Who’s ready for Web5? Jack Dorsey and TBD are, and they aren’t alone.
At a recent innovation festival, a panelist mentioned Web5. My brow furrowed because many of us are working furiously to build Web3 and already the next version of the web was being announced? What is Web5? Let’s start with what it isn’t: It isn’t the next edition of the web. It is the name of the project Jack Dorsey, CEO of Block (formerly Square), and TBD, a Block subdivision, are developing. The number “5” represents the union of web2 and web3.
“To create a new class of decentralized apps and protocols that put individuals at the center, we must empower them with self-owned identity and restore control over their data.”
Dorsey has raised the alarm for some time that Web3 isn’t delivering on its promise of decentralization. Per Dorsey, “[Web3’s] ultimately a centralized entity with a different label.” His answer to that is Web5: An Extra Decentralized Web Platform, built on Bitcoin. The focus is on securing personal data to put the user in control of their own data and identity. “The web democratized the exchange of information, but it’s missing a key layer: identity. We struggle to secure personal data with hundreds of accounts and passwords we can’t remember. On the web today, identity and personal data have become the property of third parties,” per TBD. “Web5 brings decentralized identity and data storage to your applications. It lets devs focus on creating delightful user experiences, while returning ownership of data and identity to individuals”.
What’s TBD’s thesis? “In the current web model, people are users who do not own their data or identity. They are given accounts by companies and their data is held captive in app silos.” TBD asserts that “to create a new class of decentralized apps and protocols that put individuals at the center, we must empower them with self-owned identity and restore control over their data.” Web5 is a Decentralized Web Platform that enables developers to leverage its three pillars to write Decentralized Web Apps, returning ownership and control over identity and data to individuals.
The Pillars of Web5
- Decentralized Identifiers:
4 Self-owned identifiers that enable decentralized identity authentication and routing.
- Verifiable Credentials:
Data formats and models for cryptographic presentation and verification of claims.
- Decentralized Web Nodes:
Data storage and message relay nodes that serve as the foundation for decentralized apps and protocols.
Here’s an example of one use case: Alice hates having to recreate her playlists and music profile repeatedly in different music apps. What’s the solution? Instead of storing her data across multiple apps, she can store it in her own DWN (Digital Web Node). This way she can give any music app access to her settings and preferences, enabling her to take her customized music experience wherever she wants – because she owns her data.
“TBD’s mission is to make the decentralized financial world accessible – for everyone”. Their projects are “open source and, where appropriate, built on open standards.” Their website lists these foundational pillars:
Anyone with the capacity to contribute can. We are proactive in welcoming a diverse contributor base for our code, documentation, developer relations, education, and communication efforts. Bad actors will be met with a published governance model and enforced code of conduct. You deserve representation in our development communities, and we promote
varied perspectives and respectful debate.
Decision-making is open by default, with rare exceptions made for security, compliance, personnel, or other sensitive issues. Projects under TBD’s stewardship will conduct design, roadmap, issues, bugs, and code reviews in public. This is critical for accountability and to promote the inclusive environment necessary for project success.
Projects need well-defined scope to succeed. They also need accessible, comprehensive documentation, a stellar Getting Started experience, and well-defined expectations. TBD fosters an environment built for contribution without personal intervention. Newcomers should be able to follow the project status on their own without additional explanation.
On a recent Twitter Spaces where TBD was interviewed about the project, another program, Solid, was mentioned; it has a similar goal with a slightly different approach.
Solid is a specification that lets people store their data securely in decentralized data stores called Pods. Pods are like secure personal web servers for your data.
- Any kind of information can be stored in a Solid Pod.
- You control access to the data in your Pod. You decide what data to share and with whom (be it individuals, organizations, and/or applications). Furthermore, you can revoke access at any time.
- To store and access data in your Pod, applications use standard, open, and interoperable data formats and protocols.
Solid Servers and Pods
A Solid Server hosts one or more Solid Pods. Pods are where you store your data:
- Each Pod is fully controlled by the Pod owner (i.e., you).
- Each Pod’s data and access rules are fully distinct from those of other Pods.
Sovereignty over one’s own data and digital identity is clearly at hand, but a problem still to be solved is what to do if a user loses or breaks their phone, thus losing access to all their data. “How is identity theft and losing access to your personal account dealt with? It’s especially scary when all of your data is in one place.” “Moezilla” from the TBD team responded “It’s a problem for us to solve, and everyone working towards decentralized apps and self-custodial wallets is working on key management and key recovery in a self-custodial manner. How do we make it so you don’t have to be a security expert or never lose your phone (which is unrealistic)? Key management is one problem that tech hasn’t solved yet but many are working on it, including us. It’s a mixture of technical and user experience that will have to come together.” Twitter Spaces Host Angie Jones, who is also Block’s VP of Developer Relations, chimed in saying “This is a human problem that technology alone can’t solve. We need to look at this through a different lens…people are going to lose their keys, and [key management] is a problem across the space…this has to be solved”.