Hello everyone and welcome to this new article dedicated to observing the emergence of web 3.0. In this series, we have already had the opportunity to discuss the importance of protocols, then to take an interest in the notion Decentralized Identity.
Today we are going together to dive into the heart of a new continent: the emergence of decentralized websites. Will these incensurable sites embody the standard of interfaces in the future or will they remain a niche dedicated to enthusiasts and activists?
What is a decentralized website?
Before moving on to all these very interesting reflections they should consider define what a decentralized site is and what are the issues.
Indeed, the principle of decentralization is eminently abstract and, more than for other concepts, each has its own definition, accompanied by variable criteria allowing to judge the decentralization or not of a project or a service.
But in the context of the decentralized Internet, also qualified as web 3.0, there is a consensus within the ecosystem on a few fundamentals. Thus, decentralization must at least allow a large autonomy vis-à-vis some usual actors within the framework of the setting up of Internet sites.
In other words, a truly decentralized site will be iimpossible to make disappear by the will of its host for example, or be deleted from search engines because his domain name has been censored or redeemed.
These different criteria make it possible to establish a kind of standard profile of the decentralized website. However, these standards do not necessarily need to be all present to validate effective decentralization. Drawing up a list is not necessarily the most relevant approach, but it has the advantage of offering a nomenclature in the quest for decentralization of a website.
As such, there is an essential foundation for building a website aimed at decentralization: its accommodation and his diffusion should not be centralized in a single point but on the contrary distributed as much as possible across a large number of network nodes.
At this point, it is important to emphasize thatthere are two types of decentralization :
- That, order technical which we just sketched out,
- but also the one whose nature is more Politics
Indeed it is also important to take into account who controls or rather does not control not IT systems and project development.
If behind a website distributed on different servers and which uses ENS there is only one manager who fully controls the content of the site, can we still decently speak of a decentralized site?
Why use decentralized websites?
If the deployment of a website is simple enough today as your host will facilitate most of the processes, that of a decentralized site is a little more complicated as we will see later.
The question can therefore be posed in these terms: what may be the point of setting up a decentralized website even though other services are simpler, less expensive and allow faster deployment?
The reason, we all know it more or less confusingly. If these services are simpler and less expensive it is because they are matched by counterparts of which the users have a variable awareness.
Indeed the trend towards the centralization of Internet services such as computing or hosting by huge companies like Amazon or Microsoft can ultimately harm the web in the form we know it. The data of many users pass through these servers whose conditions of use remain very opaque and under the jurisdiction of the United States. Unfortunately it must be agreed: today there is no real alternative to these giants as part of quality services and at reduced costs, but also scalable for all types of projects.
These situations of de facto monopolies pose several ethical problems, notably linked to the use of these websites but also to their content.
Indeed, today a website can be censorship, blocked or modified, if its content does not meet the cultural or legal standards of certain countries, such as the USA mainly. Worse, censorship may not be “just” political but also economical. Indeed some actors have become so powerful, that they are able to compromise the infrastructure (or their visibility, which is the same thing) from any potential competitor who would try to grow by using some of their services.
How to set up a decentralized website?
Setting up a decentralized website is no longer as complex as one might imagine today. Indeed there are many services that can simplify the process.
Let’s first look at accommodation of these decentralized websites and the way in which they save the data put online in a distributed manner. These sites generally use decentralized protocols that offer similar or completely different services from what we are used to. Let’s discover together some of these actors that allow today to deploy decentralized websites.
One of the cornerstones of today’s decentralized sites isIPFS (or InterPlanetary File System), a distributed file management protocol.
This standard is comparable to the standard HTTP which it could, according to some players in the ecosystem, replace in the future. However, IPFS works differently since instead of communicating the files to specific servers, it interacts with the network with respect to the file in question.
IPFS therefore embodies a completely different paradigm which makes it easier to set up websites that no longer have to be hosted on a specific server but distributed over a network. IPFS is therefore potentially a alternative to the current functioning of the web and this is not the only protocol going in this direction. The data deployed on the protocols is stored, not permanently but only to the extent that the backup is useful from a network point of view.
Different decentralized applications are already developed using the IPFS protocol as Steemit or even OpenBazaar which is a decentralized e-commerce platform.
Decentralized domain names
So far, we have managed to have our site hosted on different servers in distributed ways. Communication is established using the IPFS protocol. There are only a few steps left before visitors can access our decentralized website.
Indeed so that Internet users can search – and above all find – our site easily now you need an associated domain name. It’s an essential step. Fortunately, there are decentralized domain name services. The best known is probably Ethereum Name Service which I will present to you.
It’s simply a domain name service deployed on Ethereum. You can even use your domain name as an Ethereum address, of course, to facilitate transfers of cryptocurrencies.
At the moment, the service is not functional for all browsers, but users now only need the web extension Metamask. Better yet, it is expected thatOpera (the iOS browserApple) makes it natively functional in the future.
There is also another alternative which makes it possible to set up a decentralized site, or which at least makes it possible to reinforce its decentralization.
It is create or from allow creation different autonomous interfaces linked to the same website. This is one of the special features of decentralized applications that are deployed on public blockchains and therefore accessible to everyone. Anyone can thus create their own interface to the same application. This is an approach that we find in the decentralized finance ecosystem (Challenge). Indeed, some protocols are directly implemented on existing applications.
Encouraging your community to create independent interfaces is an interesting approach that can strengthen immutability of the site in question as much as its decentralization.
Decentralized search engines
Difficult to ignore: today the vast majority of searches on the Internet are done via Google, the ultra-dominant search engine in the sector for several years.
However, there are alternatives from all walks of life that offer features like greater privacy protection or the reuse of benefits for ecological or united purposes. Unfortunately at the moment none of them is able to compete with the Californian giant and its billions of dollars of investment in research and development.
This monopoly situation has serious consequences. It goes hand in hand with the problem of indexing and some visibility. In other words: who decides what is going to be seen and what is not going to be? Indeed pleasing Google’s algorithm is the Holy Grail of any website who wants to develop their audience. However, the modifications to the functioning of the algorithm are such as to arbitrarily prejudice certain websites or visibility – even the very existence – whole sections of the digital ecosystem.
We will remember in this regard the recent misadventures of Youtubers of the crypto community, wiped off the map “by mistake”, through the fault of a capricious algorithm.
Community powered search engine development whose algorithm would be transparent and calibrated by the community could be the next stone to bring to the web 3.0 building. Making the latter public and encouraging the community to be an actor by selecting the criteria for putting forward the sites could potentially solve problems that users face today, without always being aware of it.
And tomorrow ? The future of decentralized sites
Now let’s try to project ourselves to guess what could be the decentralized websites of tomorrow. Indeed if today the ecosystem oscillates between experiences more or less successful and projects in development, every day we spend on the Internet shows us the need for a new paradigm in Internet sites and applications.
After the cloud revolution, would we be on the verge of decentralization? Or perhaps, decentralization will apply as today only to a few very specific sectors, most of the users finally satisfied with the golden cage of the current centralized system?
We are coming to the end of this study on the rich subject of decentralized websites. If you have any questions or comments about this article, please let us know on social media.