Web5: Internet Computer’s Vision For The Future
Jack Dorsey recently made an announcement that stirred up the crypto world in which he said his company Block Inc and its subsidiary TBD are working on a new development called Web5. This introduction of Web5 comes off of Jack’s previous criticism about Web3 in that it doesn’t really exist and is owned by venture capitalist firms.
Web3 as it stands now, essentially incorporates blockchain technology and tokenization to decentralize the Internet, but Web5 is being envisioned as an identity-based system that only utilizes the Bitcoin blockchain. The weaknesses of Web3 as we’re witnessing now are that blockchains are fragmented, lack security, and are flooded by often valueless projects and tokens. Jack sees Web5 as fixing this.
In a powerpoint presentation on June 11th, TBD gave their definition for Web5, which “is a decentralized web platform that enables developers to leverage decentralized identifiers, verifiable credentials, and decentralized web nodes to write decentralized web apps, returning ownership and control over identity and data to individuals.”
These decentralized identifiers, credentials, and web nodes will be the three pillars of Web5. Interestingly, these pillars are all already part of the Internet Computer blockchain network. Moreover, the Internet Computer is the only blockchain among the major players such as Ethereum, Solana, Avalanche, Cardano, and Cosmos that incorporates all these aspects of Web5 on-chain.
Exploring The Web5 Pillars
The first pillar of Jack’s Web5 is decentralized identifiers, which are identifiers that enable for decentralized identity authentication and routing. By definition, decentralized identifiers are a type of identifier that enables a verifiable, decentralized digital identity. Decentralized identities are an important component of decentralized web applications. Moreover, decentralized identifiers (DIDs) resemble a new layer of public key infrastructure (PKI) for the Internet which will have a large impact on cybersecurity and cyberprivacy.
For Jack’s first pillar, you can think of bypassing intermediaries such as Google, Facebook, email providers, and communication apps like WhatsApp. Also, owning your Facebook data and Instagram data, avoiding ads, and being able to verify other individuals in a decentralized way.
Decentralized identifiers are a technology solution related to self-sovereign identity, along with verifiable credentials and distributed ledger technology (commonly referred to as blockchain).
The second pillar of Jack’s Web5 is verifiable credentials. Verifiable credentials (VCs) are an open standard for digital credentials, and can represent information found in physical credentials such as a passport or a license, as well as non-physical items such as ownership of a bank account.
An example of verifiable credentials in practice is as follows. A healthcare center certifies that a particular individual has taken the Covid-19 vaccination and this information is verified by a machine for authenticity. So there are three parties: an issuer (healthcare provider), holder (the individual), and a verifier (machine that checks for the vaccination information).
So in Jack’s Web5 demonstration, he sees this practice moving onto the blockchain, through the use of decentralized nodes and an individual’s crypto wallet. The financial process will not need an intermediary such as a bank or a centralized application to do the verification and processing.
The third pillar of Jack’s Web5 is decentralized web nodes. A decentralized web node (DWN) is a data storage and message relay mechanism that entities can use to locate public or private permissioned data related to a given decentralized identifier. DWNs relate to digital activities between people, organizations, devices, and other entities that require the exchange of messages and data.
For this pillar, Jack envisions an emerging standard for data storage and relay that enables people and organizations to send and store encrypted or public messages and data. This pillar is the “decentralized Web3 Internet” part as commonly understood in general ‘decentralize the Internet’ conversations. This is because it allows different nodes to communicate with others in a decentralized fashion. The diagram below shows DWN interactions.
Other Applications Related To Jack Dorsey’s Web5
Besides the three pillars above, there are two other aspects to this initiative: an identity wallet and decentralized web applications (DWAs).
An identity wallet is an interesting development by Jack. This is because of Square, the traditional finance, business software, and banking service application — and its natural evolution to becoming something of a super-wallet app that can integrate with the digital currency space.
Second are the decentralized web applications (in graphic above) — and here TBD references in their powerpoint tbDEX, which is a protocol for discovering liquidity and exchanging assets such as Bitcoin, fiat, and real world goods). It facilitates “decentralized networks of exchange between assets by providing a framework for establishing social trust, utilizing decentralized identity, and verifiable credentials to establish the provenance of identity in the real world.” So Web5 is really an initiative to push Jack Dorsey’s vision of Web3 and the future digital economy and finance. Widespread use of this platform will directly result in greater recognition of Web5, and therefore of Bitcoin as a global currency.
How The Web5 Pillars Relate To The Internet Computer?
This proposal is a valuable addition to the Web3 space and it has certainly brought up a worthy conversation, but it makes you think — is there anything out there right now that resembles Web5? And after some initial thinking there’s one out there that’s close — the Internet Computer (IC).
Let’s start from the first pillar: decentralized identifiers. In IC terms, there’s a thing called Internet Identity. In the diagram below you can see a brief overview of identity on the Internet Computer. In short, it’s an authentication DApp that allows individuals to access the Internet Computer blockchain, governance, staking, and other services and applications.
Regarding the second pillar: verifiable credentials — the Internet Computer is a complete tech stack that allows for the complete scaling of NFTs. There’s a concept called Soulbound Tokens, which is more applicable in the Ethereum space, but might transpire on other blockchains and get trialed. Nonetheless, because the Internet Computer has DLT capabilities and the technology as well, it can perform verifiable credential activity all on chain.
On to the last pillar: decentralized web nodes — Internet Computer data centers, nodes, and subnets are similar in structure and architecture. This can be seen in the picture below.
At the bottom of the stack are the data centers, then up to nodes and subnets, and lastly on top are canisters, which are the smart contracts running applications and services. Most importantly, the data centers and nodes are centralized, and this is what gives it the Web3 trademark, making it not only on par with Jack’s Web5 standard, but ahead.
Lastly, decentralized web applications, which are the applications being built on Web5. These are similar to Internet Computer canisters, which are the smart contracts that run all the applications and services on the Internet Computer.
Although it’s still early in the Web3 space, we’re still seeing various individuals push the boundaries in innovating the next iteration of the Internet. Undoubtedly, whether it’s called Web3, Web5, or Web8, the Internet Computer is one of the only projects with all of the technology and the only one that doesn’t need to move data, applications, and money off-chain. Therefore, it has a great comparative advantage for builders to choose over other blockchains.