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May 11, 2022
Web3 (reprise) - WATCH

I've had nothing but contempt for Bitcoin and everything (afaik) that has spawned from that ecosystem, though apparently I've never written about it here. I have nothing but contempt for Bitcoin and everything that has spawned from that ecosystem! I'm hopeful that it's on its way out, but made sad by the fact that so many people have been scammed.

Having said that, it seems that the "Web3" movement wants to move the web past where we are now (which is where Facebook/Google/etc are almost everything), which is an admirable goal. If we can do it in a reasonable way. There's just no reason to build systems that try to be trustless or fully distributed, we already have a fantastic hierarchically distributed infrastructure for this: DNS.

In 2012, I had a thought along these lines -- and I wrote a Google Doc (irony much?) -- don't bother reading it though, it's very outdated and lacking in specifics.

To make the web more open and decentralized, what we need is a new protocol and piece of software!

WATCH - "We Are The Cloud Hosts"

The web that we live with today is largely because people want the following capabilities:
  • the ability to publish content to the public
  • the ability to publish content to trusted people
  • the ability to subscribe to content creators
Anybody can do all of these things without using Facebook/Google/blah, but it's not easy. Let's break it down:
  • the ability to publish content to the public

    Typically these require a web server to server the content. WATCH envisions a system where you could run software on multiple systems (your desktop, laptop when it's connected, cloud provider, etc), and it would automatically reproduce and sychronize your content. The protocol would allow connecting to a WATCH domain index in order to connect to the WATCH servers that contain data.

  • the ability to publish content to trusted people

    When making WATCH content requests, the requesting user could be identified by digital signature to ensure access rights.

  • the ability to subscribe to content creators

    AKA RSS. RSS feed generation and feed display would need to be integrated into this software.
This could all be accomplished by developing one peice of software: the WATCH server. In a typical scenario, the system would be setup as such:
  • An instance of the WATCH server running as e.g. watch-index.mydomain.com. If you have your own domain you could run it on a cloud VM, presumably email providers would be able to provide this service for your accounts if it ever caught on, etc. If a user wants data from user@mydomain.com, it would connect there, and (assuming it had permission), would receive a list of WATCH content servers for that account (which could possibly include watch-index.mydomain.com).
  • A few instances of WATCH servers running wherever. If you want your web presence to be very reliable you'd put them on VMs in a few AWS zones. If you don't care much you'd leave it running on your laptop or your desktop computer or whatever.
How it would be used:
  • Part of your WATCH account state would be a feed of content
  • To access WATCH feeds (yours, others, a mix of both, whatever), you'd point a browser at any of your own WATCH servers or indexes
  • For purely-public web pages, there could be a lot of opt-in shortcuts to this, having the index servers redirect links to content, things like that.
  • The WATCH server could provide browser-based and/or filesystem-based interfaces for posting content.
This is obviously not fully thought-through, but it does seem like some open software implementing this sort of infrastructure could be a really nice thing to have, and a good way forward for the web.






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