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A easy information to the Web3 stack

Web3 is the newest buzzword to see an uptick in curiosity in latest months — What does it really imply?


Around the Block from Coinbase Ventures sheds mild on key developments in crypto. Written by Connor Dempsey, Angie Wang & Justin Mart.

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Loads of definitions have been thrown round, however at Coinbase, we typically consider Web3 as a trustless, permissionless, and decentralized web that leverages blockchain know-how.

Web3’s defining function is possession. Whereas the primary iteration of the industrial web (Web1) was read-only for many customers, and Web2 allowed customers to each learn & write on centralized platforms (Twitter, Fb, YouTube, and many others), Web3 offers customers full possession over their content material, knowledge, and property through blockchains. It empowers customers to read-write-own.

The place a 3rd occasion like Fb owns your id and knowledge in Web2, your id in Web3 can transfer fluidly between platforms with out your knowledge being captured and monetized by service suppliers. Whereas Web2 apps are centrally managed, tokens in Web3 grant customers the suitable to assist govern the providers they use, representing a type of possession within the platforms themselves.

With that framing in thoughts, what does the Web3 stack appear to be?

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The Web3 stack continues to be nascent and fragmented, however with a lot innovation over time, it’s starting to come back into focus. What follows just isn’t a mutually unique nor fully exhaustive lay of the land. Quite, it’s a framework for desirous about this panorama because it continues to evolve.

Let’s begin from the underside up.

Protocol Layer

On the backside of the stack, we have now the protocol layer. That is made up of the underlying blockchain structure on high of which all the things else will get constructed.

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Bitcoin is the granddaddy of all of them, and whereas it doesn’t play a significant function in Web3 in the present day, it pioneered the flexibility for somebody to personal a scarce digital asset by way of using public-private key cryptography. Following Bitcoin, got here a variety of layer 1 sensible contract platforms like Ethereum, Solana, Avalanche, Cosmos, and many others, that function the inspiration for lots of the Web3 purposes presently in manufacturing.

Bitcoin and Ethereum every have extra protocols constructed on high of them. Bitcoin has networks just like the Lightning Community (for quick and low-cost funds) and Stacks (for sensible contracts), amongst others. To alleviate its capability limitations, a number of layer 2 scaling protocols have been constructed on high of Ethereum.

With the rise of many layer 1 and layer 2 networks got here the necessity to bridge worth between them. Enter cross-chain bridges that function highways that allow customers transfer worth from one chain to a different (helpful cross-chain dashboards could be discovered here and here).

Infrastructure / Class Primitives

The infrastructure layer sits on high of the protocol layer and consists of interoperable constructing blocks (what we’re calling “class primitives”) which might be extremely dependable at doing a selected activity.

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It is a dense and numerous layer, with tasks constructing all the things from sensible contract auditing software program, knowledge storage, communication protocols, knowledge analytics platforms, DAO governance tooling, id options, monetary primitives, and extra.

For instance, Uniswap permits the swapping of 1 asset for one more. Arweave permits knowledge to be saved in a decentralized method. ENS domains can function a consumer’s id on the planet of Web3. A consumer can’t do a lot with every standalone software. Nevertheless, when mixed, these class primitives act like lego bricks {that a} Web3 developer can use to assemble an app.

Use Case Layer

Atop the protocol and infrastructure layers sit the use case layer, the place all of it comes collectively.

Take a blockchain based mostly recreation like Axie Infinity, which makes use of Ethereum tokens and NFTs that may be bridged to a low-cost/excessive throughput sidechain known as Ronin. Gamers usually use Uniswap to swap ETH for the tokens wanted to play the sport. Equally, decentralized running a blog platform Mirror makes use of the storage protocol Arweave to retailer knowledge. In the meantime, it leverages Ethereum to let publishers receives a commission in crypto, usually by directing tokens to their ENS deal with.

You’ll discover that Uniswap seems each in our infrastructure and use case sections. It is because, whereas at its core Uniswap is solely a collection of sensible contracts, it additionally supplies a frontend that customers can work together with immediately. Put in a different way, it concurrently serves as a standalone user-facing app in addition to infrastructure for different Web3 apps like Axie Infinity.

Entry Layer

On the tippy high of the stack sits the entry layer — purposes that function the entry level for all method of Web3 actions.

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Wish to play Axie Infinity or receives a commission to your content material on Mirror? Very first thing you’ll want is a pockets, which serves as the primary level of entry for many Web3 purposes. Fiat onramps like Moonpay, Wyre, or exchanges like Coinbase assist customers commerce their fiat cash for crypto as a way to get began.

With some crypto in a pockets, customers can head to an aggregator like DappRadar to flick through and hook up with all types of Web3 purposes in a single place. Different tasks like Rabbithole assist customers uncover and learn to use varied Web3 purposes. There are additionally aggregators like Zapper, Zerion, and Debank that assist customers monitor all of their actions and property throughout varied apps.

Lastly, we’re near a future during which Web2 platforms the place cryptonative communities already collect, like Reddit and Twitter, function an entry level for Web3. Reddit’s long-awaited crypto initiative will let sure communities tokenize, rewarding customers with tokens and certain NFTs for energetic participation. Twitter already boasts an integration with Bitcoin’s Lightning Community to let customers tip others in BTC.

The ever-evolving stack

The protocols, infrastructure, consumer purposes, and entry factors named above make up the nascent, but evolving world of Web3: an web owned by its customers. Past possession, the facility of Web3 lies in its modularity and interoperability. Basically, which means that there are countless ways in which the above stack could be mixed to create new and fascinating use instances — a function that we count on will result in a Cambrian explosion of recent, world-changing purposes.

Whereas the framework and layers we highlighted will possible keep unchanged, we count on the tasks and alternatives inside them to evolve dramatically within the coming years.

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