Liu Yang, CAICT : Some thoughts on Web3

Picking a good name is often half the battle. This is not the case for ” Web3 ” in this article, but it suddenly exploded as the future of the Internet after a hearing on cryptocurrencies in the U.S. Congress on December 9, 2021.

First, the Web3 name isn’t its debut . As the inventor of the Web (World Wide Web), British computer scientist Tim Berners-Lee has the first say in the name. As early as 1998, he used Web3 to name the technology of the Semantic Web. The core is to add metadata and build a knowledge graph, so that the network can better understand the information itself and serve users more intelligently. Unfortunately, the Semantic Web has not really become Web3 to this day.

Second, Web3’s name is not accurate. In order to facilitate everyone’s understanding, Web development is usually divided into three generations, namely Web1 is “readable” (R), Web2 is “readable + writable” (R/W), and Web3 is “readable + writable” + Tubeable” (R/W/O). However, this division is not very strict, especially this change is not actually a change in the original hypertext core technology architecture of the Web, but a change in the entire Internet TCP/IP technology protocol stack and even the larger overall situation.

Third, Web3’s name is not down to earth. Just like IPv6 (Internet Protocol version 6, Internet Protocol version 6) and 5G (5th Generation Mobile Communication Technology, the fifth generation mobile communication technology), Web3, as a code name for a technical system upgrade, seems to be covered with A very professional academic coat can easily make the public feel aloof and alienated.

But no matter what, the name Web3 is really popular, and we need to rethink its concept, connotation, positioning and future development.

Is Web3 the new generation of the Internet?

When thinking about this problem, we must first have a relatively clear definition of both sides of the concept.

First, if you want to talk about the new generation of the Internet, you must first think about what the Internet is.Encyclopedia entries usually describe the “internet” as a global network system based on a common protocol, and various computer networks are connected in series. In fact, the “Internet (Internet)” based on the TCP/IP protocol, which began in 1969 with the US ARPANET, is the most important (and almost the only remaining) system implementation of this concept.So we seldom distinguish between the Internet and the Internet, the Internet and the Internet.

Second, if I want to talk about the third generation of the Web, it is natural to explain the Web first. This is actually the abbreviation of World Wide Web, which is a network resource access system designed based on hypertext architecture and protocols. From the most popular application on the Internet, the Web has developed into the most important software platform occupying a core position. Almost all Internet applications are directly implemented by Web-based systems, or borrow ideas from the Web.

Based on the conceptual review above, the answer to this question is an obvious choice of “yes and no”.

Web3 in the narrow sense is definitely not a new generation of Internet. From a conceptual point of view, the Internet has developed a thinking system, application system, and governance system from a technical system, which is almost equivalent to the concept of digital space, while the conceptual system of Web3 is not so full; from a technical point of view, the Internet has not only It is the TCP/IP protocol, and the technical supply of Web3 today is far from matching; from the perspective of deployment, the Internet has completed the overall construction of infrastructure, core systems, application platforms, and access terminals, while Web3’s current products are mainly Focus on the application.

The generalized Web3 is likely to be a new generation of Internet. First of all, Web3’s pursuit of decentralization and autonomous operation is indeed the main evolution direction of Internet development, and it is also the basic requirement for whether the Internet can support the digital space with data as the core element; secondly, the concept of Web3 is causing Internet technology and products. At the same time, it also brings the objective need for the reform of the Internet business model and governance model. Finally, as the overlord of the Internet world and even the digital space, the Web’s own changes will inevitably have a huge impact on the entire digital space.

What is the core idea of ​​Web3?

“Innovation is the source of success.” While the Internet has made great achievements, the Internet community has never relaxed its requirements, but is constantly looking for new subversive innovations.

The first innovative path is to explore the “Internet of Data”. From web browsing, voice calls to video sharing, the data traffic in the network is increasing, and the concern that the network architecture cannot meet the development needs is also emerging. In 1994, Robert Kahn, the “father of the Internet” and co-inventor of the TCP/IP protocol, took the lead in proposing the concept of Digital Object Architecture (DOA), hoping to refine the attention of the digital space from the host to the data; In 2006, Van Jacobsen, the main contributor of the TCP protocol and the proposer of the TCP flow control algorithm, proposed the concept of Named Data Networking (NDN). Build the internet architecture.

The second innovative path is to explore the “intelligent Internet”. Scheduling/control and processing/carrying are the basic functions of the network as a connecting bridge, and also the main focus for Internet architects to add intelligence.In 2009, the idea of ​​Software Defined Network (SDN) was proposed by Stanford University in the United States, and it has become the basic method for numerous subsequent network architecture innovations dedicated to separating the network control plane from the data forwarding plane.

The third innovative path is to explore the “safe Internet”. Most of the initial attempts focused on the security enhancement of network core systems, such as IPsec, BGPsec, DNSSEC, etc. In 2008, blockchain technology appeared in front of the world with the birth of Bitcoin. However, what academia and industry see is not only the application of blockchain in encrypted digital currency, but also looking forward to building a new trusted digital space through consensus and contracts.

As the co-founder of the Ethereum public chain system and the founder of the Polkadot cross-chain ecosystem, Dr. Gavin Wood proposed a revolutionary Web3 vision in 2014 . The Internet is more decentralized and more secure, allowing users to control their own digital identities and digital assets, thereby breaking the monopoly of Internet platforms and opening a new wave of global digital economy.

What are the technological changes of Web3?

There are usually two principles for success in exploring changes in the existing technology system. One is to figure out why the previous generation succeeded (that is, what should not be changed), and the other is to figure out what is missing. Consider what to add (ie what should be changed).

There are many factors for the success of the Internet technology architecture. The first is layered decoupling . Whether it is the theoretical OSI seven-layer model or the practical TCP/IP four-layer model, a layered architecture design method is adopted, which not only improves the usability, but also enhances the stability ; Open and inclusive , as a “network of networks”, the Internet architecture can be adapted to both fixed access methods such as optical fiber broadband, and mobile access methods such as wireless cellular communication . The basic operation of adding, deleting, modifying and checking specified by the HTTP protocol reflects the full consideration of the Internet technology thinking for the convenience of use.

The designers of the Internet technology architecture did not predict today’s development, and naturally there are also shortcomings and regrets.

One is the lack of overall consideration and unified design of identity. The core design of the Internet protocol stack is the IP thin waist. The unified IP address specification and IP routing mechanism have laid the foundation for the construction of the global Internet, and also provides the cornerstone for various Internet applications. However, behind the end-to-end communication of IP connections, there may be multiple users and multiple types of data, so the Internet leaves the identification and authentication of data identities to applications, which are managed and fought separately.The Internet platform hosts user identities and user data, which is not only a must, but also a must.

The second is the lack of judgment and evaluation of value and the ability to serve. Determining and transacting the value of resources and their derived services is a core concern in building any business model. If food, water, and oil are the resources of the physical world, then the resources of the Internet are data, digital addresses, digital identities, and digital assets. However, the Internet, which originated from laboratory projects, behaves more like a public welfare undertaking, but it has never established clear technical means and supporting systems on how to confirm the rights, how to price, and how to trade data resources.

The blockchain establishes a “trust” network between machines by using a consensus-based mathematical algorithm, and creates a new credit through technical endorsement. Using blockchain technology, Web3 makes up for two key designs for the original Internet TCP/IP protocol. One is a distributed and self-manageable digital identity , namely Self-Sovereign Identity (SSI), such as The distributed identifier technology (Decentralized Identifier, DID) proposed by the Web standardization organization W3C; the second is digital assets that can be confirmed and traded , that is, non-monetary assets that exist in the form of data in the digital space, including encrypted digital currency ( Cryptocurrency), Non-Fungible Token (NFT).

Where will the development of Web3 go?

Different from the recent development trend of another hot word “Metaverse”, it only proposes the concept of moving from physical space to digital twin space, and finally creating the concept of digital native space, which may take 10-20 years or even longer. to implement it. The core concept of Web3 seeking to make the Internet architecture more decentralized, more secure and credible is relatively clear and focused; Web3’s technological innovation and development in digital identity, digital assets, etc. are also very specific, and have formed Web3 games, A large number of new products and new ecology such as Web3 social and Web3 media.

First, the development of Web3 is getting faster and faster, from plain replacement to killer application. The development of the traditional Internet has benefited from the narrow waist of digital addresses (IP), which also led to most of the initial Web applications being built on the basis of communication protocols to support data query and acquisition; the development of Web3 will mainly benefit from digital The new thin waist of identity and digital assets also means that most Web3 applications will be based on data protocols to support the authorized use of data and the value transaction of data. However, partial and single-point trust release cannot really stimulate the huge energy of the industry in the process of market-oriented configuration of data elements, which also makes the current experience of many Web3 applications not obvious. Once users leave the protected area, they will fall back into being trapped An old space bound by internet platforms. Only when this seemingly bland Web3 application reaches a certain scale can it trigger a more influential killer application.

The second is that the Web3 technology is split, which may rely on the new cooperation model mechanism. The first is the dramatic expansion of the concept. Because of the emergence of any new technology and new concept, it may be gradually enlarged. For example, the Internet of Things has spread from the initial identification, perception, and connection of things to the category of the Industrial Internet. The concept of Web3 may also be added to the ability support for virtual and reality, and may be reintegrated into the ability support of semantics and knowledge. This kind of conceptual enlargement is not necessarily wrong, but it will inevitably distract the attention of supporters and make it difficult to reach a consensus. The second is the standard cross-contradiction. Unlike the IPv6 standard mainly developed by the IETF, and the 5G standard mainly developed by the ITU and 3GPP, the so-called Internet standard development has been relatively scattered. At present, the W3C, which was originally responsible for the development of Web standards, may dominate in terms of digital identity, while the standardization of digital assets may be completed in different organizations such as ITU and ISO, and even rely more on new international cooperation platforms such as industry alliances and open source communities.

The third is that Web3 has caused anxiety in many parties, looking for vitality in the contrast between ice and fire.Behind the fierce debate on the concept and meaning of Web3, it actually reflects the high attention of all parties. As the birthplace of Internet technology, the United States hopes to maintain its absolute leadership in technology and industry, so that the Web3 revolution will take place first in the United States; the EU’s attention to digital sovereignty coincides with Web3, which regards Web3 as an economic and technological recovery important path. The traditional communication standardization organization view incorporates Web3 into the old governance system, and the emerging encryption community begins to try to establish distributed autonomy through consensus and contracts. Large-scale Internet platform companies are regarded as the outdated old system in this wave, but they still firmly control the de facto Internet ecology and will not let go easily; small Internet application companies seem to see the opportunity to reshuffle. But without the support of the business model, it may not be able to stick to the end.

Fourth, whether Web3 can successfully correct its name depends on the success of the entire transformation. Just like the Internet is not only TCP/IP technology, but the Internet based on TCP/IP protocol has indeed become the most important Internet practice; in the same way, Web3 is not only a blockchain technology, but a digital blockchain based on blockchain. Identity and digital assets will likely be the dominant Web3 practice. Therefore, whether Web3 can justifiably become the representative of the new generation of Internet, whether the development of blockchain technology and industry is mature is very important. On the other hand, 5G, identity resolution, and blockchain have all attracted attention because they have created new ways to solve problems in the network. The blockchain establishes the ability of “value trust”. But whether it can attract users’ attention is not because of the scarcity of technology, but more because of the temptation of new space behind technology, such as the “Internet of Everything” behind 5G, the “Industrial Internet” behind logo analysis, and the “Metaverse” behind blockchain Wait. Therefore, whether Web3 can develop and grow, the overall change path from technological innovation to product innovation and application innovation is also very important.At present, such a complete innovation ecology is more the focus of the public chain community’s long-term commitment.Most Web3 products and applications are also based on public chains.

In the follow-up, we will track and study the latest progress of a group of typical global Web3 products and applications.Perhaps these innovative explorations may not be the final form of the new generation of Internet. But the jade of other mountains can attack the stone! Hope to provide reference for the development and evolution of digital technology.

I also believe that these explorations of digital identity and digital assets will inevitably melt into the construction of a new digital-native cyberspace.

Posted by:CoinYuppie,Reprinted with attribution to:
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