How Web3 technologies are once again democratizing the Internet

Past and future of the Internet How Web3 technologies are once again democratizing the Internet

By Stefan Adolf*

The Internet is fundamentally democratically organized – or at least it used to be. Because the broad platforms have meanwhile reached a (super) powerful status. The technological possibilities are now available to change this: through the implementation of Web3 and the use of decentralized technologies.

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Web3’s greatest promise lies in returning to the original idea of ​​the Internet as a global network designed by its users, not controlled by a few entities.

(© Pasko Maksim –

After the initial phases of the Internet and Web 2.0, which brought us, among other things, social networks, Web3 is considered to be the next stage in the development of the Internet. It is made possible by new decentralized technologies. While Web 2.0 mainly meant innovations in the frontend, for example making the interfaces of websites and applications more interactive, the great Web3 revolution is taking place in the backend – in data transmission, databases, identities and deployments. But what does this mean concretely?

What does “Web3” mean?

There is no official definition of what “Web3” means or what protocols or services are included. In principle, however, the following applies: Web3 technology is based on decentralized, self-organizing networks and applications based on them. This avoids the emergence of individual points of failure or central institutions such as companies or states that can turn it off or control it. For something like this to work, Web3 participants must act according to its protocols and globally agree on the state and behavior of applications: perfect scenarios for blockchains and the consensus mechanisms that underpin them.

The blockchain as a basis

Blockchains allow intermediaries to get out of the relationship of trust between several parties. A possible example are financial transactions: if money needs to be sent from A to B, a service provider is usually required, such as Apple, Paypal or Commerzbank. With a cryptocurrency, on the other hand, it works differently: thanks to blockchain consensus protocols, execution and security are guaranteed at all times, even without intermediate authorities.

Even if the parties involved in such a transaction do not know each other, let alone trust each other, consensus protocols allow them to interact with each other. In Web3, trust is part of the technological base. Transactions, i.e. instructions on what to change in a database, are signed locally by all participants with private keys and reported to the global P2P network. Then, miners or validators collect the transactions, verify their signatures and content, and group them into blocks. The blocks are then chained together in a cryptographically secure manner. Such a blockchain is thereafter immutable and publicly visible to all.

Web3 describes the vision of a decentralized online ecosystem in the form of a decentralized internet based on blockchain technology.

How does validation work?

Transactions are validated in the usual Proof of Work networks, including Ethereum or Bitcoin, using a computationally intensive brute force search for a so-called nonce. A miner selects a series of transactions from the global mempool – a sort of waiting room for transactions – generates a random nonce and calculates a certain value from it, the block hash.

If this value starts with a certain number of zeros, a valid block is published. If not, the miner chooses another nonce and tries again. Block height is also important for blockchain “chaining”: each node in the network that sees a valid block checks to see if the block height of the block is exactly one higher than the last known block. Then he attaches it to the blockchain he knows. The longest valid blockchain prevails worldwide. In this way, the network always achieves a global consensus on the sequence and outcome of transactions. The “democratic” side of it all: in principle, anyone can send transactions on the network or try to be a miner if they have enough electricity and computing power.

IPFS key technology

Another important element of democratization via Web3 is the IPFS interplanetary file system. It is based on a modular peer-to-peer stack and connects computers to form a globally distributed data network using standard Internet protocols. Unlike a cloud-based storage system, with IPFS you are not “uploading” files, but telling the network that you want to make a file available to the world from your local computer. IPFS then breaks the data into granular chunks and calculates a hash value for its binary content. It then joins the blocks into a cryptographically secure structure whose root hash represents the unique content ID (CID) of the data. Result: IPFS uses these hashes to ensure content integrity and authenticity, because anyone accessing a file from IPFS can use their content ID to immediately verify that the provided content matches the requested hash.

In addition to many other areas of application, IPFS is perfectly suited for publishing websites. Their content is distributed across the world much like a CDN, thanks to the P2P nature of the network. It is therefore impossible to censor it, falsify it or compromise it.

So far, very few web browsers can handle decentralized protocols, but require appropriate extensions or bridges to mobile applications, for example to follow an “ipfs://” link. The Brave Browser showed at the beginning of 2021 that manufacturers are gradually taking a liking to Web3: its version 1.19 includes integrated IPFS support. Dominant browser platforms such as Chrome or Firefox are already experimenting with corresponding integrations, but their deployment is not expected before 2022.

Challenges of Web3 technologies

Despite all the advantages, the Web3 revolution also brings imponderables. For example, Web3’s uncompromising protocols can be used to create “unstoppable” software that can publish an author’s content without the will of a community. On the one hand, eg. B. Totalitarian states do not remove or block any content on the Internet. On the other hand, it also means easy play for fake content or criminal markets. Also, Web3 does not necessarily make the Internet faster. A dense network of peers is needed on the path of a file from a local IPFS node around the world. It can therefore sometimes take several minutes to find less visible content or content that is far from the network’s point of view.

Web3’s greatest promise lies in returning to the original idea of ​​the Internet as a global network designed by its users, not controlled by a few entities. Web3 re-maturizes users by giving them back control of their data, their identity and their profiles. This poses a threat to the business models of traditional platform vendors and cloud service providers – without running the risk of being controlled by monolithic companies.

* The author Stefan Adolf is Developer Ambassador at Turbine Kreuzberg. Its main task is to communicate with the developer community. The full-stack developer specializing in applications, IoT and integration is an organizer and speaker at meetings and conferences on developer-related topics. In addition, thanks to his expertise in decentralized technology and Web3, he acts as a tech lead in venture projects and as a technological “pioneer” at Turbine Kreuzberg.

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