Minima blockchain chief: how to live in Web3

As we start to think about Web3 with its prolific use of decentralised distributed ledger technologies such as blockchain, ‘simply’ peppering in some decentralisation does not necessarily guarantee graduation to this new tier - the deeper structural arguments are wider and worth knowing as the web itself now unfolds a new set of petals.

Businessman steps into Future Door concept, moving forward to new Web3.0 & blockchain

The internet is changing. One of the next major change factors for many that specialise in this space is the emergence of the third age of the web, but we need to be careful with our nomenclature and definitions here.

Starting at the dawn of time (roughly 1990) Web 1.0 was a basic offering with static pages. Following in sequence, Web 2.0 (coined in 1999, but really only developed in the first half-decade after the millennium) was when we began to think of the web as a platform; the user-generated content that typifies this era is why we also call this the ‘participatory web’.

Finally, for now, we come to the Web 3.0 era, the current period that describes how we are working to make the web’s data more machine-readable and hence more intelligent in terms of its own self-serving.

From Web 3.0 to Web3

This is where we need to take extra care. While we know that Web 3.0 (also known as the semantic web) is really focused on autonomous intelligence, we also have Web 3 or web3 (annoying sometimes also known as Web 3.0) which is concerned with creating a web with decentralised distributed ledger technologies, obviously including blockchain.

If this is how an important arm of the internet itself is going to function, then what should we know about how to work with it? Paddy Cerri says that in reality, the concept of Web3 is structural i.e. it’s about how things are developed, rather than how things are marketed to us users.

Cerri is chief blockchain architect at Minima, a company known for its cooperative blockchain network that enables everyone to freely connect and run a complete constructing and validating node. He insists that it’s one thing to claim that something is Web3 simply because it uses a particular type of (let’s say blockchain) technology, but that it is an entirely different thing to talk about the way the web works when it is turned on its head and restructured democratically.

From a web architecture perspective, that restructuring is about how applications are developed in terms of their level of centralisation.

“On one end of the spectrum, we have centralised applications, where the entire code repository sits at the backend on a web or cloud server, which tend to be owned and operated by a controlling organisation or platform (think Facebook, Google, Amazon, Apple and Microsoft). Their servers send and receive information with the app, and the end-user (or machine client) is a relatively passive participant in terms of server involvement,” explained Cerri.

The other end of the spectrum is decentralised apps which aren’t owned, operated, or controlled by an overarching authority. Instead, the application and its associated server construct are run by the end-user or client.

In decentralised apps, some or all of the app itself is downloaded to a client device, which may provide more user immediacy in some use cases, but comes at the cost of it not being continuously updated and integrated and also limits its scalability to the scope of the device it resides upon.

Mostly harmless?

“Web3 exists at this (completely downloaded app) end of the spectrum. It means complete decentralisation – a binary concept that cannot be partial. Things cannot be ‘mostly decentralised’, because once there is a single element of central control, we’re back to the existing way the web operates. The controlling force can limit, manipulate and adjust any of the (so-called) decentralised aspects,” said Cerri.

Today, in the world of always-on cloud-centric mobile-first connectedness, centralised apps are now widely regarded to be superior to decentralised apps (remember when you used to install off a CD-ROM). Although for balance, one could argue this is due to the infancy and newness of the latter and the previous ubiquitous prevalence of the former.

From an ideological perspective, many users might now argue that it’s all about one’s view of who should be in control - and this is a really important point.

Democratic parity-based involvement

The view within Minima (and let’s not forget, this is the exact space this organisation works in) is that if there is to be a move toward Web3 environments, it is in the structural change from one or several controlling parties, to a democratic, parity-based model of involvement.

This brings its own challenges commercially of course, but from a developer perspective, how much of what is built should be extensible, open, and collaborative?

“Let’s unpack that a bit,” muses Cerri. “Our view of who should be in control is arguably a question of intent. Whether we are developing something from scratch, or improving an existing application or platform, our approach will undoubtedly be affected by who the ultimate administrator is. If we’re constructing a centralised product, there’s rarely more than one master in control. In the forthcoming Web3 context, we will be developing for multitudes of masters in shared control. This ideology not only has a direct impact on our approach to development, but also every single part of business.”

But developing for shared control requires several inclusions that may well differ from what we have used historically.

Some similarities exist, however. The most similar is how we create and deploy Application Programming Interfaces (APIs), which as we know by now are sets of definitions and protocols for building and integrating application software.

From an operational perspective, surrendering control is something that may not come naturally. One of the challenges in development is that others may mutate or damage what we’ve been building. In Web3, it’s even greater than that. Not only may others adjust what we build, but they may also build completely different creations nothing to do with the idea or concept originator.

This is a wholesale mindset shift.

Control vs. empowerment

So, asks Cerri, why would we want to surrender control in the first place? For him it almost comes down to a kind of human ethics question i.e. do we want to empower others, or gain some control over them - from an application services usage point of view, obviously.

This states that we need to realise that Web3 is not about blockchain or cryptocurrency, it’s about how we develop things that empower people fundamentally. It’s not about marketing claims that ‘we’re adopting a Web3 approach’, it’s about a view on control, governance and censorship from a development perspective.

“I lurked in discussion groups for over 20 years until I found the only development that matched our ideological discussions (a whitepaper called “Minima” written by a developer named “Spartacus Rex”) and it was only then that I believed that there was an actual solution that was being constructed in a way that holds true the principles of the last few decades,” said Cerri.

You do the math

A decentralised cryptocurrency whitepaper called Minima, a word to define the plural form of minimum, a cooperative blockchain network decentralisation company also called Mimima - you do the math.

Where we perhaps need to think about getting to is a place with no central architecture and no hierarchical differences between actors. This could be said to be a true example of what Web3 protocol is i.e. it’s less to do with the technology and more to do with the scalability, security, and freedom that a citizen-controlled network can provide.

“The utility of this type of network is directly proportional to the ability for developers to build decentralised applications. Whether our interpretation of Web3 is on the sceptical end, or the optimistic end of the spectrum, one thing appears to be pervasive, and that is the gradual shift from services we build that are free due to people being the product, to a time when people gain increased sovereignty over their data and more active control over how services are used to benefit them individually,” concluded Minima’s Cerri.

How we come full circle here and start to use Web3 in a Web 3.0 world is a story that’s still being written, let’s hope we’ve outed the excessive control villain early in this tale and empowered our hero.