The Infrastructures of Web3
In 2014, Gavin Wood, co-founder of Ethereum, first proposed the concept of Web3, which refers to a network world that gives data ownership back to users and operates in a decentralized manner. In less than a decade, the concept and theories of Web3 have gone viral, which has even triggered a wave of technological innovation.
So, what technology do we need to realize the Web3 world? Based on the characteristics of Web3, in this article, we will talk about the infrastructures of Web3.
Characteristics of Web3: Decentralization
Before we go deep into the characteristics of Web3, we have to mention the Web2 era we’re having today. Since the beginning of the 21st century, the Internet has become increasingly accessible to billions of people around the world despite the limitations of time and space. Having eliminated the read-only model in Web1, the rise of social media such as Facebook and Twitter allows users to fully interact with the Internet. In other words, we are no longer just visitors to the Internet, but also creators of information. That is the Web2 era we see today.
Although Web2 realizes democracy in information creation, the information and data created by people are stored on a centralized server operated by tech companies. In other words, the holders of data are not users, but companies with servers that control users’ data. In simple terms, people may not access the texts, images or videos created and published by themselves in some cases, because they may be denied access to such information for specific reasons. Say we published an article on a blog website, but if the website stops operation and shuts down the server, we can no longer access the text we created.
What’s worse, most of the data cannot be interconnected between different platforms and applications in Web2. Additional access or payments are required for users to get the same information. Besides, users are subject to centralized censorship and punishment such as banning when they publish content. Most importantly, centralized data storage leaves users’ personal information at companies’ fingertips, as evidenced by data leakage incidents arising from the misuse of user information and attacks against the server. The constant information security incidents in Web2 have also fueled the rise of Web3.
Compared with Web2, Web3 features decentralization, which guarantees that the content we create, personal data and privacy will always belong to us. It is fair to say that Web3 will come as a solution to the inconvenience and hidden dangers in Web2 as it aims to make users the holder of their own data. In Web3, users do not have to worry about centralized censorship or regulatory issues and can enjoy access to data across platforms without compromising information security.
The Four Major Infrastructures of Web3
At present, Web3 is still in its infancy. So, what are the infrastructures we need to solve problems in Web2 and realize the Web3 world? Technically, insiders believe the following four are essential: blockchain and cross-chain technology, decentralized identification, distributed storage, and privacy computing.
Blockchain and Cross-chain Technology
Blockchain, which is closely related to Web3, serves as one of the key technologies for decentralization in Web3. With a secure, tamper-proof ledger, blockchain stores all the information, and no data can be tampered with. Users need to provide a verifiable digital identity that can be encrypted when accessing information, which ensures information security.
With the development of blockchain technology, the market has witnessed multiple chains, and asset transfer between the chains has become increasingly frequent. The importance of cross-chain technology is self-evident as it will realize the interoperability between two blockchains and facilitate interaction across blockchains. Today’s cross-chain technology mainly falls within four categories: Notary Schemes, Sidechains/Relays, Hash-Locking, and distributed private key control.
Examples: Polygon Bridge, Arbitrum Bridge, etc.
Decentralized Identification (DID)
Decentralized identity (DID) is a distributed digital identity based on blockchain. It aims to make the user control his or her own identity-related information, which coincides with the core concept of Web3. We can think of DID as the identity card center in the Web3 world that keeps users’ identity information and personal data. Yet all the data can be obtained only with the user’s authorization, which ensures the security of information.
Since DID is stored on the blockchain, anyone can verify a user’s decentralized identity on the blockchain to validate the authenticity of the identity proof. Therefore, DID technology can free users from the review and permission of centralized identity systems and recognize and verify users’ identities in a decentralized manner.
Examples: ENS, Spruce, etc.
As mentioned earlier, storing user data on centralized servers cannot make the data persistent, immutable, and resistant to censorship. For economic (the high cost of storing data on the chain) and technical reasons (the limited size of blocks and the low efficiency of storing data on the chain), people tend to avoid storing arbitrary data on the blockchain. As a result, distributed storage has become an important infrastructure for Web3.
Distributed storage on multiple network nodes significantly outperforms centralized storage in terms of data security, transmission efficiency, and storage costs.
Examples: Filecoin, Storj, etc.
In Web2, it is common for platforms to misuse user data for profit. The so-called personalized advertising, for example, is the calculation result based on your browsing history. Under such circumstances, users have no privacy. Privacy protection has always been an important direction for the development of Web3, and privacy computing allows people to discover data value without compromising privacy, making itself a key foundation for Web3.
Today’s privacy computing technologies include secure multi-party computation, trusted execution environment, federated learning, and zero-knowledge proof, among which zero-knowledge proof is mainly applied in blockchain scenarios.
Examples: Oasis, PlatON, etc.
In addition to the abovementioned, the market will embrace more infrastructures in the future as the growing Web3 applications will put forward more demanding requirements for infrastructures. That will be a great catalyst for the arrival of the Web3 era.