“Web 3” is not just a buzzword, it is an important step in the evolution of the Internet.
Ethereum co-founder and Polkadot founder Gavin Wood recently appeared on the Coindesk Podcast to discuss Polkadot and Web 3 with hosts Michael J. Casey and Sheila Warren.
In this show, Gavin begins by reviewing the thinking behind the founding of Polkadot and expounding on its innovations in decentralization, interoperability, and efficiency. He then explained how Polkadot’s experiments will help us move faster to Web3.
Gavin believes that the transition from Web 2 to Web 3 is not an optional, but a necessary step, adding that “we cannot build infrastructure on a centralized technology that is fundamentally flawed.” The current internet’s flaws in centralization and privacy issues will be difficult to overcome in the next iteration of internet technology, but Gavin is optimistic that with the right incentives, new solutions that meet user needs will emerge in the future.
When will a better network arrive?
Below is a summary of some of the podcast from PolkaWorld.
The original intention of creating Polkadot
Michael: The phrase “decentralize everything” became popular more than five years ago. Ethereum and other early projects were the first to propose that new decentralized applications could take advantage of blockchain technology, allowing blockchain to be used far beyond Bitcoin and digital currencies.
But achieving this comprehensive goal is easier said than done. In fact, due to the lack of interoperability between Ethereum and other competing blockchains (the so-called Layer 1 protocols such as Solana and Algorand), the parallel growth of these chains is even making this goal more difficult.
We have evolved into a world of isolated blockchains, where there are many chains, and they are each decentralized, but the entire digital asset ecosystem is not. You cannot turn ETH on Ethereum into AVAX on Avalanche without the intervention of a trusted intermediary i.e. a centralized solution.
If viewed from 30,000 feet in the air, the blockchain world and its promise of a Web 3 future where “we control all our own assets” actually looks very similar to the current Web 2 world, social media and internet platforms Isolated from each other, these systems do not talk to each other.
Blockchain developers are not ignoring this issue. This is a particularly big question for today’s guests. He is one of the most influential developers in the industry, Gavin Wood, Gavin is the co-founder and CTO of the Ethereum project. He later founded Parity Technologies, which initially developed software for Ethereum. But after he left the Ethereum Foundation in 2016, he took a different path. Parity’s most important project right now is Polkadot, an ambitious project that aims to solve interoperability problems. The principles behind it are at the heart of Gavin’s Web3 vision, and Gavin is re-promoting the Web3 idea for which he established the Web3 Foundation.
Gavin: Thank you for the invitation.
Michael: Before we get into how Polkadot works and the ins and outs of its technology, tell us what makes you want to create. After you left the Ethereum Foundation, what was the impetus behind the creation of the Polkadot project?
Gavin: In fact, the same motivation that drove me to work on Ethereum at the end of 2013 is a desire to create and curiosity. I want to see if an idea works.
Michael: What is the essence of the idea? Interoperability is part of that. What is the big goal it wants to achieve?
Gavin: Why did we do Ethereum in the first place? One of its early claims was that it was an experimental platform on which we would conduct 21st century social experiments. This resonated with me.
Essentially, I wanted to build a better platform to do these social experiments. There were a lot of things that I felt could be improved, and I felt that the blockchain platforms at the time were not doing well, or could have done better. As for doing Polkadot, it’s just that I want to start over and see if we can actually solve these fundamental problems.
The rationale behind Polkadot and parachains
Sheila: Tell us about how Polkadot works. Maybe you can talk about the parachain and the principle behind it, and be as friendly as possible to Xiaobai.
Gavin: First of all, Polkadot is a meta-protocol, which means it is not a fixed protocol like Ethereum or Bitcoin. Like a theory or bit. This is a protocol that can evolve over time and change. It has a very, very thin layer underneath it called WebAssembly and lib p2p, both relatively widely accepted technologies, especially WebAssembly. Everything built on top of this bottom layer is easy to change and grow. In this sense, Polkadot is future-proof .
Beyond that, how do we decide how it will change and evolve? The next element of Polkadot is governance . We already have a decentralized decision-making mechanism. We don’t want to be centered on any particular individual. No matter how benevolent and sensible this center is, it remains a critical risk for a system that is ultimately going to outsmart any individual or organization. So we want to make sure that the decision-making process is also decentralized. This is where governance comes in.
So how do we decide on the development of Polkadot? How do we decide what should come in? What should go out? What particular mistakes should be corrected? We have clear, built-in, enforced protocol procedures to make decisions. I think this is very important. Yes, because if these decisions are all off-chain, it places power in a relatively opaque, ambiguous practice of decision-making. Often, it is not clear who is calling the shots.
So now, we have the ability to evolve and know to make sure that a wide range of stakeholder groups are involved in these decisions. At this point we can say that Polkadot is a Layer 0 platform. You’ve talked about Layer 1, there’s Ethereum, and there are platforms trying to compete with Ethereum. We are not directly competing with Ethereum. Ethereum is a smart contract platform, a smart contract is a special kind of product or service, you may need it for various reasons, and I am sure Ethereum fans will be happy to tell you these reasons. But what we want to do with Polkadot should be called a decentralized application platform.
I remember at a presentation in New York in late 2015 I talked about the theory of the “world computer”, which became a popular marketing concept describing Ethereum. But looking back, I really disagree with that, I don’t think Ethereum is really the world computer, I don’t think it can serve that purpose. Ethereum is a smart contract platform, and as such, it does compute as a service, which is quite different from what we usually think of as computers. If I rent a computer, I want to be able to use it for a while until I don’t want to, and Ethereum doesn’t really do that. Also, if I rent a computer and someone else is using whatever program I’m running on the computer, I usually don’t have to expose the user to the currency or platform limitations of where I rent the computer. In general, I should be able to resell services I write on my computer without platform restrictions.
This is not how smart contract platforms work, the way they work is to ensure that all users must have a platform token in order to use the smart contracts deployed on the platform. So, this forced intermediary of the smart contract platform, in my opinion, prevents it from being truly decentralized.
So at Polkadot, we want to change that, we want to effectively provide economic freedom to applications deployed on it . So apps don’t have to impose the platform’s token (eg DOT) or even any token on their users. Instead, apps are free to rent a portion of the world’s computer and just use it, it’s just that you put a program on it and let the program run. If the program doesn’t think the token is an important part of it, then they don’t need to introduce the token, and the user can use the program without a “concept token”. I think this is becoming more and more important as blockchain moves beyond “crypto natives” into the wider world. These new users may only want to use the services provided by the blockchain and not very much want to own bitcoin or ether. So this is like a key element of Polkadot.
In addition to that, we also wanted to introduce real scalability , like the ability to run and secure many different transactions, to run different types of transactions simultaneously at very high throughput, to the point where we can really imagine a mainstream global application in The throughput level at which it operates. We do this through a parachain architecture, also known as heterogeneous sharding. You may be familiar with the concept of sharding. Essentially, the workload is divided, divided into different workflows, and then distributed across the network so that different computers can handle different workflows at the same time, allowing us to get more work done at the same time. The entire system uses the same master computer and validator nodes that work under the same consensus rules.
On top of this, the idea is that these individual workflows can be used for different kinds of work. So we can now have a set of computers that specialize in the work of NFTs, and can maximize the functions related to NFTs. In another workflow, it may be dedicated to DeFi, focusing on liquidation, etc. We can accomplish these workflows in a specialized environment, which makes them run faster than in a more general smart contract environment. Most importantly, we can do these things at the same time. So we can have these workflows running concurrently. This allows us to really increase the processing power.
This is a qualitative leap, at least as big as the leap from Bitcoin to Ethereum. From Bitcoin to Ethereum, we’ve introduced a lot of different features that really set it apart. I’m also trying to make the leap from Ethereum to Polkadot of the same order.
Origin of “Web3”
Sheila: It’s all great. Maybe we can change the subject a little bit and talk about Web3. Did you get the idea of Web3 first and then drive you to create all these amazing things? Or did you think about what would make the system run more smoothly, efficiently, and freely while you were working on Polkadot, and then refined the concept of Web3?
Gavin: I came up with the concept of Web3 in April 2014, before the Ethereum crowdfunding, before we developed the Ethereum protocol, so it was really early.
I could see then that if we wanted people to deploy smart contracts and Turing-complete computer programs on Ethereum, the broader idea was to build decentralized applications. We were young and some ideas hadn’t really formed yet. But in general, we know that we have the ability to do Turing computation in a decentralized system. That means we can create some kinds of applications, decentralized applications, unstoppable applications. When I thought about this, I started thinking, to do this, does it just take Ethereum? Or do you need more?
I’ve been a tech junkie for as long as I can remember. I’ve been coding since I was 8 years old, and I’ve always followed technology trends. I saw peer-to-peer, I saw the Napster Revolution and Bit Torrent, and I saw projects like Free Net, until finally Bitcoin came along.
I understand the concept of peer-to-peer technologies and that these technologies can be an alternative to centralized architectures. Back around 2000, the various architectures I learned in college were centralized and the professors taught those ways. So Bitcoin is simply insane. I realize that this kind of decentralization makes a fundamental difference, what you can do with software, and the guarantees that software can give you. When you use centralized software, all you can guarantee is how good the entity that runs it is, and how good the software is, because the operator behind the software can change anything at will without you knowing.
With decentralized software, you can get stronger guarantees, and I can see this happening even before Bitcoin. But when Bitcoin and Ethereum came along, I saw that we could extend these guarantees to arbitrary rule sets. This opened my eyes. But are Bitcoin and Ethereum all we need? Actually, even then, I didn’t think so. I still feel the need to have a broader distribution system, something like Bit Torrent, you can say, this is a bunch of data that you can reference in an encrypted way. Something like PGP or a protocol that allows us to send datagrams from one person, one machine, to another person, another machine, with guaranteed encryption. This encryption doesn’t claim to be encrypted, like Whatsapp does, you have to trust Whatsapp because you can’t see the software code, and you can’t see what keys they use. It’s not really encryption.
So, I can see a lot of necessary, useful services that are independent of the blockchain.
That’s where the idea for Web3 came from, the concept of an application platform that goes beyond any single technology , beyond Ethereum, and beyond Bitcoin and Bit Torrent. It goes beyond these things to give you a hodgepodge of protocols, formats and technologies that you can pick and choose to create the decentralized service or application you want without being tied to any single platform. Because even if a platform is decentralized, if you only look at that platform, it is still centralized to some extent. You are still subject to the centralization of ideas, the centralization of software development teams, the centralization of governance, and so on.
For the next few years, Ethereum occupied a lot of my thinking space. At the end of 2016, I started thinking about what this Ethereum 2.0 would look like. Is it possible that I can do a separate, beyond Ethereum 2.0, something completely different? I also don’t want to make an Ethereum 2.0 that has nothing to do with Ethereum. I want to see if I can show the world something in my own way. This is where Polkadot really comes from. I don’t want to be a homogeneous platform, just a smart contract platform that can handle more transactions per second. Instead, what I want to do is see if we can explore new areas, rather than make existing products faster. Can we create an entirely new product? Can we create something that nobody has done yet? This is the origin of heterogeneous sharding and multi-chain Polkadot.
In my opinion, because we can allow a lot of different blockchains, different types of chains, in different economies, by different teams doing different things. We can experiment faster in the direction of Web3 because you don’t want to be locked into a particular set of design parameters too quickly.
Even though Ethereum has an amazingly complete programming language, it’s still limited to a specific set of design parameters and you have no other choice. You can experiment and test many more different design parameters, in a real-world environment, preferably securely plugged in so that they can interoperate without making one set of parameters better than one for some legacy reasons. The other set has more advantages. Then we can quickly find a better technology as one of the underlying systems in the new Web3 era.
Web3 simply can’t do it?
Michael: Gavin, you just talked about some of the inherent centralization trends. And you did help popularize the concept of Web3, which is now a buzzword and everyone is talking about it. We have heard some criticism. For example, Jack Dorsey said in his Twitter battle with Chris Dixon that “Web3 is just a fake concept created by VCs”.
But I think the really influential statement is a recent comment, which roughly means that the goal of peer-to-peer networking will never be achieved because it is very inefficient for everyone to run their own web server, and too many nodes will lead to absolute inefficiency. You’re obviously well aware of all these challenges because that’s one of the problems you’re dealing with.
Can you talk about how Polkadot will deal with the inefficiencies that come with running multiple nodes?
Gavin: I think we live in a world where convenience is king, and that can’t be forgotten. In my opinion, the question is, is there any value in running your own website? Of course, in the early days you had no choice but to run your own website, which I remember doing when I was sixteen or seventeen. Then GeoCities (Yahoo’s web hosting service) comes along, and they host your web server. I’m all for this, because if this new product is just as good, it’s what you need, and it’s convenient, it’s an improvement in the product, and that’s a good thing. Because hosting on GeoCities is the same as running the server yourself.
Fast-forward to today, and how often have you heard that 50,000 credit card information from a major institution was compromised, a bank was hacked, and a politician’s email was hacked.
Our infrastructure is in the hands of the highest bidder, or ruthless nation-state, and we cannot base our infrastructure on fundamentally flawed centralized technology. If we continue to do this, civilization, liberal order, avant-garde will fail, democratic institutions will collapse, information will be tainted, and trust will cease to exist. We desperately need a better system.
In my opinion, decentralization is one of the very important fixes for this problem. What we’re fixing, in a sense, is our ability to have credible expectations about our behavior in the world , which is increasingly taking place online.
In general, what we and other companies, governments do, happens online. We no longer go to the post office to collect our pensions, nor do we go to the bank to save money, these have long been online. We’re sleepwalking into a situation where we’re strongly dependent on this hyper-centralized model. Even if a bucket is cheap and convenient, but there is a big hole in the bottom, that bucket is a big problem. We’re starting to realize that our various barrels have holes in the bottom and we need to look for barrels that don’t have holes.
Things are a little different now, and we humans, as a civilization, are starting to look for more complete, holeless barrels. I think at the moment, while the buckets don’t have holes, they’re very small and can’t hold as much water as we want, and they’re not very convenient, maybe a bit rough on the handle. So we still have some way to go, but we’re already on that road and things are getting better and better. We’re seeing better user experience and higher levels of transaction throughput. I think it’s only a matter of time before it gets better.
When it becomes clear that the new model is a fundamentally better solution, it meets your expectations better than the old model. This will push developers, push UI and UX experts to action. This will fundamentally drive everything for the better, building their technology, products and solutions on this less flawed technology.
Finally, I give a concrete example. Although in terms of blockchain adoption, Ethereum is decentralized. It’s a very centralized application platform, right? If you want to use the above application, you have to use MetaMask, so who is behind MetaMask? It’s Infura, what’s behind Infura? It’s actually the same company, the same CEO, that could shut down the system at any time, or go wrong.
I remember Vitalik saying something similar – “It’s hard to decentralize in the right way, we’re working on it, but it’s really hard”. It’s important that we don’t forget why we did all this in the first place. Decentralization is a must, if not it is meaningless.
One of the ways we make sure we get the right product is to make sure the technology is easy to integrate. Things like light clients, they work in the browser, or they work in the web page, so when the user uses it on their phone, when the web page loads, they see the same thing. These interfaces look the same as before, like banking app interfaces or Twitter interfaces, they know and play. On the back end, it’s the heavy lifting, connecting to many nodes, doing a lot of validation, checking various proofs, etc. But these are all problems that technology can solve. What we need to make sure is getting these technologies right and enabling products to take advantage of them. And users need to understand the difference between getting news on Facebook and a new decentralized, reputable, trust-based service.
Who will drive us to Web 3?
Michael: You’ve been emphasizing the need to do so. We spend a lot of time talking about the dangers in our society. I totally agree with you. The next question I want to ask is, what’s driving the change? You also said that “convenience is greater than everything”, and everyone is even willing to give up safety for this. Although people’s security awareness is getting stronger and stronger, the security demand is also increasing. My question is, who will push us towards this new paradigm?
Are users voluntarily and happily migrating to a decentralized system because they agree with you and slowly realize the problem?
Or are policy makers making decisions, they make the rules and say “we can’t run under the Facebook empire anymore, you have to move to this new system to make sure your information doesn’t get misused”?
In other words, we have established a system, a business model, to motivate everyone to pursue this new model. I think this is actually the hardest.
We’ve been discussing this issue, right? The earliest Google realized they could apply an algorithmic function and then extract data from all users and sell it to advertisers and become a very attractive self-evident cycle for shareholders. This model is essentially capitalist-driven.
How can our decentralized system achieve the same flywheel effect, so that investors like it and take the initiative to participate, but its benefits are not based on this squeezing model? The key is to create opportunities at the bottom to give users control, while at the same time operating a profitable business model on top of that. Do you think Polkadot can do this? Who will make money on this? Can you tell us what that world is like?
Gavin: We don’t really think about “who is going to make money and how?”, we prefer to give people the best tools to see what they can do and what they can bring to the market.
Summarizing your point, I think it’s actually about alignment of incentives . We see an incentive mechanism between Google and its users who give Google their data for free services. People love free services. In a sense, Google’s and user’s incentives are very aligned. In retrospect, I think this was problematic. I’m not sure if all users fully understand the consequences of “sharing” their online behavior, or even if they do share their online behavior in this way, I feel that Google may not be the worst of all these companies.
Michael: I agree with that too.
Gavin: But I think, in general, the question is about alignment of incentives. I think our elected representatives, our legislators, if they haven’t yet, will soon begin to understand the importance of framing the information society on a technology that cannot be disrupted by adversaries.
Likewise, for social thought leaders in the broadest sense, I think achieving this as well, it still requires education. It is for them to understand the difference between building something on a flawed centralized system and building something on a decentralized system that provides reasonable assurance to the wider population.
And for most people, they probably don’t want to think about it too much. I have an optimistic view that between government factors and thought leadership factors, if one pulls and the other does not oppose, then the social structure tends to go with the flow and accept new ideas.
Just like everyone ends up using Facebook. When Facebook first started, not that many people used it. Some of the coolest kids found out, wow, there’s a Web2 thing, you can post selfies, you can connect with friends, that’s cool. Then their friends and family downloaded it and it went viral. It does provide some services, but a lot of times, a lot of people just go with the flow, and a lot of things in society are so popular. Especially if the government is advocating to people that society should be aware of the issue of information hygiene, then I think we still have a chance to fight.
Sheila: I think of another problem. For policy makers and centralized organizations, if we know who to blame in addition to the problem, we know who to be held accountable, which may be a company or an individual. But in a decentralized organization, if there is no lead developer, there is no founder, and if something goes wrong, there is really no one to be held accountable or accountable. Do you think this is the goal of decentralization? Or do you think this situation is inevitable, or do you think it is almost impossible to achieve? Because there is so much accountability pressure.
Gavin: I certainly hope they don’t hold the lead developers accountable (laughs).
I think we have to go deeper into why we want to let certain individuals have the final say? How to adapt to a new world model in which the individual does not play a decisive role. If an individual has limited real power, even if he is an influential figure, the system itself is decentralized. We see this decentralized system being attacked by a larger entity. Is it reasonable to pursue personal responsibility at this time? Just because they didn’t make the system secure enough?
Just like we think that the CEO of a bank has absolute power over everything in the bank and will blame the CEO or an employee no matter what the shareholder agreement says. Or whenever a bank is attacked, we feel that its security system is not strong enough.
In my opinion, we have to take a rather pragmatic approach to this problem. We have to accept when these systems have developed to a point where the whole of society works under these systems. We must understand that the attack is not due to the individual running the system being malicious. Maybe they do have some level of incompetence, but a lot of times it really just depends on the underlying centralized architecture of the human organization, and the technical solutions. It is these things that have created an evil, well-funded, powerful person capable of sabotage or corruption for their own benefit.
So in general, from what I’ve seen in the last 6 to 12 months of the regulators’ behavior, I think there’s some sense in the route they’re taking. That is, if an organization is sufficiently decentralized, no individual or organization actually exercises real power over the system. Then we accept that the system is a “force of nature”. So if something goes wrong, we should go to the real bad guys, like someone who made a bad deal.
Michael: Anyway, people are finally starting to realize these issues, and the mindset is slowly shifting, hopefully we can move faster. Gavin and your team have been working on this. Thanks Gavin for sharing! Bravo! See you next time.
Posted by:CoinYuppie，Reprinted with attribution to:https://coinyuppie.com/gavin-wood-how-polkadot-is-helping-us-move-towards-web-3/
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