Thoughts on WordPress, Crypto and the Decentralised Web3

moving, collectible version on Makersplace

‘So you want it all to be decentralised …and you want it now…..’

I’m here typing into WordPress using the new ‘Block Editor’ that is an impressive update for handling the many features of WordPress. So far, so good. I love the way it’s more focused on handling media, content, graphics, forms, buttons in ‘blocks’, sharing etc. and I’m reminded why WordPress is still the most powerful website management tool out there. I’m reminded why I chose it over many other tools, and why I plan to keep using it.

With WordPress, you can choose to set it up on your own server, or log-in to the hosted version (subscription-based). I chose the latter for my own reasons, partly because I’m done messing around with updates, fixes and certificates. You could also connect it to decentralised storage, like IPFS, but I’m personally not prepared yet for such a process.

I’ve yet to invest in the ‘Business’ plan which will allow me to install plug-ins. These include many crypto-orientated donation plug-ins and also the Coinbase Commerce Woo payment one for accepting tips or payments in most leading cryptos (you need to sign up to Coinbase Commerce). (Although on Premium Plan I can use the Simple Payments – for Paypal – since this isn’t a plug-in). On Business Plan, there are other things I will be able to do like verify my site for Brave Rewards (finally) and explore plug-ins that may connect to blockchain and give me options for decentralisation. One such example is the SteemPress plug-in (which publishes posts automatically to the Hive blockchain). I may cover these in future.

…And this is the main point. Although right now, my content is not permanently stored, or decentralised immediately, with WordPress I have the option down the line. I could already use my Arweave browser extension to save some pages to the ‘Permaweb‘ [see previous post].

WordPress is versatile software, and blockchain networks need to integrate with platforms like these.

[UPDATE: I’ve since been able to invest in a Business Plan and now have plug-in installation power, and better SEO Jetpack features.]

But it’s not a decentralised app….

Wouldn’t it be nice to use only Blockstack in your life? Decentralisation is still one of the driving factors behind cryptocurrency, and why it’s important when considering projects. Decentralised file storage, once it arrives properly (and it’s arriving soon) will connect to decentralised blockchains slow or fast, and boost the whole space. It will enable dapps to provide larger capacity outside any monopoly, and faster backup and retrieval.

But there is a difference in the detail of these networks. IPFS ‘pins’ data for however long (and you need to pay those hosting it like Pinata for the ongoing time) or for just a short while onto network nodes. Filecoin is similar, but allows anyone to potentially make income from their spare storage. Blockweave for the Permaweb is permanent, but this tech is still very new, (but permanent!)

Blockstack meanwhile uses Gaia Storage System and this enables you to set up your own hub, but otherwise limits you with storage capacity right now. Despite some really exciting photo dapps (like Recall) to replace Google Photos, most people have too many to migrate (although the process would be less painful than you’d think). And would we miss the extra AI features? Maybe, a little. Not much.

Deciding what’s temporary and what’s permanent can now be a choice.

Content creators, artists, writers, musicians, techies, are all looking to get away from companies and monopolies. We want to have the first, complete, private access to our content, and at the same time use platforms where our work can be shown, bought and sold.

We may need centralised structures for now like Soundcloud and WordPress server storage, Google’s data centers and photo marketplaces… but only for so long. Who likes paying subscriptions and getting nothing back? And you just don’t know what can happen to the host.

What’s out there already?

It’s possible to open any browser, on any laptop, and go directly to Blockstack‘s dapps. There you will find a decent amount of working products that keep your data private. They are not made by just one company. And they give you (enough, 10gb I think) free storage that only you can access. There are sticky notes to word processors to secure ‘dmail’, with no ads. Even better, you only need your one, private ID to access any of them.

Arweave (blockweave) has some growing dapps too, accessed via one keyfile, stored locally.

But… they’re not for loads of photos, not for social media, not where users are active. A user-base takes time and cool features to assemble.

There are some great blogging dapps etc, but they’re only for small bloggers, and other platforms. [I’d recommend Sigle on Blockstack and even made a page there.] But… it’s not easy to exist in a vacuum. Any dapp needs to understand they must be feature-rich almost from day one in order to capture new users, and be well-integrated into existing social media and software. Do we need a decentralised WordPress dapp? Not really, since WordPress is so powerful. However, we do need WordPress to adapt.

Computers are becoming browsers, just look at Google Chromebooks. However, decentralised-savvy people are aware of Google’s closed, subtle tactics to promote their services where our data is so vital to them (and people don’t mind, until a breach suddenly affects them.)

It will help to have more open, blockchain network-ready computers to arrive.

Tired of Monopolies and Ads

I would say people are getting bored of data breaches and companies. People want to get involved with new kinds of networks and decentralised organisations, which will run technology beyond temporary, or untrustworthy corporations.

The FAANG companies can’t disrupt their own business plan. But they can adapt, and begin to provide decentralised storage options. But people won’t want to pay them, when they can use crypto, and have the only keys to access it all. Facebook etc. have only the power of their ‘features’, groups and users – ‘active’ at any one, (fickle) time. They are fundamentally temporary castles in the sand.

Very soon, it will be time to migrate. Are there caveats? Nothing that won’t get ironed out over time. IPFS, Filecoin and fast, decentralised storage options are coming.

Indeed, it may be true that powerful companies once controlled and directed our technology tools for a while (software and hardware), before alternatives arrived… before the power of Bitcoin, crypto and trust-wired networks set us free.

But can we have more features though please, and sustained dapp development?

In the meantime, WordPress users, I recommend this new Block Editor for writing posts.

June 2020

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