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  • "Freedom of the press is limited to those who own one." - A.J. Liebling

    What is Web3?

    The early days of the internet (we'll call this "Internet 1.0") introduced us to the world of information dissemination through hyperlinks. Hyperlinks connected centralized information repositories (web servers) and fed information stored in those repositories to distributed clients (web browsers). With all of the information repositories (or web servers) sharing a network, not only could you connect to them on the shared network, but they could connect to each other. Add it all together and you had the world's largest database. An infinite electronic encyclopedia, if you will. Control of this internet resided in the hands of just a few. The U.S. government controlled the very top layer, converting IP addresses to readable names. Internet Service Providers controlled the network layer. Colleges and universities controlled most of the content.

    Inevitably, the internet became commercialized, and private companies realized they could provide business services on the internet by interacting with consumers in a bi-directional fashion. The internet (we'll call the iteration being discussed now "Internet 2.0") saw the dawn of centralized consumer <=> provider services and e-commerce. Consumer enters search term, search engine shows consumer advertisements, consumer visits merchant who takes money from the consumer and kicks some profit back to the search engine. Government collects an increase in tax revenue. Control of Internet 2.0 migrated from mostly non-profiting entities to massively profiting startups and corporations. (ISPs still controlled the network access layer.) The problem with Internet 2.0 is that it created a centralized collection of electronic monopolies. The government passed off total control of managing name-translation to ICANN. The two or three web browsers that existed decided on the handful of certificate issuers that told you a web site was trustworthy. Verisign signed the majority of certificates on the internet until 2010, and they are (ironically) ICANN's largest business partner. The government relieved content providers such as Facebook, Google, Ebay, Amazon, and Twitter of liability for user content in exchange for the continued tax revenue from the content those users create. Internet regulations tightened after September 11, 2001. Although the government no longer owned the internet, they controlled the fate of the companies that own the internet. If centralized companies agreed to play ball with the government, the government allowed them to continue to exist. Facebook became the top private information sharing partner with law enforcement. Registrars that did not remove access to web sites the government dislikes were denied the right to operate. Ebay was threatened to be shutdown if they did not reveal the income collected by member merchants. There was no reason for these companies to not play ball. They were making billions of dollars as legalized monopolies and there was no alternative internet consumers could turn to anyway. Enter Internet 3.0 (Web3).

    At about the same time that Verisign exited the Certificate Authority business, two significant innovations occurred - Bitcoin and Blockchains. Blockchains solved several problems inherent in Internet 2.0. The key one being centralization. Blockchains are immutable ledgers that can store data in a distributed (read: decentralized) fashion. Blockchain nodes (servers running blockchains) can synchronously connect together from anywhere on the internet (even from your personal laptop) and maintain the same copy of data. If a node is brought down, the blockchain still runs, because there are tens to thousands of other nodes still operating, each keeping an exact copy of the data they hold by constantly talking to each other and validating the data they hold through consensus algorithms. Data transactions are recorded on the chain with each digitally signed block containing a hash of the previous blocks. Altering any block in the chain would invalidate the digitally signed hashes, and the node holding the altered blockchain would be expelled from the team until it contained the correct chain, which the other nodes will immediately and happily provide it. Does this sound like uncensorable technology? A database immune from technological cancel-culture at a party that anyone can join. Blockchains also eliminate the need for third-party content approval. Content (transactions) between producer and consumer (or buyer and seller) are done through self-executing contracts that are coded into the blockchain. The chain is inherently artifically intelligent. The most obvious use of a distributed ledger, that cannot be altered, where transactions are assured through smart contracts, is in managing digital assets. Now there needs to be digital assets. (Enter Bitcoin.) In the interest of not turning the explanation of Web3 into a technobabble thesis on the intricacies of Bitcoin, the important takeaway from the contribution of Bitcoin to Web3 is that it removed the administration and management of a function that had only existed with governed centralized authorities (governments and banks), and placed the control of that function into the hands of artificial intelligence that could be owned by anyone with an internet connection. The final Internet 2.0 problem-solving box was checked. A new generation of startups formed when it was realized that a vast amount of internet services could be controlled directly by the consumers of those services. Companies began to form that created blockchains for file storage, blockchains for applications, privately-regulated blockchains, blockchains managing intellectual property, and hundreds of new financial currencies managed on blockchains. Even the functions of the centralized Internet naming authority (ICANN) could be switched to a blockchain. Governments worried. Banks worried. The largest and wealthiest corporations in the world, that had carved out a monopoly of centralized control of existing assets, worried, and continue to worry that a decentralized internet will take away their carved out thiefdoms. Yet, that is the foundation of Web3 and what Web3 will accomplish. It will rewrite the previously existing rules of the internet, and transfer power back into the hands of internet consumers. It won't happen quickly or painlessly. Expect an ugly fight for the next couple of years between the existing haves and the soon-to-be haves. Accusations of "illegality" will be thrown by both sides, along with countless levels of corporate lobbying and attenpted regulation.
    How does DNS work on Web3?

    Buying domain names on the traditional internet was a costly venture with many limitations. ICANN was given a monopoly on regulating what top level domains were, and were not, allowed. .com, .net, and .org are the top level domains most people are familiar with. If you wanted a new top level domain created, it would have to meet ICANN's approval and they would charge you $185,000 US. As that amount is out of reach of most people, you are probably limited to owning a subdomain, such as mycompanyname.com. To lease that subdomain (on an annual basis), you will have to pay a registrar that has been granted the privilege to sell subdomains, and if the registrar or the government ever decides that they don't like your domain, they can take it away from you. In order to remove control of the DNS from a centralized authority, a new Web3 DNS protocol was developed on a distributed blockchain called Handshake.