Web3 – The Old Colossus?

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Meet the new boss, Same as the old boss” – The Who – Won’t Get Fooled Again

In 1883, Emma Lazarus authored the poem “The New Colossus” which is now adorned on the Statue of Liberty. If the Statue of Liberty is “The New Colossus”, what we would consider to be the “Old Colossus” would be the Colossus of Rhodes: the large bronze statue of the Greek sun god Helios that stood over the harbor of the Greek island of Rhodes.

Comparatively, both the Colossi are viewed as beacons of triumph, opportunity, and hope. “The New Colossus” at its core represents the advent of the modern world as we know it, a societal homeostasis of many diverse people striving for betterment. “The Old Colossus”, one of the Seven Wonders of the World, now only exists in speculation and myth. Kept alive via artistic interpretation since its speculated destruction via earthquake in 225 BCE and sale of the remains via conquering forces in 654 CE.

Why do I say that the advent of “Web3” is the Old Colossus? Simply because, nobody knows for certain what “Web3” is going to truly be at this juncture. You will not find somebody alive today who has seen the Colossus of Rhodes, and you will certainly not find somebody today who can tell you how (and when) “Web3” will become commonplace for the world wide web as we know it.

Like it or not, the concept of “Web3” has become a buzzword. Many soothsayers and snake oil salesmen will try to sell you a newly minted cryptocurrency, espousing the future implementation is the “Web3” ecosystem and why you need to invest. Today, the precursors of “Web3” are rooted around a few topics: “Dex/DeFi” – Decentralized Exchanges and Decentralized Finance, “NFTs” – Non-Fungible Tokens on the Ethereum ERC 721 protocol, “Smart Contracts” on the Ethereum ERC 20 protocol, and “Blockchain Domains” built on different cryptocurrencies. While those do not span the entirety of the foundation of “Web3”, they are important concepts to understand. At the very core, “Web3” is about the world wide web (as we know) becoming decentralized, distributed, and open. 

In a recent Cyber Social Hub “Hubcast”, Kevin DeLong and myself discussed the current darknets that are built on blockchains, specifically ZeroNet (Bitcoin) and LokiNet (Oxen). While these are relatively small fiefdoms in comparison to the prospected impact of “Web3”, they are still functioning networks that have successfully implemented blockchain technology to host their content. You can purchase your own domains on both ZeroNet and LokiNet, as well as purchase the cryptocurrencies which the networks are built upon. While this concept may seem abstruse, it is one of the principals of “Web3” – Ownership. In the above graphic, you see “Read-Write-Own” as the summary for the difference between “Web2” (“Read-Write”) and “Web3”.

Elaborating on the concept of “Ownership” in the “Web3” advent: the actor Seth Green had an NFT stolen, and subsequently sold to another individual. The actor was building a television show around the NFT character art (Bored Ape), and it subsequently spawned the question of the current NFT owner having the intellectual property to the NFT, which hampered Green’s production. Green eventually paid to retrieve the NFT in question to resume production on his show. In my opinion, this is the archetype case study of things to expect with the dawn of “Web3” as we know it.

Despite the constant affiliation with cryptocurrencies as the equilibrium of “Web3”, something I feel is often overlooked is the concept of FOSS – Free and Open Source Software. While freeware and open source software is nothing new (see Github), the concept of communized progression a distributed governance is the quintessential backbone of “Web3”. Such end-to-end encryption messaging platforms as Tox Chat and Matrix have been extremely successful FOSS projects, and are becoming the preferred method of communication for those who with to remain anonymous and beyond the reach of law enforcement. The bootstrap nodes for Tox Chat are publicly viewable, as well as the code for the Matrix Bridges, the source code can be modified for both platforms to create another carnation of the platform. The nerd in me finds this extremely impressive, while the shrewd investigator in me find this extremely scary…understanding how the standard investigatory practices for online investigations will become obsolete.

As we see such registry domains as Unstoppable Domains, NameCoin, etc. rising in popularity, and browsers like Mozilla Firefox adding blockchain DNS extensions as well as Chromium browser Brave deploying its own crypto wallet, it seems as if the framework for “Web3” adaptation is ever expanding. However, something I want to remind everyone reading is that fiber optic technology was conceived in the 1960s, and we didn’t see the full extent of its capabilities until Verizon introduced its first wave of Fios in 2005.

As far as blockchain technology as a whole; I don’t feel we have even scratched the surface of its capabilities. With the prospect of traditional exploits and attacks of the world wide web (like DDoS, DNS Hijacking, Typo Squatting) becoming impossible with the implementation of “Web3”, we do have much to look forward to. Our online identities will hold more veracity, as our public keys attributed to our online browsing can ensure we are who we present ourselves as being. Such things as headless browsing may also become obsolete! But as I sit here today writing this article, I can say one thing for certain: we don’t know enough to know that we don’t know. I am just as excited as the next person for what “Web3” might have in store for the world wide web as we know it.

Yet, just as cell phones changed the world and have advanced significantly in the last decade alone (5G!), the calls are still trunked through the same Public Service Telephone Network that our grandparents used. Think about that for a second, and let that digest. Have things really changed? Or rather, do the more things change the more they stay the same? Maybe this article got a little too philosophically deep for you, but if you took away one thing, understand that just as nobody can tell you for certain what “The Old Colossus” looked like, nobody can tell you for certain what “Web3” will be. You can experience the small precursors today, but are those more of a novelty versus a premonition for things to come?

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