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Web5 is coming: decentralization and the fears associated with it.

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Web5 is coming: decentralization and the fears associated with it.

_Damilare's photo
_Damilare
·Jun 17, 2022·

4 min read

Table of contents

  • Preamble
  • So what is Web5?
  • Shortcomings of Web3
  • Potential Gotchas
  • Conclusion
  • Additional Resources

Preamble

If you're like most people you're still trying to navigate the murky waters of Web3. So when Jack Dorsey's company TBD (a subsidiary of block) announced last Friday that it's building Web5 you were probably like which is understandable given how quickly new ideas and fads emerge in the current environment.

So what is Web5?

TBD describes it as a new evolution of the web that enables decentralized apps and protocols which put users in control of their own data.

The Decentralized Web Platform (DWP) enables developers to write Decentralized Web Apps (DWAs) using Decentralized Identifiers (DIDs) and Decentralized Web Nodes (DWNs), returning ownership and control over identity and data to individuals <-- We are calling this Web5

The concept is built on 3 main pillars:

  • Decentralized Identifiers (DIDs)
  • Verifiable credentials
  • Decentralized Web Nodes(DWNs)

Decentralized Identifiers (DIDs)

They can be thought of as the IP addresses of Web5. Self generated and not under the control of any centralized authorities, these identifiers are indexed by the network and other users discover and verify them independently.

Verifiable credentials

This serves as a way of building trust between users. Described in the presentation as "Data formats and models for cryptographic presentation and verification of claims."

Decentralized Web Nodes (DWNs)

Decentralized Web Nodes (DWN, DWeb Nodes) represent Web5's standard for data storage and relay that enables entities of any type (people, organizations, etc.) to send and store encrypted or public messages and data, enabling a wide variety of decentralized apps and protocols to be built on top.

This approach being taken by TBD seems to address some of the pitfalls of Web3.

Shortcomings of Web3

Jack was never a fan of Web3 as can be seen in this tweet:

💯 https://t.co/YaEO5tLlWl

— jack (@jack) December 21, 2021

And rightly so. When you look beyond the hype Web3 comes with it's own set of issues including:

  • Most of the hype surrounding Web3 is driven by people who are just looking to make a quick dollar. coughs NFT's.
  • Limitations due to the cost and scalability issues of running blockchain technology on such a large scale.
  • Not to mention it being a prime target for a 51% attack, which I assume is what Jack alluded to in the tweet mentioned earlier. For the uninitiated check out this episode of silicon valley.

Potential Gotchas

Along with addressing the issues with Web3 and providing the benefits commonly associated with a decentralized network; Web5 also claims to offer the additional benefit of unifying the experience across multiple services using what's basically it's version of the current web's cookies :cookie:. By allowing users to grant apps access to the required data. For example this is how an app with the right permissions can access trip-related data for a particular user:

navigator.did.request({
    schema: “schema.org/Trip”
})

But it is not without issues. The unmoderated nature of decentralized networks makes it almost impossible to restrict harmful content.

Looking at federated social networks which exist today like Mastodon where any user can set up their own instance essentially bootstrapping their own servers where like-minded come together and moderate content as they see fit.

This all sounds great but on the flip side of this model, hate groups also have the freedom to launch their own social media sites, and while individual servers can block these groups, they cannot prevent them from engaging on the network. With the founder Eugen “Gargron” Rochko being quoted as saying “You have to understand it’s not actually possible to do anything platform-wide because it’s decentralized,” - The Verge

There's also the issue of centralization within the Decentralized Web due to natural pressures of centralization whether user, infrastructure, or content driven. If the majority of traffic in the decentralized web is still clustered towards a few companies/entities, it could defeat the purpose.

It'll be interesting to see how the team behind Web5 plans to work around these issues.

Conclusion

This is an important time in the evolution of the internet with new developments that could completely revolutionize the way we do things. That being said it can be overwhelming trying to keep up with so much information, but we should all try to stay informed.

I'll leave you with this:

Humanity's advancement is founded on looking for new possibilities instead of being bound by general principles. —Alphonse Elric

Thank you for reading, I'll catch you on the next one.

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