The Web 3 Experiment: A Decentralized Internet

“Web3 is a more intelligent version of the internet, built on the principle of decentralization. If you’re not familiar with decentralization, try thinking of it simply as the ability of a group to function without reliance on a central authority. Banks, governments, and businesses are all examples of centralized entities. At the core of decentralization is a push toward individual freedom. Not freedom to, but freedom from. The distinction is important.”––NFTs Are Worth Understanding

If you think today’s internet is absolutely perfect with no need of an upgrade, this is what you sound like:

Theories are created by rearranging, combining, and adding to existing ideas. That’s what makes crypto and the decentralized web so exciting. It combines culture with technology to create something new. The versions of the internet so far:

  • Web 0: a time before online
  • Web 1: users needed to buy their own servers to connect online—while hosting on their own domain
  • Web 2: visiting hosting platforms like Facebook or Google to distribute our content while using their servers––in exchange for all data involved
  • Web 3: a peer-to-peer network where you don’t rely on centralized servers to hold your data. All content is addressed and verified on a blockchain for every user to own

To summarize the web 3 experiment: today’s internet is reinventing the wheel into something better:

Web 2 Problems

Two forces that effect how the web 2 model works:

  1. The server problem — To upload files on the internet, you need a server. Most folks don’t have a server so we rely on hosting services like TikTok, YouTube, and Twitter to post online content. These platforms are convenient, but it concentrates user content, data, and demand to just a handful of providers. The centralized infrastructure of the internet is problem #1.
  2. Host-based addressing model — This relates to how we address content online. If you upload a YouTube video, the URL of that video is tightly bound to YouTube’s platform: youtube.com/your_video. You need a seperate account on Facebook to upload the same video there: facebook.com/your_video. The lack of interoperability between online platforms is problem #2.

Web 3 Solutions

With the use of peer-to-peer networks, open-source code, blockchains, hash signatures, and merkle trees––web 2 problems become solvable:

  1. Blockchains are large data sets, split into smaller chunks, and distributed across a network of peers. The peers then share the responsibility of maintaining the network through consensus. Blockchains solve the central server issue by letting users collectively validate information. There’s no need for a single platform authorizing every transaction.
  2. Merkle trees are used in blockchains to track and verify data integrity. They prove online content by attaching a unique ID (hash) to the media. This creates tiny interpretations from the large data stored in blockchains. Hash signatures are unique to every file. It serves to address any online content from the time it was published. This dramatically improves web 2’s host-based model.

Merkle trees solve the coordination problems that come with verifying data. Everything can be traced back to mathematically prove the authenticity of any file connected to the tree:

Bitcoin is an example of this. We’ve never before seen a financial system worth billions — without any centralized governance or authority to support it. No one argues the amount of BTC in rotation because it’s proven by merkle trees and immutably displayed on-chain. This will apply to social capital on the web.