Updated: Dec 9, 2020
Exploring What the dWeb Is Really Made Of: Way, Way Beyond the Blockchain
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What makes up the dWeb
On our website we take a look at what the dWeb was all about, and what makes it different to the regular web we all know and... well, we all know and tolerate.
If you haven’t had the chance to take a look at that already, we urge you to do so! It’s a great primer on all things dWeb, and it’s the ideal stepping stone towards some really fascinating stuff out there on the decentralized web.
Right, ready for more? Good. Because today, we’re going deeper. Much, much deeper.
Blockchain and Cryptocurrency – The Shallow End of the dWeb Pool
Mention decentralization to anyone with a bit of tech knowledge, and they are likely to come back at you with something about the blockchain, Bitcoin, or cryptocurrency in general.
And this is completely valid. Bitcoin, Ethereum, Dash, and basically any other cryptocurrency out there are decentralized to one extent or another. The point is, these currencies – and these networks – they are just the tip of the iceberg.
So now we’ve established this, where do we go from here? Well, we can’t just leave it at that, can we? We need to get to grips with what the dWeb is really all about. We need to delve into the potential of this revolutionary movement in the digital landscape.
Let’s get to it.
Exploring the Potential of a Decentralized Web
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This is where we take a closer look at the dWeb and all it can offer. Well... perhaps not quite all. You see, this is a rapidly expanding field, and developers and innovators are pushing the boundaries each and every day.
Perhaps, instead, we can view this as a snapshot of “where we are right now” with the decentralized web. We still don’t know what lies just around the corner, and this makes the dWeb a very exciting prospect indeed.
For now, though, let’s take a look at what is already out there. Let’s take a look at the movers and shakers, the disrupters, and the latest concepts in decentralized web technology.
Domains are like internet real estate. We buy them, we control them, and we use them in any way we see fit. With this in mind, hosting domains on the dWeb seems like the next logical step.
Unstoppable Domains offer blockchain-based domains that give users an additional level of control. Rather than seeing their content dictated or manipulated by domain providers, users are able to launch web properties that are free from censorship or centralized control. The domain is stored in the user’s wallet, and can be either traded for a nominal fee or used at will.
If we’ve got decentralized domains, it follows that we would also have decentralized websites to populate these domains.
IPFS is a peer-to-peer protocol that enables webmasters to host their sites on the decentralized web. Something of a game-changer in terms of accessibility and its robust approach to hosting, IPFS hopes to be a gateway to the potential of decentralized internet.
Websites hosted via the protocol benefit from a lack of centralized censorship, better bandwidth efficiency, improved reliability even in locations with poor web connection, and an open network that promotes equality and egalitarian ideals. Isn’t this what the web was always supposed to be about?
Browsing and Publishing
Of course, accessibility and equality doesn’t mean much without the tools needed to get to grips with this potential. This is where decentralized browsers are already playing a major role in bringing these slick tech breakthroughs to the masses.
The Beaker browser is one example of such a tool. Users can connect with existing dWeb sites via the browser, thanks to an innovative decentralized system. When a Beaker user accesses a website, they receive a copy of its data and then seed this data for other users to access. In effect, each user that accesses a website becomes a potential server node, adding to the capacity of the server network.
Users can also publish their own websites, which are hosted in a slimline version via the browser, and are then supported by the node architecture in the same way.
As the old joke goes, the internet started out as a conduit for all the world’s knowledge, and ended up as a platform for viewing endless videos of cats doing cute things. Of course, this is tongue in cheek, but video streaming is still a huge part of what makes the internet so engaging. Just look at the success of a platform like YouTube to see proof of this!
So, how exactly is the dWeb going to get in on the act? With great aplomb, it would seem!
LBRY is hosting shared digital content via its open source platform, powered by the crypto token of the same name. Content publishers can request a fee in LBRY tokens as payment, or upload free content, which users may decide to leave a tip for. The network functions in the same way as the cryptonetworks we already know about, only it has content distribution applications built on top of it. This makes for a self-sustaining, ad-free experience for users, without any of the tracking and data-gleaning that YouTube has become famous for.
Ah, social media. Love it or loathe it, the internet would not be the same without notifications, friend/follow requests, and shared content of spurious origin.
As you might expect, social media networks are already flourishing on the dWeb, which offers an effective antidote to the sometimes dodgy data-use tactics of the more traditional platforms.
Twitter-esque Mastodon was one of the first to launch, and is already proving popular, while Diaspora has gained plaudits for its “hands-off” approach to user data. Networks such as Minds and Manyverseare also making big gains in the dWeb social media space.
You know you are on to something good when a brand name becomes a byword for a whole new genre of devices or concepts. This is exactly what happened to Wikipedia, and the word Wiki now refers to any site that is built collaboratively via voluntary user content and input.
This democratic structure actually lends itself rather nicely to the dWeb, although the concept is still in development. One of the early pioneers is Everipedia, which operates as a Wikipedia-style page based upon the blockchain.
Protection from centralized manipulation and censorship is one of the key attributes of the dWeb. This is meant to be a place in which users can browse without the worry of whether or not government agents are snooping, and can enjoy the web without mega-corps stealing their data. These may seem like paranoid concerns, but they are becoming increasingly – horrifyingly – real in the modern age.
ZeroNet.io is designed to ease these fears. Users create their own ZeroNet identity, or ZeroID, tied only to a private key – like the private keys used in the securing of crypto wallets. These IDs immediately protect users from identity theft or other malicious activity.
Content is hosted via a network of user nodes, in the same way as the dWebsites listed above. Users retain control of what they are hosting, and are not required to host anything they feel uncomfortable with.
Now this is a thorny subject. On the one hand, we expect our news networks to be unbiased, backed by solid research and reporting, and to be free from manipulation and control. And yet, on the other, we know they aren’t.
Entities such as the Decentralized News Network, or DNN, are seeking to build a new ecosystem in which news can be distributed with full transparency and without censorship. What’s more – and this is critical because no one wants another shady network pursuing their own agenda under the anonymity of something like dWeb – this news will be completely verifiable as open source tools are deployed to put the power of verification in the hands of the audience.
This is a fledgling development, but it could grow into something massive. The way in which we consume news may be about to change forever – and this shift may be long overdue.
The fintech explosion and the dWeb go hand in hand. In fact, the decentralized nature of the blockchain was designed with finance in mind.
A decade on from that, decentralized finance has become much more refined, moving away from traditional weak points of centralization, such as centralized currency exchanges and network ownership.
There is much to explore here, so this is something we are going to be coming back to. At the moment, no decentralized finance (DeFi) offering is completely decentralized, but this is the target over the coming years. This means price feeds, interest rate determination, margin calls, and everything else become completely uncoupled from centralized control.
We touched upon currency exchanges above, and how the centralized nature of many of these exchanges acts as a barrier to the potential of many otherwise decentralized networks.
This is a problem, but it is one that may have already been solved. The Binance Decentralized Exchange, or Binance DEX, represents a wholly decentralized alternative to standard exchanges. Users can trade in tokens and assets, launch tokens, and list and delist tokens in a completely decentralized environment – a serious step in the development of all things dWeb.
Augmented and Virtual Reality
Now we are really getting into the realms of sci-fi. Augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) have been around for quite some time, but until recently were the domain of video game fans and... well, mainly video game fans.
This is fine. After all, AR and VR make for great gaming experiences. But they also offer far more than this. They offer a whole new, exciting, and effective way of delivering information. Participants can do more than just watch – they can experience, and build their insight in this way.
Decentraland is making this a reality in the dWeb space, conjuring up a world in which users can harness the powers of AR and VR on a decentralized network. You have the chance to build your world in any way you see fit, or explore the worlds of others with your avatar to gain information. All of this is underpinned by cryptocurrency transactions that help the network to sustain itself.
Of course, gaming also has its place within the dWeb. Recently, Hackernoon published an interesting article about blockchain technology and its future potential for game developers. The article also highlighted how gambling platforms and digital casinos are moving into this space, supported by network immutability and smart contracts.
Other dWeb offerings support gamers in different ways. For example, Worldwide Asset Exchange is a decentralized transfer platform for virtual assets. This is a great function for gamers, but it is useful for others as well.
We talked a lot about digital commerce in the previous article, discussing how it is emblematic of everything the internet could have been, and where it fell short.
So, how can the dWeb save the day here? Well, OpenSea is giving it its best shot, and currently ranks as the largest decentralized market place for digital goods. There are many up-and-comers in this space too, so you can be sure this is going to be a key area for dWeb disruption in the coming year and beyond.
We’ve covered media streaming, but what about larger-scale media distribution? Can the decentralized web update the current model of media dissemination and licensing?
Well, why not? After all, if there’s any marketplace that is currently undergoing an identity crisis, it’s the media marketplace. Movies, television, music – all of this has changed enormously in the last decade, and each category is ripe for further evolution. The way is clear for further disruption from the dWeb.
Players such as Vixtape are already operating in this space, using decentralized, blockchain-based networks to support artists and distribute content. And they are far, far from alone. This is going to be the next big shift in the way we consume our media.
The internet really was the beginning of crowdfunding. Of course, there have always been fundraising and charitable campaigns, but the internet really gave these fundraisers a platform.
Developers, such as the team behind WeiFund, are taking this concept to the dWeb. The idea is to make the process more streamlined, simple-to-use, and, above all, secure. Smart contracts make gathering funding painless and safe, while the platform's existing templates make campaigning accessible to all users.
The coronavirus outbreak torpedoed most of the events on the calendar for 2020, but don’t expect that void to be a permanent one. Concerts, festivals, and other events are loved by millions across the world, and platforms such as D-Event offer decentralized platforms through which to explore events in your area, launch events of your own, and even keep in touch with your own friends during the hustle and bustle.
We're going to leave it there for now because that's quite a lot to digest. But it's exciting, right? It's exciting to think of the possibility already out there on the decentralized web, and of all that potential yet to be fulfilled.
This is nothing short of a revolution. And you, and I, and all of us, are here to witness it. It's time to hold tight and see what's coming next.
Check out some of our favourite sites on dWebguide.com here. These are chosen because they are interesting, useful and informative, unique and/or are well designed.