Intermediate Series

Three Crypto Infrastructure Projects Building the Next Generation of the Internet

The internet lets billions of people share their ideas, technologies and art. But this digital culture and innovation currently sits in the hands of a few mega-corporations. “People are fed up with the lack of controls, the silos,” said Tim Berners-Lee, the original inventor of the world wide web.

What if we didn’t require centralised services like Facebook, YouTube and Google? What if privacy breaches became non-existent? What if your information couldn’t be censored?

The new architecture for the internet, also known as web3, is designed to be completely decentralised, secured with cryptography, and accessible by anyone. A whole technology stack is currently being built to scale to billions of users.

This new infrastructure of the internet is about to change the web. As the co-founder of both Ethereum and Polkadot, Gavin Wood, said, “In the future, trusting an institution with our interests will be as archaic a concept as reckoning on an abacus is today.”

In this article, we explore some of the leading projects and the impact they will have.

Contents

  • Filecoin: Peer-to-peer storage
  • NEAR Protocol: Storage, identity and money
  • Polkadot: Interoperability
  • Working together to build the infrastructure for the next generation of the internet

1. Filecoin: Peer-to-peer storage

Filecoin is a decentralised peer-to-peer file storage network that aims to “Store humanity’s most important information” by letting anyone store, retrieve, and host digitised information.

It works by incentivising a decentralised data storage network. If you have spare memory on your computer, you can earn Filecoin by letting other people store their encrypted data on your computer. And you can pay in Filecoin to store your data on the network. Each deal is recorded on the blockchain. On the surface, it seems simple. But it will have a profound impact.

At the moment, our computers aren’t much more than a screen—a portal to the cloud. “Our laptops have become just screens. They cannot do anything useful without the cloud,” says the co-founder of Blockstack, Muneeb Ali, a platform that helps developers build decentralised apps.

Whether we’re uploading videos on YouTube, writing essays on Google Docs, or posting a photo on Instagram, we’re storing all of our data in the cloud. In reality, the cloud is simply a giant warehouse of servers run by Amazon, Google, or Facebook.

Filecoin can remove these intermediaries altogether, replacing the centralised cloud with a decentralised network of computers. While we begin with storing our own personal data on Filecoin, eventually decentralised platforms can be built using this infrastructure and completely replace YouTube, Google and Instagram.

As you can see, Filecoin is a decentralised alternative to cloud computing and is aiming to compete with Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud Services. With those three cloud services set to earn well over AU$130 billion this year, it’s clear the market opportunity for Filecoin is huge.

2. NEAR Protocol: Storage, identity and money

Much like Filecoin, the Near Protocol is a decentralised platform that developers can build applications on top of. It’s the aspiration of the NEAR Protocol to create an ecosystem where everyone is welcome on the web and anyone can build new technology on top of existing open source platforms.

Instead of companies exploiting their users and activating adversarially to competitors, a healthy interoperable ecosystem can let the entire ecosystem of users and creators all benefit from each other's innovations and contributions.

To bring this vision into reality, the web needs a new architecture. Firstly, it must not be controlled by any single entity. It must be decentralised with an active community making sure it remains open, accessible and permissionless. Secondly, much like today’s web, it must be able to scale to support billions of users communicating with each other, building applications and even gaming. Finally, it must be secure and stable enough to support a digital economy worth trillions of dollars.

Let’s dive into the details. NEAR is a decentralised development platform that is built on the NEAR Protocol; a public, sharded, developer-friendly, proof-of-stake blockchain. This means that users can securely store money, their identity details, and their data on the network. And with its scalability, usability, affordability and security, it can scale to billions of users.

There are already a number of successful projects built on the NEAR Protocol. One of the most exciting projects is Mintbase, which is a global platform that lets anyone create Non-Fungible Tokens (NFTs), helping artists, photographers and musicians sell their creative works to a growing community of passionate fans.

3. Polkadot: Interoperability

Like the NEAR Protocol, Polkadot is a layer 1 blockchain that lets users securely take control of their data and identity. It was launched by the Web3 Foundation, which includes the Ethereum co-founder Gavin Wood. In a way, Polkadot was designed to overcome some of Ethereum's shortcomings, including scalability.

Polkadot is most well known for being interoperable. This means that information can be shared across different blockchains built on top of Polkadot. The most impressive part of Polkadot is that you can send any kind of data across the network, not only tokens.

Furthermore, that data can be shared with both public and private blockchains. That means that a university’s private blockchain could send a proof to a degree-verification smart contract on a public chain.

Polkadot does this using a network of heterogeneous blockchains called parachains and parathreads, which are all secured by the Polkadot Relay Chain. Polkadot can even connect with other blockchains like Ethereum.

That all sounds very complicated, but what it really means is that Polkadot is a network of blockchains that can communicate with each other. Or in other words, they’re interoperable.

Working together to build the infrastructure for the next generation of the internet

These different technologies each have their own unique benefits and can all contribute to the next generation of the internet. It’s no surprise that they’re working together to fulfil the vision of web3. Recently, Filecoin and NEAR Protocol launched a grants program to “support developers interested in exploring new opportunities at the intersection of these two protocols.”

To support the current version of the internet, many programming languages have been written, a vast number of internet service providers are operating, and there are massive data centres owned by the likes of Amazon, Google and Facebook. With web3, much of this previous infrastructure will have to be replaced, along with completely new technologies created as well.

There are many more web3 infrastructure projects being built than the three above. Other highly successful projects include Ankr and SKALE Network. Still, as the next generation of the internet is built, there is sure to be even more bold and innovative projects to emerge. And it’s the billions of users across the world that will benefit from them most.