Arweave is Web 3.0 with the Philosophy of Web 1.0
The original vision of the web was a permissionless utopia of bottom-up control, maximum experimentation, and healthy decentralization. “It’s a web, not a heirarchy”, Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the web, wrote in 2000.
The early web (web 1.0) fit this description – it was a wild west of personal sites, information repositories, file sharing servers and bulletin boards, designed to be uncensorable and with no central point of failure.
Twenty years later, a handful cloud hosting companies run a large chunk of the web and most major services. Those major services like Facebook, Amazon and Netflix, also account for much of the world’s traffic. Web 2.0 has brought us into a world where a small monopoly of platforms run on a small monopoly of servers.
It’s not what the pioneers of the web would have wanted, and it’s not what users want either – but Arweave’s utility as web 3.0 infrastructure can restore some of the lost web 1.0 ideals.
“If someone tries to monopolize the web – by, for example, pushing a proprietary variation of network protocols – they’re in for a fight”
In 2000, Berners-Lee didn’t foresee that it would be the social protocols, not network protocols, that became anti-user and uninteroperable.
With a goal to “define protocols in ways that do not constrain the norms or laws that govern the interactions of people. We define mechanism, not policy”. Sound familiar?
Web2 built silos to keep users in their ecosystem. Medium kept user content on its servers and domain so it would be within reach when it came time to add an monetization layer. Twitter gradually closed off access to its API, making it harder to build on top of the platform or interact with the app in ‘unsanctioned’ ways.
Platforms transitioned to publications, with admins playing editor and curating the truth. Web2 defined policy on top of the mechanism co-opted from web1.
It took 20 years, but we’re now seeing the fight Berners-Lee predicted – 2021 is the first year that dominant web2 players like Facebook and Twitter are seeing negative user growth despite more users joining the internet overall.
It may not be because the disenfranchised users are leaving for web3, but web3 alternatives are being developed in parallel, waiting for product-market fit and network effect to be catalyzed by the ‘pull’ factor of wider spread crypto adoption, and the ‘push’ of web2’s squeeze to drive profits, seize control and detach from the original ideals of the web.
Control over domain names, control over identity
“a domain name […] a scarce, irreplacable resource [is essential to be] primarily owned by the people as a whole. […] the general rule on the Internet is that decentralization makes central government unnecessary” – Tim Berners-Lee
Decentralization was a design choice for the web, but access to the core identity layer was restricted by an unaccountable, for-profit centralized entity. The identity layer of web2 – email addresses and social handles – went the same way.
Now with web3, NFTs give users control again. Before NFTs, proof-of-ownership of digital assets (or even physical property) relied on an intermediary – someone to check their records and confirm that you are the rightful owner of a given house or bar of gold. Now the intermediary is a permanent, trustless ledger – code without the interest or ability to dispute or censor ownership records.
MyMail is developing email identities as NFTs, and decent.land has built the Arweave Name Service (ANS) protocol which will act as a shared identity across multiple permaweb dApps. Arweave has utility across the base layer, identity layer, and contract layer.
Arweave spans multiples layers of web 3.0
Arweave is a parallel web. Data is permissionlessly accessible across apps. Data permanence and verifiability makes it impossible for admins to censor or delete content, and all activity is immortalized in the open.
Even with just the features of openness, this model is already closer to the original vision of the web than what we have today. Adding user-controlled economies on top of that – and financially incentivizing positive interactions – makes it financially viable for operators and gives them no reason to exploit users.
Beyond use as an open bazaar of information, Arweave is a storage layer for any data from any other chain. NFTs on Solana, Polygon and Ethereum rely on Arweave to store metadata and assets. Chains themselves store history on Arweave to unburden nodes and make the data more widely accessible at a lower cost. Censorship-resistant front ends for tools like Uniswap and Synthetix are hosted permanently on Arweave. And these are just the most obvious use cases.
What enables web 3.0 dApps to thrive is that their value is not derived from exploiting their users, but from their profit-sharing token (PST) accruing value. Arweave profit-sharing community (PSC) projects like ArDrive and Verto usually charge a tip in AR for transactions and distribute that profit to token holders. The more successful the project, the more speculative future value a PST has. Projects go from needing to squeeze their users to simply growing the value of their assets, and giving users a real stake in the project.
Most blockchains aren’t built for storage, but the web needs a lot of it. As we’ll start to see more adoption of web 3.0 apps, and acceptance of the web 3.0 philosophy, the centralized points of control and failure will begin to fall away. We’re moving towards a new web – one closer to the utopian values of web 1.0, but with a dynamic that gives even more power back to users.