The decentralized web, or Web3, has several key characteristics that differentiate it from Web2. We are moving beyond centralized platforms and walled gardens that hold users and their data hostage and are instead transitioning to a web that grants users agency - making them active participants in everything from data storage to access to distribution.
Here are seven core principles that define the decentralized web and their associated benefits:
The obvious principle to start with is decentralization! In the decentralized web, users don't utilize a central authority to publish content or share files. Instead, they harness the power of the distributed web.
The distributed web refers to the underlying infrastructure that powers Web3, such as P2P networks, protocols like IPFS and Activity Pub, cryptography, and blockchain technologies. Utilizing decentralized tools and computing empowers users to decide how, when, and where to participate online, increasing their autonomy. It encourages user-owned identities, data, and digital assets, enabling individuals to manage and control their online presence without relying on third-party intermediaries.
2) Privacy and Security
Privacy is a closely-held value in the DWeb space. Users have been burned by centralized companies over and over again. From the onslaught of data breaches to the training of machine learning algorithms, users are tired of feeling violated.
The decentralized web attempts to curb this through minimal data collection, explicit and informed consent, end-to-end encryption, and cryptography. Furthermore, since there is no central server to attack in a system of interconnected nodes, it reduces the risk of single points of failure and makes it harder for malicious actors to compromise the system.
3) Openness and Interoperability
The decentralized web promotes openness and interoperability. Open standards, protocols (like UCAN and IPVM), and APIs foster secure and seamless information sharing across services and apps. As a result, the Web3 user experience continues to improve and even exceed that of Web2 in some instances, and users face fewer locked doors than ever before.
4) Data Ownership and Control
The decentralized web promotes the idea that individuals should have ownership rights over their data, allowing them to decide how and where their information is stored, accessed, and shared. Ensuring users have a credible exit is vital. Distributed control and self-governance mean the decision-making power is spread across multiple participants (not one central authority), promoting a more democratic and open system.
For example, Fediverse social networks like Mastodon have individual servers run by community members. If at any time a user disagrees with the way a server is being managed, they can move their account to another Mastodon instance.
5) Censorship Resistance
The decentralized web seeks to mitigate censorship and promote freedom of expression. By distributing content across multiple nodes, it becomes more challenging for any central authority to censor or restrict access to information.
In some countries, access to social media or information-sharing sites get blocked during political demonstrations. The intent is to stop the flow of communication and keep people in the dark, attempting to extinguish dissent. The decentralized web works against that, ensuring access remains as long as the information is available on at least one node.
6) Trust and Transparency
Trust is a vital aspect of the decentralized web. The DWeb aims to establish trust through transparency by leveraging decentralized consensus mechanisms such as blockchain technology and self-certifying protocols like cryptographic user identifiers and content-addressed data. Furthermore, persistent data structures, like IPFS's MerkleDag structure and CRDTs, mean users can always traverse the data to get to the root of the data.
By making transactions and actions publicly auditable, the decentralized web fosters an environment where trust can be built without relying on central authorities.
7) Collaboration and Community
The decentralized web encourages collaboration and community-driven initiatives. Since there is often a crossover between the DWeb and open source, it's not uncommon to see users and developers banning together to build new features and solutions. For example, Fission is leading an effort to bring IPFS support for media files on Mastodon on Open Collective.
In conclusion, the development of the decentralized web seeks not to commodify its users but rather to work in concert with them, thereby fostering a more equitable balance of power and superior user experience.