayPal froze their account and their Zuckerberg-like leader Ilya Zhitomirskiy “committed suicide” at the age of 22, shortly before the public beta version of Diaspora went online. Since then the project has floundered, being picked away at by volunteers.
- Blockstack the two founders have been quietly working away for many years on a “new internet.” Web 1 and 2 are built upon specific communication protocols including DNS – Domain Name System (so that when you type in reformedliberarian.com your browser knows where to find the server hosting the blog). Blockstack is creating new protocol layers built upon a blockchain to change the way traffic flows (for example, using BNS – Blockchain Name System to direct traffic using the publicly distributed blockchain). They’re not trying to create a Facebook-killer like Diaspora. Rather, they are seeking to fundamentally change the structure of the internet to facilitate countless Facebook-killer, Twitter-killer Distributed Apps (Dapps) to be developed. They have a very long-range perspective and have gone about it in the right way. Unlike other blockchain-based companies, they’re not looking for your monetary investment via crowdfunding tokens. They already secured $50m in traditional venture capital investment. Their token system is designed to pay app developers. The more users an app has, the more profit they earn via a crypto exchange based on mining (since the base layer of the new protocols is the blockchain), thus seeking to solve the open source incentive dilemma.
- Blockstack – A New Internet for Decentralized Apps
- Blockstack: A New Internet That Brings Privacy & Property Rights to Cyberspace
- Blockstack Unveils A Browser For The Decentralized Web
- Checking Out Blockstack, The New Decentralized Internet
- Postly App Demo | Blockstack Berlin 2018
- Ryan Shea “A New Blockstack Internet” | Blockstack Summit 2017
- Block Zero #007 – Blockstack – A new internet for decentralized apps w/ Muneeb Ali
- Ryan Shea of Blockstack: “Web 3 and Decentralized Apps” | Blockstack Berlin 2018
- A Conversation with Naval Ravikant and Ryan Shea | Blockstack Summit 2017 some helpful “big picture” comments