Updated: Dec 10, 2020
The original form of the world wide web was a network of pages and then whole sites tied together by hyperlinks. The form we know and love now is really web 2.0 and can be thought of as the social web; blogs, social media platforms, channels filled with user-generated content curated by and for the audience that made it.
Today we are seeing the beginnings of web 3.0. This third iteration of internet technology is a place where services and content are distributed rather than localised. Users own and control their own data and smaller players can take back power from giants such as google, amazon and facebook.
The idea of decentralisation is in its infancy but is gradually taking hold. It is an important step forward for digital culture, but also a return to the values of web 1.0 – where automomy and creative expression were decoupled from commercial interest.
The problems with the Centralised Web
One of the most important factors in the web we use right now is the server, which will always hold a central position in the communication. No matter how many clients are connected to the server simultaneously none are actually communicating directly with each other. This is of course the centralised model.
From a security point of view, this centralised system can be a single point of failure. The limitations in server capacity can be exploited in distributed denial of service attacks. It can also happen unintentionally; sometimes when an ordinarily low-traffic site goes viral and becomes overloaded.
The other problem with the centralised web is the increasing consolidation of hosting providers. Amazon is currently the largest host worldwide, hosting around 34% of cloud infrastructure. They are followed by Google, Microsoft, IBM and Alibaba.
The early web was hosted on computers owned and operated by the people creating the sites, but more of the internet is now hosted on servers belonging to a smaller and smaller group of giant companies. While there is a greater diversity of content and services available, control over hosting and distribution is highly concentrated. Our experiences on the internet are shaped by the large tech companies – Apple, Facebook, Amazon, Google and Microsoft.
How would the decentralised web work?
Let’s use an example. If you wanted to watch a movie from Netflix, you will connect to their servers (for a price) and those servers will send you a stram of data. If there is an error for any reason, there is no way for you to watch the movie.
If you download your movie through something like BitTorrent which is a peer-to-peer model, then your computer gets the data directly from other people who have the file you want and are willing to share it with you. While downloading you might be connected by any number of peer computers simultaneously, each of which are using a portion of their bandwidth to send you the data. While some of these peers might go offline during the download, as long as you can still connect to at least one other computer the download will continue.
The principles of the peer-to-peer networking can be applied to websites and applications. The whole point of the decentralised system is that the loss of any individual server should not disrupt the network.
Using the dWeb today
There are already a number of cutting-edge web technologies available for users to access and utilise the dWeb. These include social networking platform Mastodon, data storage such as Storj and Filecoin, and the handful of blockchain mining and cryptocurrency sites. You can check out our directory here to see what is currently available.
Remember, Web 3.0 is developing every day but it is still in its growing pains stage. Many sites will be clunkier and slower than you are used to. If you were around in the 1990s, you’ll remember how exciting it was to see the net expand and speed up…we hope you will grow with us here and help us expand. you can also add any new dWeb sites by registering them on our database - you will see the link on the directory page.