Web 3.0 smart contracts could empower internet users

Web 3.0 smart contracts could empower internet users

A few weeks ago, I suggested that the solution to our content moderation problem was federation. Rather than continuing to fight a losing battle to get centralized technology platforms to improve how they moderate online content, we should, I argued, push those decisions to the edge of the network. This way, servers can determine for themselves which other servers to connect to, while allowing their users to stay connected to global conversations. Federation was how the Internet was originally designed, and it’s also how I thought modern communications could work.

But even when I argued for decentralization, I knew it would never be a complete solution. Decentralized systems suffer from many drawbacks which, paradoxically, can only be solved by centralization. Which means that unless we take active steps to protect ourselves against this, the current shift in favor of decentralized solutions will suffer the same fate as all previous efforts as soon as the pendulum begins to swing back. So what might these measures look like?

In a recent white paper, Varun Srinivasan argues for striking a balance between the excessive centralized control that characterizes our online interactions today and too much federation, which forgoes many features that non-professional users have come to expect in their interactions. on line. He describes this Goldilocks area as “sufficient decentralization”.

According to Varun, only three things need to be in place in order to sufficiently decentralize a social media network: (i) users need to have the ability to claim a unique username; (ii) they must be able to post any message under that username; and (iii) they must be able to read this message from any username. Of these, the first has so far been extraordinarily difficult to implement.

In a centralized network, the name registry is controlled by the network operator. Names are usually assigned based on availability, which is why “good names” tend to be chosen by early adopters. That’s how Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey was able to secure the extremely common username @jack. is that a centralized platform operates under the direction of the organization that controls it, and nothing prevents it from denying you access to your username or, worse, assigning it to someone else. Given how close our social capital is to our online presence, this lack of control over our online identity is unacceptable to many.

Federated networks have different problems. Although users have more control over their username, these are loose networks of separately established instances and as such have no way of recognizing a given username as unique across the network. entire federated network. This means that in a decentralized network, your username is unique only to the server it is created on. Nothing prevents someone else from registering the same username on another server. Which means no one can have a unique username in the fediverse.

For example, even though I secured the rather common username @rahul on Mastodon, to find me you need to search for rahul@thinktanki.social, since I registered my username on the thinktanki.social server . This is what sets me apart from other Rahul who had the chance to register on the (much more popular) mastodon.social server.

For usernames to be uniquely identifiable on a federated social network, we need a decentralized name registry. This, until recently, was considered impossible on a large scale. Varun suggests we can change this by using smart contracts to create a decentralized name registry. Each new username can be appended to those before it on the chain, which in turn serves as a common (but decentralized) registry of names for all applications connected to the protocol. With this, users get exclusive control over their username while enjoying the benefits of a federated network.

This idea is developed into a new, sufficiently decentralized social network called Farcaster. By keeping the username on-chain and decentralizing the storage of posts on Farcaster Hubs, it’s possible for users to get a modern social media experience with full control over their online identity.

Farcaster is just one of a number of protocols and solutions that are designed to deliver a very different online experience than what we are used to. Cumulatively, these platforms are referred to as Web 3.0 which unlike the Static Web (Web 1.0) which only allowed us to play content uploaded to it or the Dynamic Web (Web 2.0) where users could create and consume content but not really owning it – is envisioned as a decentralized, empowering network that takes control of platforms and hands it back to individual users.

If successful, these new protocols will build a very different online future than we expect. Once we can rely on the blockchain, I can see us extracting, in the paraphrased words of Balaji Srinivasan, the first draft of history from raw facts written directly on the distributed ledger. Once smart contracts become ubiquitous, our laws will be written directly in code, interpreted by unbiased servers, and enforced cryptographically.

It is a totally different version of the Internet than what we use today. Whether it is better or worse remains to be seen.

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