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Thick Clients, Thin Servers aka Web3

news

Thick Clients, Thin Servers aka Web3

February 2020

Posted by

Lawrence Lundy

Partner / Head of Research

He helps inform the UK and EU on technology policy as an expert advisor to the UK All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Blockchain; steering committee member for the AI Global Governance Commission; community member of the UK All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on AI; member of the European Commission Observatory on Blockchain; and contributor to the UK Cryptoasset Taskforce led by HM Treasury, FCA and Bank of England....read more

We got excited about Bitcoin all those years ago and thought it might be possible to use the same technology for services beyond electronic cash. The vision (for some) is web services that bypass a network or database administrator (the Government, Central Banks, Facebook) and prevent any sort of censorship, blocking, or cancelling. 

We have been thrashing around for years trying to figure out if blockchains are actually useful for anything other than peer-to-peer electronic cash and if so, how many things. Some people said all the things and others said only the one thing. As with almost all debate, the conflict almost always boils down to definitions. Some people were talking about a particular set of technologies enabling a truly censorship-resistant cryptocurrency. Others were talking about a set of technologies enabling privacy-preserving and user-controlled web services.    

Today when people say blockchain they probably aren’t referring to a specific configuration of technology that makes the Bitcoin network work. The word has over time come to include other technologies and concepts. Encryption techniques like zero-knowledge proofs and multi-party computation are often thrown in. Peer-to-peer computing software like IPFS, OrbitDB, Enigma, etc. Self-sovereign identity (SSI) allowing individuals rather than web services to grant permission to their credentials. Linked data principles like Solid unbundling data from web services with new protocols. All of this often comes under the hazy label of Web3, or crypto, or decentralized technologies. With such a nebulous group of technologies, the challenge is finding a common thread and identifying exactly how Web3 differs Web2. 

The vast majority of existing web services are already open-source, distributed, and use cryptography. Does adding a zero-knowledge protocol, federated learning, differential privacy make the web materially different? What about adding peer-to-peer databases and peer-to-peer file systems? These tools will make the current Web faster, more resilient, and more private. Do these tools turn the web from 2 to 3? 

The transformation from Web2 to Web3 is a change in the innovation environment from the server-side to the client-side. Instead of all the compute, storage, data analysis taking place in The Cloud and served to clients; Web3 is about all of the compute, storage, data analysis taking place on clients and served to The Cloud. It’s a power shift from the Cloud to Device. From centralization to decentralization. From core to the edge.

Thick Clients, Thin Servers.   

All the digital tools being built today including blockchains are a part of this computing shift. Blockchains with a shared state can give web services persistence across the Web like cookies but without the abuses of privacy. Blockchains combined with other peer-to-peer software will provide a backbone for a shared “Thin Server” supporting Web3. Mesh networking, edge computing, and other technologies will support more services to be delivered with this architecture. 

If you have a “client-first” mindset, we want to work with you in our Base Camp program in Berlin in the Summer. You don’t need to be developing on a blockchain or even be using “Web3” software today. You just need to understand this shift and want to be part of it. Thick Servers are the past. Join us and develop for a new age. Apply here

Posted by Lawrence Lundy - February 2020

February 2020

Posted by

Lawrence Lundy

Partner / Head of Research

He helps inform the UK and EU on technology policy as an expert advisor to the UK All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Blockchain; steering committee member for the AI Global Governance Commission; community member of the UK All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on AI; member of the European Commission Observatory on Blockchain; and contributor to the UK Cryptoasset Taskforce led by HM Treasury, FCA and Bank of England....read more

We got excited about Bitcoin all those years ago and thought it might be possible to use the same technology for services beyond electronic cash. The vision (for some) is web services that bypass a network or database administrator (the Government, Central Banks, Facebook) and prevent any sort of censorship, blocking, or cancelling.