As Web3 companies form and proceed toward the goal of creating an internet that is decentralized and more privacy-oriented than the sites we currently visit, they make use of other products that share those goals. While Web3 is still in its earliest days, there are a number of business-friendly services that provide these types of decentralized, private experiences. In this post about Web3-adjacent apps, we’ll take a look at some of the ones that are already popular and some that are still in the works.
Telegram is one of the most popular messaging services in the world. But it’s still less known than the giants in the industry, such as WhatsApp or Facebook Messenger. However, Telegram’s focus on privacy allows the app to gain popularity whenever a privacy scandal hits the competition.
What Telegram Is
Russian entrepreneurs Pavel Durov and Nikolai Durov created Telegram. Originally just a cloud-based instant messaging service, the product has grown to include many additional features. Among these are end-to-end encrypted video calling, voice calling, and file-sharing capabilities. The app’s main selling point is its serious focus on privacy, offering encryption of communications using a protocol developed by Nikolai that’s based on AES and RSA encryption.
How Telegram Works
Telegram offers a number of privacy features above and beyond the encryption that makes it attractive to users. To help protect the privacy of messages sent, the application has an optional “secret chats” feature. While using this feature, messages can’t be forwarded, nor can you screenshot them. Secret messages can even self-destruct. Furthermore, a message that’s been deleted is not only deleted locally but is also deleted for everyone on the service. The founders have stated that protecting their users’ personal data from third parties such as marketers and advertisers is a priority for them.
Telegram is available for Android on the Google Play market and for iOS on the Apple app store. For those who want to use the app on a desktop computer, it is available for Windows, macOS, and Linux from the company’s website. The full source code for the app is also available on Github. As Telegram is a cloud-based service that doesn’t store messages on your device, you can also view it from anywhere with an internet connection through the web interface.
Discord started largely as a chat app for gamers to allow them to communicate using voice and text chat through private servers. The software also has screen-sharing capabilities for sharing gameplay or other activities. It has now grown to be popular outside of the gaming community, with many people choosing to use it to host their own private chat rooms.
What Discord Is
Discord has been called Skype for gamers, though its features above and beyond what Skype offers are part of what allowed the service to grow beyond the gaming community. Users can run it from a browser without the need to download the software. Most users feel as though the latency on Discord is improved over other VoIP platforms. It also allows you to create several different channels, each with its own access level. This makes it easy to keep large groups of people organized.
How Discord Works
Any user who wants to can create their own Discord server. This is a special section of Discord that they have control over. They can create several channels within the server and invite people to participate in those channels. As a tool for gamers, the software will tell you which of your friends are online and which games they are playing. Because it’s meant for gamers, the desktop version of the app is also able to place an overlay over the screen so you can still interact with the application while using another piece of software in full-screen mode.
To get the most features out of the software, it’s best to use the desktop app. Discord is available on Mac and Windows. There are also mobile apps on Android and iOS. For those who just want to try the software out, it can be accessed purely through the website. Due to the private nature of the service, you can’t simply search for servers. Instead, you must have an invite link. If you create your own server, you can send your invite link to anyone you’d like to let join.
Decentralization is a big part of Web3, mostly because centralized services create problems for everyone. When a centralized host goes down, nobody can access the data it contains. To solve this, some hosting companies offer redundancies. But this solution still depends on the continued existence of those companies. Decentralization removes the dependency on both the servers and the entities that run them. IPFS is one way to host files in a decentralized way.
What IPFS Is
IPFS stands for Interplanetary File System. IPFS is a decentralized file-sharing network built on open source technology. It operates in a peer-to-peer fashion that overcomes the problem of centralized servers by vastly increasing the points of failure. Whereas a traditional file server points you towards a location, IPFS links point to the content itself. Multiple computers around the world store this content. Only one computer with the data needs to be operational for it to be accessible.
How IPFS Works
We’ve already mentioned how IPFS points to content rather than locations. When a file is uploaded to IPFS, it’s split into multiple smaller chunks and distributed across many nodes on the network. To be able to identify the parts of the file, it is assigned a unique hash. When someone looks up this hash, the system finds the nodes that contain the pieces and pulls them in through the peer-to-peer connection. This is similar to the way BitTorrent works.
There are two ways to interact with any filesystem: reading files and writing them. Some browsers directly support reading files from IPFS. For other browsers, there are extensions available for download that allow browsers to read IPFS links. Whichever way users choose, browsing to an IPFS is simple. Instead of the ‘http’ at the start of the address, you use ‘ipfs,’ and the browser will know what to do. To save files to IPFS, you can download the IPFS Desktop application from their website.
There is no shortage of email providers out there. Nearly everyone has a Gmail account, for example. But these large companies fail the Web3 philosophy in every way possible. They are far from decentralized, being controlled by some of the largest corporations in the world. Privacy isn’t a major concern either, especially for the free services that rely on selling harvested data for revenue. Some smaller services, such as ProtonMail, exist that do place a heavy emphasis on privacy but remain on the servers of a single company.
What Dmail Is
Dmail isn’t just about bringing email to Web3 just for the sake of it. There are a number of reasons to believe in the importance of Web3-based email. Many small email providers have come and gone over the years, leaving their users to find another solution. Gmail shares metadata that some entities can fingerprint back to your Gmail address. Dmail is an effort to close these problems with web 2.0 providers.
How Dmail Works
Dmail is built on the Internet Computer blockchain in order to take advantage of its low gas fees, strong scalability, and interoperability with other decentralized apps. Dmail hopes to be governed as a Decentralized Autonomous Organization (DAO). Such organizations are fully decentralized and automated to be free from the whims of any one entity. In order to interface their Web3 offering with traditional email, the Dmail team is building a new standard based on MIME.
Dmail hasn’t launched as of this writing, but you can visit their website to:
- Read more about the service
- Explore their roadmap for launch
- Subscribe to their newsletter
- Even try out a demo of the product
You can also find a link to their litepaper, which describes the product in more detail. When the product fully launches, it will function very similarly to existing web-based email products.
There are many reasons to host a streaming video. The problems with traditional methods, such as YouTube, are already apparent. Creators of all kinds complain of demonetization for rules that are hard to interpret, videos taken down to false copyright strikes, and many other issues. Decentralized video streaming takes those worries away.
What Livepeer Is
Livepeer is a behind-the-scenes video streaming platform built on the Ethereum network. It’s not a video hosting platform itself. Instead, it provides a decentralized service that helps cut the costs of transcoding and streaming video. To accomplish this, it splits the task of transcoding the video and sends it out to people who have lent the user of their computer out to the service.
How Livepeer Works
Users don’t lend the use of their computers for nothing. Instead, the whole system runs on its LPT crypto token. When developers wish to make use of the service to handle their transcoding, they pay for processing using LPT. In turn, those who allow others to use their computer as a processing node for the Livepeer network receive LPT payments for the use of their resources.
Although primarily meant for companies and individuals who want to develop web applications, Livepeer can stream directly from its dashboard without the need to write any code. There is no built-in player. That’s left mostly for the developers of applications to solve. However, the video streams in M3U8 format, and users can view it on any player that supports it.