Decentralized Web Applications
The Web5 concept introduced by Jack Dorsey’s company called TBD is focused on building a decentralized application platform. Web5 tech stack aims to free users and developers from major platforms and payment processors by separating the concerns of decentralized identity, data storage, authentication, and app distribution.
Using multiple online platforms we have many different online identities. The vast majority of these identifiers are not under our control:
- external authorities decide who or what they refer to and when they can be revoked,
- useful only in contexts of platforms that issued them and recognized only by certain bodies,
- might disappear or cease to be valid with the failure of an issuing organization,
- might unnecessarily reveal personal information and are prone to "identity theft".
Decentralized identifiers enable verifiable, decentralized digital identity. One area where DIDs come in very handy is user authentication. A single DID can be securely used to access all kinds of online services, without the need to create and remember a new password. The same decentralized identity can be safely used to access many online services through a set of public/private keys. To consider the full ownership of the data secured by cryptographic keys, you must store them on your device, in a self-custodial way.
It doesn’t mean that everyone must have exactly one decentralized identity. Even the technical documentation considers situations, where people can have different identities, associated with different online personas.
Decentralized Web Node
A mechanism called Decentralized Web Node (DWN) can be used to locate public or private permissioned data related to a given Decentralized Identifier. The DWN provides an interface through which you can store, discover, and fetch data related to your online flows and experiences.
Decentralized Web Nodes are a mesh-like datastore construction that enables anyone to operate multiple nodes that synchronize with one another, enabling the owner to secure, manage, and transact their data without reliance on location or provider-specific infrastructure, interfaces, or routing mechanisms. There are no limitations to how many Nodes, that replicate and synchronize data between them, users can have.
The tangible credentials we use—driver’s licenses, passports, car titles, healthcare cards, and tickets—are now being re-imagined as digital files. Instead of having more plastic cards, we can safely and securely carry digital credentials in our smartphone wallets.
Verifiable Credentials (VCs) are an open standard for digital credentials. They can represent information found in physical credentials, such as a passport or license, as well as new things that have no physical equivalent, such as ownership of a bank account, or an online course completion certificate.
The Self-Sovereign Identity Service (SSI Service) is a HTTP-API driven web service. The core functionality of the SSIS includes:
- interacting with the standards around Verifiable Credentials,
- Credential revocations,
- requesting Credentials,
- exchanging Credentials,
- data schemas for Credentials and other verifiable data,
- messaging using Decentralized Web Nodes, and
- usage of Decentralized Identifiers.
The SSI Service enables robust functionality to facilitate all verifiable interactions with digital credentials. They have many advantages over physical credentials, most notably that they're digitally signed, which makes them tamper-resistant and instantaneously verifiable. With VCs, the verification happens digitally and gives the owner the right to control the precise amount of data shared.
With DIDs and Decentralized Web Node as a gateway to your Identity Hub, you can use your favorite music playlists between multiple streaming services or share playlists with friends and family. Instead of services each owning all of your playlists and keeping them in their walled gardens, you store the playlist object on your Decentralized Web Node and grant access to different services.
Semantic Web of data
We are moving towards a future where DIDs are attached to everything, such as any Schema.org object — the standard for common semantic data. These objects define practically everything we interact with on the Internet. Not only music playlists, but also videos, reviews, blog posts, news, events, organizations, products, and places, can be represented online semantically in the Web of Data. This fulfills the early vision of Tim Berners-Lee, who is one of the creators of the World Wide Web:
From PWA to DWA
Decentralized Web Applications are built on top of existing Web standards. Although, some of those technologies are not widely adopted, yet. Progressive Web Applications with their huge potential seem like a middle step in the evolution of Decentralized Web Apps. The main architectonic difference between PWA and DWA is the usage of the Decentralized Web Node, instead of a centralized web server.
For its distributed data storage capabilities the Decentralized Web Node utilizes a beautifully named technology: the Interplanetary Filesystem (IPFS).
With Interplanetary Filesystem we can distribute our front-end app assets and have a fully decentralized software architecture. IPFS is a peer-to-peer hypermedia protocol for storing and accessing files, websites, applications, and other data. It’s gaining popularity in all corners of the web. All modern browsers already support IPFS, and it’s an open standard, free to use.
The term Web3 is strongly associated with dApps on Ethereum, and the Web5 concept aims to show a different aspect of what blockchain technology has to offer through the prism of truly democratized Bitcoin. The Web5 disassociates from short-term crypto-world connotations and switches to—characteristic for Bitcoin—long-term thinking. Decentralized Web Applications are a set of standards that don’t mention any particular technology. However, there is no better choice for building your decentralized applications than Bitcoin, everything else is a risky experiment.