On Blockchains and Men

in #blockchainlast year

I briefly want to speak about some thoughts about blockchains, data privacy, social networks, centralized trends, and Wannabe Web 3.0. More than anything I'd like to provoke discussion on this topic because the spread of information and the challenge of deeply held beliefs leads to progress.

Here's a challenge.


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The nice thing about reality today is that it is optional

I think that Bitcoin is a successful experiment. But perhaps that is a bad thing. While I think everyone here desperately thinks we need to reverse the current centralization trends, I feel like there is too much focus on what Bitcoin did. Or to put it bluntly, there is too much focus on recreating the magic (and the monetary value) via blockchain and then market features that lack any philosophical staying power. Too many people are focused on recreating money. There are entire domains of problems that are simply being ignored for the sake of money. Or even worse, there are problems whose solutions are being undermined by the allure of money.

Take data ownership. Granting users the power to wield and yield their data with complete control. Cryptography and some of the networking concepts can go a long way here. But instead of focusing on things like data privacy and localized data, we have the blockchain, which, when you think about, doesn't really address these issues. You don't own your data on a blockchain because everyone running a node gets access to it. Once you publish the data, it's fair game.

For things like social media and networking applications, users don't really care about strong immutability and data permanence. While for individuals, a small subset of information might warrant a high degree of data redundancy, random posts and conversations would be better served as data that can be saved, but has the option of being forgotten. And some data should simply never have the option of falling into certain individual hands. One can't do that with a blockchain because it is a global database that is a pernament record of all history.

For most social media applications, especially those with high throughput of information intended for small groups of people, localized databases that store partial states of information that are occasionally pruned make a lot more sense and are more in line with the original conceptions of the internet pre-Web2.0. Web 2.0 referring to the user account based system relying on monolithic servers serving millions of client users that feed them information. The centralized internet model of today.

I have heard people frequently refer to the use of blockchain as a backend to web applications as Web3.0, but I'm afraid that is not as much of a innovation as it may appear initially. Most models simply replaces centralized servers with centralized servers that utilize blockchain technology. If it is impractical for most users to run the databases while they use them, then whats the point of having a database where that is the purpose of that infrastructure? Sure, you have redundancy, but at a massive cost to the end user, which will in most cases simply treat the Wannabe Web3.0 application as any other server. Since they don't control the interact with the database as they don't run it, one cannot in good conscious claim they have "data ownership".

To conclude, I think blockchain technology is kind of overrated and perhaps is not as applicable to certain domains that would benefit from decentralization. Rather than making databases larger, we should focus on localization. Most things on the internet don't require redundancy or overwrite resistance. Most users on the internet are not going to run nodes that are Terabytes in size. Localized databases with key brokering between users on a peer-to-peer basis has more potential to shift users from a centralized way of operating to a decentralizing way. Bitcoin has a strong reason to utilize global state, but it is kept simple and does one thing well, limiting the costs of redundancy. I'm not convinced social media needs everyone to maintain copies of the global state across the globe. Not only it is a colossal waste of space in many cases, but it falls into the traps of the centralized monoliths we claim that we are trying to fight.

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one cannot in good conscious claim they have "data ownership"

This is a misconception, an assumed evolution of Web3.0 in your argument.

It is true that blockchain aren't that innovative in the Web3.0 sense and platforms like Technorati back in the day were the real innovators (also microformats and schema.org by Google).

But at the same time blockchain are the platforms trying to bring the semantic functionality to the user. Because that semantic functionality is key for Web3.0.

And that is perfectly visible in concepts like MAKER DeFi or even here on Hive. The data can be accessed and used by different bapps (Blockchain apps, most are centralized rather than decentralized).

As such the argument about Web3.0 should be built around data portability rather than ownership. And there decentralized blockchain do play a rather nice role and as we will see always more interaction between chains they will become a true multitude of Web3.0 nodes.

Blockchain are the "Fat Protocols" (see placeholder.vc) which are the nodes in Web3.0.bapps are users.

I totally agree with your point of lack of data ownership btw. A lot of bapps also run Google Analytics and many other centralized scripts which... is kinda ironic and also sad at the same time.

Lastly, while the outcome was exactly what you sketched, Web2.0 was defined by User Generated Content (UGC), not by offering the account layer as such. Self-hosted blogs are also Web2.0. But I realize that's semantic pettiness since the outcome was exactly what you described. I was always a a of openID, the first large scale effort for "account portability" but once the Goliaths understood they could centralize said portability by using their own vast database of accounts and making it faux-portable it was game over for openID.

Semantic functionality is indeed the important distinction of the original Web 3.0 idea, but a web of independent databases that contain different states from each other is much richer than a web of the same database distributed across a network. Database technology is key to moving in the right direction and blockchains are an innovation in the space and the ability to query information in them based on certain relationships is improving, but they are limited in their global scope.

It is encouraging that people are starting to utilize information in these database and organize these databases in interesting ways to run applications, but at the same time, because of the lack of diversity between databases, I feel that the potential and promise of a semantic web isn't quite there yet. As the way applications run now, there is still a central application running from a single computer or a few computers, as opposed all machines accessing data as running application functions that allow some degree of flexibility depending on the user or the underlying data being queried from the database(s).

That flexibility I feel is the biggest promise of semantic technologies, we got a taste of it in early Web2.0, but it was phased out because uniformity is more efficient and cost-effective.

Needs be noted several blockchains chose to embrace "Web3.0" as a term and that's a good thing because it gives them an actual purpose, a raison d'être so to say. But Web3.0 never demanded anything such as decentralization and preceded even BTC by years (IIRC Sir Tim first mentioned it in 2003 or was it 2005?)

Yet,they are harmed, have no nimbleness in their evolution where centralized organisations can and do move much faster. Blockchains are Apache.org style slow squared. Both held back in pace and actual conceptual evolution by their governance model.

But we are getting there. Maybe not yet to the point you think web3.0 should decentralize; that would have us look at the original torrent system, ipfs already does well in that aspect but hasn't yet hit mainstream (momentum is consolidating towards further use of the protocol by other chains). Slowly but surely, it will happen and I don't really expect any Goliath to enter the game and hijack that functionality. Even if they could design the "Fattest Protocol of All".

Btw I did enjoy this angle to creating discussion. There's a lot of truth in it.

You don't own your data on a blockchain because everyone running a node gets access to it. Once you publish the data, it's fair game.

Only if the network says so. I assume you are talking about blogging combined with optional tips here. If you were talking about an RPG game you'd for sure own your character and all the items you farmed and everything else, and you'd be able to sell them at a profit without having to worry about tips. You'd get paid the fair market price (better or worse depending on time, supply, and demand).

If I send Bitcoin to someone... everyone gets that information, but all that information says is that I transferred Bitcoin from one person to another.

Ah whatever you know all this already. People do overhype blockchain and act like it's a silver bullet that's going to solve all problems. No argument there.

Data ownership is about access and privacy. So, a user having the power to share their data in different ways. Maybe they share only with a group of trusted friends via encrypted messages. Maybe they share the keys to that information with a little more. Maybe they would rather not risk the encrypted data go to certain people, so they localize how that data is released. The information being referenced here is rather general -> data where personal access control is desirable. There are some use cases where certain assets may be completely desirable not to be transparent, yet utilize encryption, security, and decentralization to make certain guarantees on that data.

I'm fine with Bitcoin transactions being public and global as that transparency enhances the product and allows anyone to validate the public state of all Bitcoin which is important for being money, but other things outside the money domain perhaps not so much.

I agree - but saying it here (as I have done a loooong time ago) is the equivalent of the old dude shouting' 'Jehovah' in Monty Pythons 'Life of Brian'..lol

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