The Decentralized Web is Here to Stay by@mariopizzilano

The Decentralized Web is Here to Stay

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Mario

Geophysicist, web developer and writer.


What the pioneers wanted vs what we got.

During the first era of the internet, when Tim Berners-Lee created the web, it was a decentralized platform. Anyone could publish a website and link to any other site. Internet services were built on open protocols that were controlled by the internet community. But within a few decades, the web transformed from a research sharing tool for the scientific community - which it was originally intended for - into a global medium for commerce, entertainment, journalism and communication.


Today the power dynamics have shifted, huge for-profit companies have dominated every aspect of the web, these corporate giants not only control what users see and do online but also has questionable control over users’ private data. For example, when I check up on an item in the Aliexpress android app sometimes, moments later I will see the same item and its varieties being advertised on websites browsed through with a web browser. This signifies that my shopping behaviour is being communicated somehow to advertising networks and I don't seem to have any control over it.

How far have we gone with decentralized web apps?

Ultra-private, socially conscious decentralized apps also known as DApps are trying to give data control back to users and restore the freedom and goodwill of the internet's early days. Berners-Lee envisions a web where users control where their data is stored and how it's accessed. For example, social networks would still run in the cloud. But you could store your data locally. Alternately, you could choose a different cloud server run by a company or community you trust. You might have different servers for different types of information—for health and fitness data, say—that is completely separate from the one you use for financial records.


"It's kind of like when you had floppy disks and you had one disk for the application and another the storage," he says.


Berners-Lee is working to make this a reality through an open-source project called Solid.



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The project aims to radically change the way Web applications work today, resulting in true data ownership as well as improved privacy by developing a platform for linked-data applications that are completely decentralized and fully under users' control rather than controlled by other entities.

The ultimate goal of Solid is to allow users to have full control of their own data, including access control and storage location.


To that end, Tim Berners-Lee formed a company called Inrupt to help build a commercial ecosystem to fuel Solid. He hopes to create an open technology standard that different applications can use to share data, regardless of what that data is or what type of application needs to read it. Such a standard would enable applications—your hospital’s record-keeping software or a social network—to read and write data from the servers you choose and control, rather than the servers that belong to an individual company.


There is a plethora of DApps for various aspects of the web today, many of them using cryptocurrencies for their financial exchanges with users. Video platforms such as LBRY, D.Live and D.tube runs a decentralized and Blockchain-based peer-to-peer network where users without creating accounts can share, download content and subscribe or donate using cryptocurrencies. Decentralised email services such as cryptamail and proemtheus boast of a more secure and private platform based on Blockchain technology to handle their data storage processes.


Quicknode to the rescue.

Although, users can easily adapt to these DApps developers might have a hard time creating web platforms as the decentralised web is still nascent but by making it easy to participate, just like the protocols of the original world-wide web, Creating common coding standards would allow independent developers to go off and create their own component parts, that can fit together in various ways, like the way Lego pieces can be assembled and reassembled. To this end Seven Seven Six, a venture fund founded by Alexis Ohanian, the co-founder of Reddit and noted crypto bull, led a $5.3 million seed round investment in Quicknode.com, a company powering the future of a decentralized internet.



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Founded in 2017, Quicknode.com is a middleware company, meaning that it sits between its clients(developers) and the blockchains as an intermediary. The service offerings, which include a suite of application programming interfaces (APIs), can be used to query blockchain data and facilitate the operation of decentralized applications.


At the time of this writing, QuickNode’s platform supports integration with eleven networks: Bitcoin, Ethereum, Polygon (MATIC), Binance Smart Chain, Solana, Optimism, Fantom, Terra, Gnosis, Arbitrum and Celo. QuickNode, which is profitable, currently serves over 30 billion requests per month and grew its revenue by over 1000% in 2020. Notable clients include PayPal, Twitter, Atari, Adobe, CoinGecko, DappRadar, and Dune Analytics. Among other customers are the decentralized lottery provider PoolTogether and decentralized finance (DeFi) tokenization startup Fairmint.


QuickNode intends to scale up and out its business to support more blockchains and offer a more diverse product suite. “We are going to continue expanding our platform, building features and higher-level abstractions to help developers save time, save money, get to market quickly and build the best version of their applications,” said Dmitry Shklovsky, co-founder and co-CEO of QuickNode. Praising the platform's cost-effectiveness, Mats Julian Olsen, co-founder of duneanalytics commented “We literally went from spending $1000/mo in credits maintaining our archive node, to spending $35/mo at QuickNode.”


Some challenges….

Of course, a decentralized web still have some issues to work out — like how quickly you can remove information online if it’s stored across a massive network of decentralized computers. And in any system, there will always be the issue of bad actors. The same technology that protects users from central surveillance, might also protect criminals and hide their activity. In terms of ensuring the stability of the network/ability to trust nodes, the blockchain solution to this is to essentially incentivize people to run them/check that things are alright.


In projects like Tor though, nodes are maintained by a stalwart group of volunteers who believe in the mission. I think the fact that Bitcoin / Ethereum and Tor have both persisted shows that at least in some scenarios both of these models can work, but there's definitely additional work to be done. Also, how many users are really bothered and dissatisfied with the current way of the web? My hope is that new Decentralized Web components will gradually be integrated into existing and new servers over time, so that the experience for individual users is as a smooth, if the not seamless, transition to a better, safer online experience in which a user retains ownership and control of his or her own data.

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