This is my entry for the Status Community Competition.
I started learning about blockchain technology around the end of 2016. In October 2017, after believing I knew somewhat enough to express my opinion publicly, I decided to make a post that criticized how everybody wants to use blockchains everywhere, even on non-existing use cases.
Ever since, I’ve been consistently writing about technical matters of blockchains, trying to simplify often complex terms and explain them to the public.
This post will be different. I will not go through any wild blockchain lingo, or try to explain how Ethereum or any other cryptocurrency works.
Instead, I’ll first remind you about the history of the web until today.
Then, I will create a narrative in the near future, where blockchain technology has weaved into our lives in such a seamless way, much the same as the internet has in 2018.
If you just want to read my fictional fantasy of the future, feel free to skip to the last section “Beyond Web3.0 — A look in the future”
Contrary to today’s pocket computers (that smartphone you’re reading this post from), computers around the 1950s were huge devices, that could fill an entire room and were available only to scientists or academics. The term “internet”, let alone “peer-to-peer network”, was not even an idea at that time.
Around 1969, a military research program called ARPANET was launched by the Defense Advanced Rese arch Projects Agency (DARPA) which promoted the sharing of super-computers amongst military researchers in the United States. ARPANET was the precursor of today’s internet.
Fast forward to 1993, the first GUI browser, NCSA Mosaic gets released. In 1995 Netscape Browser was released, which marks the time when the internet started going mainstream.
The next iteration of the Web brought on the rise of corporate internet giants such as Google, Facebook and Amazon. In addition, e-Banking services started to become available, allowing electronic cross border payments. Websites such as Wikipedia, YouTube became the standard places to look for information (or funny videos).
Paying our respects to some ancestors of today’s popular sites:
Facebook and social media allowed any person to connect with other individuals around the world, revolutionizing how social relationships are made and maintained. Amazon started as a book company and now sells pretty much anything, from books to cloud services. Google and other search engines were key-players as they allowed the indexing and quick access to the vast amounts websites that were appearing daily.
Web2.0 brought mass access to high-utility services that were not available before. At what cost though?
“If you’re not paying for a product, then you are the product”
When using any kind of centralized service, you are exposed to the following (this is not an exhaustive list):
- Arbitrary changes to Terms of Service
- Service shutting down
- Manipulation (e.g. skewed search results)
- Data “insights” used for more “personalized” advertising — very privacy intrusive
Although Web2.0 generated tons of utility, it also came with the delegation of your “digital rights” to the service providers.
“The Times 03/Jan/2009 Chancellor on brink of second bailout for banks.”
This is the note accompanying the Genesis Block of Bitcoin, created about 9 years ago. Bitcoin revolutionized finance. Soon after, people realized blockchains are useful for more than just money.
Use cases included:
- Identity Services (Domain Registration, Title Registration)
- Logistics (Supply Chain Tracking)
- Social Media
- Prediction markets
- Internet of Things
- …the list goes on
There was a need for performing calculations in a transparent-trustless way that was not subject to censorship and centralization of power.
This need got partially satisfied by the so-called colored coins, layers built on top of Bitcoin, by utilizing Bitcoin’s scripting language to store extra data on the Bitcoin blockchain.
Bitcoin was the opening act. That was the beginning of Web3.0.
The need for more complex, general purpose computations on a blockchain eventually gave birth to projects such as Ethereum which featured Smart Contracts and coined the term Decentralized Applications (DApps).
Over the last years, Ethereum’s DApps have evolved massively.
Smart Contracts started from simple code that was meant to store some value on the Ethereum Blockchain, as proof of existence.
Then, they started being used as currencies, with the ERC20 spec becoming the standard for creating new currencies (tokens) on the Ethereum network.
What followed was a series of innovations such as the conception of Decentralized Autonomous Organizations (DAOs) or Decentralized Exchanges (DEX).
However, no matter how great the use cases and the potential benefit, today’s DApps are still plagued by issues, among others, such as:
- Bad user experience — There are no uneducated users, there is just bad UX.
- Bad scalability — Yeah, CryptoKitties again. And Proof of Work burning tons of energy.
- Bad security — what can get hacked, will get hacked if there’s enough to gain (hint: TheDAO, Parity Wallet)
- Non-existing privacy — Some people actually care about that thing still.
As long as these issues still exist, blockchain will not be able to have its own “Netscape moment” and become more than a buzzword for enterpreneurs, a way of trustless transactions for cypherpunks and a mess for developers.
Beyond Web3.0 — A look in the future
What happens when the “Netscape moment” occurs? I’ll now walk you through a typical day in the future where using DApps is a part of our daily life.
Note: I’m pretty sure my story is heavily influenced by a similar reddit comment I read once. I tried really hard to find it to no avail, so if you believe it reminds you of something and you have a source, please let me know!
Disclaimer: I’ll be using Ethereum-only projects for my story in order to focus on one community, this does not mean that another project can/will not be able to achieve a similar or even better outcome.
The story will feature the following projects (again, this is not an exhaustive list): Status, Golem, Raiden, Aragon, Maker, Basic Attention Token, Request Network, Funfair.
The year is 2040.
You wake up at 8:00AM, and start to prepare breakfast.
Notification pops up on your smartphone, the 3D model that you put up for rendering last night just got completed. 42 GNT got substracted from your Raiden payment channel; 1337 computers shared their computational power and worked together towards completing your task, among others. You will not make any other 3D-design work for the next month so you close the payment channel and pay a total of 2000 GNT for the rendering services you used last month.
You also need to do some ID-related paperwork (law has advanced as well, but paper is still king) for your next DAO investment. You get into your electric car and start driving towards the city hall. Unfortunately, its battery is only at 30%. Your car (while being stuck in traffic; this will never get solved) makes a request to the decentralized energy marketplace and gets the battery life it needs from the car next to you for a small fee.
Upon arriving to the city hall you verify your identity with your uPort ID and deposit 1000 ANT as initial stake in the company you invested. Immediately you are allowed to vote on the next board decision.
You have some free time, so you decide to work on your freelance gigs. After finishing all the orders, you send requests (the new term for
invoice) and get paid in REQ for all your hard work.
However, REQ has not been performing very well, and rumor is that it might have up to 0.4% volatility over the next week (thanks to Maker and Digix, most cryptocurrencies at the time are stable coins, and any variation above 0.25% is considered dangerous)
Using your favorite DEX, you immediately trade REQ for another coin of your preference. Everything happens in milliseconds, since near-instant consensus is achieved due to scientific breakthroughs in Proof of Stake algorithms.
It is now late, so you decide to hang out with friends and listen to Gramatik’s latest album which you support by holding GRMTK coins. Alternatively, you view content on your favorite video-hosting platform, and you support the content creators by tipping them with BAT. Or well, if you are the gambling type, you open up a Fate Channel on Funfair and spin that provably-fair roulette.
All interactions, payments and communication needed for the above acts are made through the Status app which seamlessly integrates with the Ethereum ecosystem and is used in the same scale as WeChat was used in China before the “CryptoApocalypse” (circa 2034, after the Chinese mining industry fell apart). All transactions are private, thanks to ZK-Snarks. Quantum computers are still decades away, and Shor’s algorithm still hasn’t factored more than 3-digit numbers.
No middle men. Decentralized. Fee-less.
We are the beginning of Web3.
That’s it! I hope you liked the historical review, along with the small fictional story I came up with.
Big thanks to Status for letting me take part in this contest. Best of luck to all participants.
Remember where we are, this is a turning point in history — probably.
I am an Electrical & Computer Engineering Major from Greece. I am interested in infosec, blockchain research & applications in modern businesses, and autonomous vehicles. Learn more about what I do at gakonst.com