Where Web 1.0 was about one-way publishing (the webmasters write, the audience consumes), Web 2.0 increasingly allowed user-generated content and collaboration features. Economies of scale caused our public forums to be hosted by private corporations and giant server farms that can easily mine all our data.
Qbix Platform helps any organization run their own community software, with all the features of the big boys of Big Tech. This already helps move the Web from feudalism to a free market. We’ve written about this in CoinTelegraph back in 2019:
However, just because you have a choice of landlord, you still have a landlord. The domain hosting your email (
email@example.com) or profile (
nyu.edu/faculty/joe) ultimately controls what gets published. While that may be great for curation, it may not be so great when the community needs to take collective action in order to achieve something of serious importance. That’s because the people running the community have access to the database, so they can change all the votes, give themselves important roles, or move internal currency around in ways that neither you nor the community at large agreed to. This can go unnoticed until much later, when the damage has been done.
StackExchange communities periodically hold elections for moderators. This may have a big impact on the community itself. PayPal helps businesses accept payments, and they come to rely on it for large cash flows from customers. Crypto traders and lenders trusted centralized exchanges like FTX and platforms like Celsius with their money. In each case, people are forced to trust the site not to get hacked, or have some employees use a back door to corrupt the database.
The problem goes beyond a specific instance of a bad actor. As a society, we can build better systems, rather than rely solely on blaming and punishing specific actors who’ve caused a problem. By the time they’ve done so, the damage caused may far exceed what they have the means to pay. And even if it didn’t, there are many situations where smaller things happen and they don’t get caught.
The general problem is that when a few people control the keys to the kingdom they can be corrupted, coerced or hacked into having the keys be misused.
We’ve written about the dangers of centrally storing data for millions of people in one place. But here, the problem is not about exceeding authorization to read and view data, but about exceeding authorization to write and change data.
Laws have been developed to govern so-called money transmission businesses (MSB) that take money and send it somewhere else. MSBs are required by states to buy and maintain surety bonds in case something goes wrong. However, in the USA – both at the federal level and most states – there are exemptions for marketplaces where money is “integral” to the sale of actual goods and services. Think eBay, Upwork or Etsy marketplace.
However, just because there are legal exemptions doesn’t mean there isn’t a moral responsibility on the part of those running the community infrastructure to make sure their depositors’ funds are safe, and their elections are secure. In fact, it’s more than just a moral responsibility. With time, technology becomes better and better until people come to rely on it to guarantee safety, integrity and correctness to a far greater degree than manual systems ever could. Our founder, Greg Magarshak, wrote about this very issue in CoinDesk, discussing how voting will eventually take place on blockchains:
For every technology we use today, there was a time it was laughably inadequate as a replacement for what came before. - Greg Magarshak
Where once on laws or punishments, humanity has now started to build technology that guarantees the integrity of the community data people come to rely on.
Web 2.0 had many attempts to build decentralized systems. They ended up building federated systems, meaning a bunch of privately owned systems interlinked together. That is because of the way the Web works. Soon after we launched Qbix, a bunch of students in NYU raised hundreds of thousands of dollars to build Diaspora*:
Back in 2014, we met with Tim Berners-Lee and his team building SoLiD and since then have met many other teams:
In 2016, Mastodon was first released, and has recently become an alternative to Twitter. Together with Diaspora, it formed the “Fediverse” – interconnected privately run servers – that interconnect using an open protocol called ActivityPub.
Back in 2017, we articulated a vision of the next version of the internet, one that is by the people, not just for the people. The owners of the infrastructure (hosting, app servers, databases) would no longer have the power in our online communities by requiring all our traffic to go through them. Each one would run a “dumb node” or “dumb pipe” over which our interactions and transactions would flow, but the people would have far greater freedom of association. Superconnectors and hubs would start as regular users who earned their reputation through delivering social and societal value, not through owning the infrastructure by virtue of being a first mover and building a monopoly. The tokens would be in the hands of the people, and the network would be owned by the participants.
To a large extent, this had already happened with Voice Over IP, where the “packet switching” technology used in the Internet protocol stack completely disrupted the telecommunications monopolies which had, until recently charged $3 a minute. This also happened with the HTTP protocol and web browsers, which disrupted many gatekeepers, including TV, radio, magazines, newspapers and centralized online services like America Online, CompuServe, Prodigy and MSN.
There are many applications of this technology: By combining Web2 social applications with Web3 smart contracts, we ended up with Web5, which you can read more about here.
We built our smart contracts in the Solidity language, because nearly every decentralized “Layer 1” solution ended up supporting the EVM
The Intercoin team has also been writing about the need for decentralization:
For more information on how this all works, see “Adding support for Web3 + Web2 = Web5”