By: Anthony Garone and Greg Meredith
There’s a tendency in the tech world to toss out old tech and go all-in on a new replacement. “Oh, don’t use that. That’s the old thing! Use the new thing instead.” This is advice best suited to those who adapt quickly to technological change—in other words: a small percentage of humanity.
Jumping quickly to “the new thing” may come with harmful second- or third-order consequences for a majority of people. This is especially true for energy-hungry technologies like cryptocurrencies that have adverse effects on our planet. These technologies haven’t even reached global scale yet, so we may only be seeing only the beginning of what’s to come.
Despite the potential or actual costs of adoption, today’s technology innovators are racing toward revolutionary new ideas, like decentralization, scalable architectures, self-sovereign data, NFTs, and blockchains. At RChain, we wholeheartedly and enthusiastically rejoice at the global excitement for these technological changes, and they are core to what we are building ourselves.
But new tech needs to make life better for its users, especially when we’re considering billions of users. One particular blind spot for innovators appears to be Web3, the next evolution of the world wide web.
There are three lessons the blockchain hasn’t yet learned from Web 2.0, but should. Web 3.0 won’t succeed without:
- Advanced addressability
- Decentralized advertising, and
- The most powerful search mechanisms the world has ever seen.
Let’s take a look at how these solutions work today and how they can evolve for meaningful adoption of Web3 by the global market.
Web 3.0 needs to improve upon Web 2.0
If Web 3.0 is to be an advancement over Web 2.0, we should be able to easily identify meaningful improvements to the key 2.0 features that made it such a powerful combination of technologies. Web 1.0 brought us the world wide web and basic search functions. Web 2.0 built on Web 1.0 and brought us interactivity (e.g. social media and online communities), rich media experiences (e.g. streaming video and audio), and advanced search (e.g. in-media content and source code).
Quite importantly, Web 2.0 is backed by huge amounts of advertising revenue. Experts are predicting the global advertising market to reach nearly $800B by 2026. Yet, where are the advertising solutions for Web3? Who is building the next ad networks? And how do we ensure they’re not built by the same people who built the surveillance ad networks we have today?
We need to continue offering today’s impressive ad tech like real-time bidding auctions and behaviorial targeting while giving users the choice to share and sell their data to advertisers. Though we are firmly against many of the tactics used by Web 2.0 ad networks, the need and value of ad tech on the web are undeniable. Which leads us to ask…
- Where is Web3 heading?
- What is it building upon?
- How is it advancing what we already have that makes the web work?
- What will interactivity, rich media experiences, and advanced search look like on Web3?
We’re not seeing meaningful answers (or work being done) to satisfy these questions. In fact, we believe Web 3.0 proponents and innovators are throwing the Web 2.0 baby out with the bathwater. They are not advancing the basic fundamentals of the web itself that led to its adoption. In fact, we think they’ve completely forgotten how important the features of Web 2.0 are.
Web 3.0 needs to enable a global market
One of the most powerful notions of the web today is the global unified market. Thanks to search engines like Google, Duck Duck Go, and Bing, anyone could quickly and easily look for what they wanted. Web 2.0 allowed any type of content to become searchable and the results reflected that.
Today’s search engine results include content, references, agents, people, and more. Assets on the web became accessible to anyone in an instant. That enabled a global market.
The storage mechanisms for today’s web are simple: centralized file systems with clear, bounded ownership. Anyone can store data on AWS S3, Google Drive, or even their own private server hosted in a data center, or from their own home. Web 2.0 made storage fairly ubiquitous.
The fully-realized Web 3.0 storage mechanism is the block chain. Digital assets stored on chain, or managed through chain, become opaque to search engines. If there’s no ability to tag or otherwise look through data being managed through chain, there’s no way to search for it. If data is on IPFS, how do you Google search the contents of the data? That’s a real challenge.
We don’t want to take a step backwards going to Web3. We want to take a step forward. There is no global market without searchable, accessible data. We need much more than currency-enabling blockchains that keep primitive records of transactions.
Web 3.0 won’t be successful if it cannot offer or perpetuate the global unified market.
1 Web 3.0 needs URLs, not addresses
The global unified market needs a way to locate data on the web. Blockchain-based web storage needs a usable URL system, like we’ve always had. But how should on-chain addressing work?
Almost nobody is addressing this.
Very few blockchains can support file storage, and almost none of them support files of any substantial size. Web3’s storage mechanism can’t be a parallel system that supports (or, simply smells like) a blockchain. The web needs to live on the blockchain itself. And for that to work, it requires addressability.
Files on chain need to be found and retrieved. The location of resources needs to be a compositional structure, like the web’s current URI composition (URN + URL). It’s how browsers work and it’s a great model for the future. But on-chain URI composition will need some re-thinking.
The Dappy browser is tackling blockchain addressing, while also highlighting and fixing the limitations of DNS as it works today. Dappy’s website states:
Dappy replaces the traditional DNS layer with a name system that is executed on a blockchain platform, the lookups (when your client accesses the website) are resolved by a network of independent companies, a network collectively certify the domain names and encryption certificates.
Take a look at their name system documentation to understand how it works.
Though projects like Solid and IPFS are doing commendable work on the storage and sovereignty aspects of Web3 data, we need to be able to locate and access data stored on chain. Today’s URI composition can work, but it needs advances to function on blockchain.
2 Web 3.0 needs digital advertising at scale
The world’s most popular Web2 apps are free to use. TikTok, Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp, Telegram, Snapchat, Zoom, Spotify—no paid subscription required. With hundreds of millions of users, they remain free either by harvesting and selling their users’ personal data or advertising. How does this model evolve to operate on a decentralized web that runs on paid token exchanges and self-sovereign data?
These huge companies won’t just say, “Oh well. Let’s close shop.” Nor will users say, “Okay, we’ll stop using these free apps we love so much.”
It’s not clear how the big players will function on Web3, but a decentralized architecture will not support their existing surveillance advertising models. Whether their apps stay free remains to be seen, and whether their users will pay for the apps is an even bigger question. Web3 will force users to think about what information they share and potentially allow them to sell the data themselves.
The reality is: Web3 needs advertising even more than Web2. Distributed apps (dApps) built on a decentralized web will have even worse issues with paywalls than today’s Web2 apps. There’s only one way to solve this problem: decentralized advertising.
Decentralized advertising can run on a globally-scalable sponsored content framework. It can function with a small set of APIs for both providers and developers. Online communities can have the option to allow advertisers to share sponsored content with them.
For example, a fly fishing community could vote and approve to signal that they’re open to relevant advertising content based on the data they provide about their community. The content framework could do the matchmaking and ensure the requested content is delivered. And because it’s all on blockchain, the advertiser could know exactly how many times their ad was seen, by what communities, and not have to worry about fraudulent advertising metrics.
There’s no escaping the need for ads in a Web3 world, but the capabilities for a better ad experience (for advertisers and users) has much greater potential for good.
3 Web 3.0 needs to be searchable
RChain has spent a lot of time working with visual and musical artists who’ve minted NFTs. They said to us, “I’ve minted the NFT. How do people find it?” That’s the search problem. How do artists connect with their audience if their material is on chain?
Right now, if an NFT is built on Ethereum (ETH) and the Interplanetary File System (IPFS), it’s opaque. There’s no way to find it. IPFS is not a blockchain, yet says it is “the hard drive for blockchain and Web3.” It’s certainly a noble project for decentralized file storage. But if we aren’t building searchability into Web3 as a first class citizen, then how will it see global adoption?
Ubiquitous search of globally distributed resources has done more to create a global economy than virtually every other innovation combined. If resources are managed through blockchains and external paraphernalia like IPFS without deep search capabilities, this powerful force creating the global market is stymied, in fact regressed.
File systems for Web3 must be queryable, but with much more capability than we have today.
For example, there are objective properties of music that can be indexed, like tempo, key, instrumentation, and more. Can you find songs in the key of G without the song or the containing page being titled “songs in the key of G?” How about gypsy jazz songs between 125 and 135 beats per minute featuring a violin as the lead instrument?
Imagine a DJ planning an event who wants to create a certain contour for the evening. It starts out relaxed with blue artwork that fits the interior design of the event being projected on the screens. Then intensity builds with faster music with more intense instrumentation and the artwork turns green. The set peaks with complementary red artwork and uptempo, aggressive music.
We are not even close to making this possible with today’s contemplated NFT structure.
Web3 has a major opportunity to build upon and advance the search capabilities of Web2. There’s immeasurable potential to index on real, relevant metadata
Web3 technology is available today on RChain
The lessons of Web2 are hugely important for Web3. Here are the fundamental realities:
- On-chain data storage won’t reach global adoption if it can’t be directly accessed through a compositional address structure.
- Distributed apps cannot be free to use without decentralized advertising.
- The global unified market cannot persist without ubiquitous search.
The technology already exists to make these realities possible. Unfortunately, today’s innovators appear to be more focused on making cryptocurrencies work (or making money from cryptocurrencies) instead of making Web3 work. At RChain, we think it’s more important to build a humane system that works for everyone and we’ve spent the past several years developing it.
RChain is the only blockchain offering addressable file storage with a built-in transactional query language, Rholang. In fact, our search capabilities make URLs and query strings look like toys. And we’re able to store files of any size on chain. We offer a significant upgrade to the file storage and search features offered by Web 2.0.
We’re so enthusiastic about the needs of Web3, we’ve launched two major projects to address the design shortcomings we’ve described in this article. RChain Publishing makes on-chain storage and self-sovereignty possible. DAASL offers a distributed advertising framework with global scale.
The future of Web3 is at risk if we don’t design around these important Web2 capabilities. We can’t use Web2 search without integrating it into the blockchain, or else we end up with content (e.g. NFTs) that can’t be located or found through search. We can’t offer free dApps without ads and sponsored online content.
The world will not want to use Web3 if they have to pay for the privilege. A move to Web3 should not feel like a loss to the general public. They want and expect better search, better and safer apps that are free, and an even better experience with the global unified market.