The first version of the internet (web 1.0) was a set of static websites containing information with no interactive content. It was slow, there was no streaming, and downloading a song could take more than a day. As the technology evolved, new developer tools and faster internet speeds created the possibility of interactive content on the internet. This led to ‘web 2.0,’ where individuals could upload content and websites could incorporate interactive and participatory aspects (e.g. Youtube, Wikipedia, Flickr and Facebook). Now people are talking about the arrival of web 3.0, which will involve the decentralization of the internet through the use of blockchain.
Bitcoin introduced into the cultural imagination the notion of a distributed ledger, or blockchain, for peer-to-peer digital storage. The decentralized aspect of the technology leads people to see it as the future of the internet. As a peer-to-peer platform, blockchain offers a much fairer and efficient means for users to create, store, and distribute content. For instance, there is no need for centralized platforms like Netflix that charge creators and users. Blockchain platforms like TRON are free and offer a fully open network that is not controlled by large corporations but by the those who populate the marketplace. In what follows, I focus on TRON’s contributions in this regard, because I see TRON as being on the cutting edge of the shift to web 3.0.
TRON and the 3.0 Revolution
TRON is a blockchain-based protocol dedicated to creating a decentralized and free Internet. This is a bold mission. The fact TRON is a non-profit organization is not incidental. The TRON Foundation’s purpose is providing services to help humanity and advance the social good. This overarching purpose links all aspects of the TRON network.
The TRON protocol is already one of the largest blockchain based operating systems in the world. On the TRON protocol, data are unrestricted and free. Users can publish, store, and control how to distribute data without limits. This reflects TRON’s core belief that users who create data should always have fundamental ownership of the data.
The TRON network also provides mechanisms for fairly allocating the value of user-generated content. With web 2.0, corporate entities reap all the profits and distributing them to a small group of shareholders. With TRON, anyone who contributes content is entitled to profits of a proportional value. Instead of extracting value from users, therefore, the TRON Protocol fairly distributes value to users so a content ecology can evolve.
In July 2018 TRON acquired BitTorrent, the most massive peer-to-peer file sharing protocol in the world. More than anything else, this move put TRON at the forefront of the web 3.0 revolution. The BitTorrent protocol is agnostic, which means it can be used to share and exchange any type of file. This is in part why BitTorrent currently has over 100+ million users and makes up 33% of the total internet traffic. The plan is to combine the TRON blockchain network and BitTorrent P2P network to create an infrastructure for a genuinely decentralized content distribution platform (i.e. an Internet) for a global user base. This partnership between TRON and BitTorrent has been dubbed ‘Project Atlas.’ Project Atlas exemplifies the core values of the TRON Foundation’s vision for a better world.
How Will it Work?
The vision for Project Atlas is ambitious. The TRON network will infuse the torrent ecosystem with storage and bandwidth, increasing the number of high availability and long torrent lifetimes. And while BitTorrent has always had an incentive model built in — users who upload faster can download more quickly — with TRON’s expertise BitTorrent will now compensate users with TRX tokens for participating and contributing. Users can, in turn, use TRX to access special features. For instance, you will have the option to get faster downloads by bidding with TRX tokens. BitTorrent peers will also be able to offer TRX as an incentive to other users to run clients on faster networks and to seed torrents for more extended periods of time. Below are some key features of Project Atlas that I think are especially important in the context of Web 3.0
Project Atlas is implemented through backward-compatible protocol extensions. Without getting into technical details, this effectively means two things. 1) Users will be completely free to keep using the existing version of BitTorrent if they prefer. BitTorrent will stay free and open to everyone. Any added features, like earning or spending TRX, will not be mandatory and users will still be able to download and seed to/from those who are taking advantage of Project Atlas’ full potential. 2) Project Atlas can be implemented gradually without changing the BitTorrent user experience. Yet, behind the scenes, the framework connecting users with digital services will be markedly different. Since the implementation of Project Atlas is gradual, the transition from web 2.0 to 3.0 will be smooth for users.
Global Democratic Consensus
TRON has chosen to use a delegated proof-of-stake (DPoS) system and with Project Atlas. Simply, DPoS means Project Atlas has no interest in mining on users’ computers. Mining is the process that some cryptocurrencies, e.g. Bitcoin, use for verification. It’s called “proof of work” (PoW). By design, PoW requires an enormous amount of computational and electrical energy. Multiple miners or mining pools compete to solve an algorithm but only the first to solve it gets rewarded. Thus, built into PoW blockchains is the need for high computational power.
In contrast, Proof of Stake (PoS) doesn’t require repetitive computations. It replaces miners with validators who lock their coins as a stake. Validators take turns voting on blocks with the weight of each one’s vote depending on the size of its stake. When the validators discover a block that can be added to the blockchain, they validate it by placing a bet on it. Validators get rewards proportionate to their bets.
Building on DoS, TRON has developed an innovative Delegated Proof of Stake (DPoS) validation method. A DPoS system uses a real-time voting procedure to achieve consensus. Community members vote for the ‘super representatives’ who will validate transactions and secure the network. The voting in DPoS is on-going, so if a super representative does not perform well, the community can remove their votes, essentially firing them. This is in contrast to the free-for-all miner approach of PoW or the PoS approach where anyone holding enough of the base currency can become a validator.
The choice of DPoS for Project Atlas fits clearly with TRON’s overall purpose of creating a decentralized Internet to improve people’s lives. The reason is simple: community members have governance rights. DPoS allows for a democratic, self-governing community with free elections.
Content Aligns with Goal
“Project Atlas is the foundation for a new way of content distribution. To start, the product will feature faster downloads, more seeds, no mining, and backward compatibility. We aim to eventually empower all content creators and their communities by eliminating the middleman and enabling content creators to distribute directly to users.” Justin Sun, founder and CEO of TRON
Justin Sun’s statement captures much of TRON’s core philosophy as manifested in Project Atlas. However, that philosophy is equally evident in other things TRON is doing to support content creators and users accessing its network. For instance, TRON is creating developer tools to make working with its network easier. Recently it announced TRONGRID, which is a tool that provides a temporary node for developers and also allows developers to keep track of the usage of their smart contract. Also, a newly created depository will offer knowledge and support to developers joining TRON.
TRON is also working to make TRX as accessible as possible to as many people as possible. It recently announced partnerships with several large exchanges, (e.g. Bittrex, Bitfinex, Exmo, Yobit, Bitbay, Bitflip) around the world to create TRX/USD trading pairs. These are all exchanges that provide a mobile experience and support people who just got into cryptocurrency or who are located in developing countries. These exchange partnerships mean people all over the world will be able to buy TRX more efficiently using their mobile phones.
More than just a technological solution, Project Atlas offers a hopeful vision of humanity’s future. The TRON network’s consensus method is more environmentally sustainable and the use of DPoS adds a new democratic dimension to the operation of the Internet as we know it. The partnership between TRON and BitTorrent also connects two worlds — China and the United States — and this cultural exchange is vital to the TRON Foundation. It sees Project Atlas as an example of culture sharing that fits with the decentralized nature of web 3.0.
There is no doubt the move to web 3.0 will change everything about how we interact online. Even though it will take time and integration with existing online systems, the wheels of this change have already been set in motion. With Project Atlas, TRON stands at the front of the train.
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