In my previous post, “Does Web 3.0 Need Servers?”, I talked at length about the philosophical implications of a truly decentralised internet upon us mere mortals. Following on from this, I’ve had bunches of questions from folks out there about how this would work and the mechanics of such a system. Now, I like to think of myself as a ‘work smart not hard’ kind of guy, so rather than respond individually, or construct my own cockamamie answer, I thought I’d set up an interview with Pavel Prigolovko, co-founder of TON Labs and one of many great minds behind the Free TON DeBot Browser contest.
Before we get to Pavel’s rather more refined explanations though, here is my laymen’s overview of the state of the ‘old internet’ (as it shall soon be known!):
I’m sure there are much better descriptions out there, but for the purposes of this conversation, it does the job.
- Hi, Pavel, great to chat one on one! So, let’s start with the very basics here then. For those who aren’t sure, how would you describe a DeBot is?
Yes, great to find time for this at last! Okay, so a DeBot is a front end application downloaded into a Free TON Browser from the blockchain. You can call it a true DApp, i.e. an application, which will look the same in any Free TON Browser (like any webpage or website inside a regular browser), which doesn’t require any centralized hosting or DNS.
The simplest interface of such a true DApp could look like a Telegram bot, that’s why we named them DeBots. But from the technology point of view it could look the same as a normal webpage/website, that’s why I try to use the terms DePage or DeSite as well.
- So, a Decentralised Bot then, makes sense. How do DeBots improve upon the functionality of smart contract based systems on Ethereum, for example?
Well, of course, there are no ‘downloadable’ interfaces for Ethereum. In the blockchain ecosystem, in general, DeBots enable user interaction with blockchain to be truly end-to-end decentralized. Comparing this to Web 3.0 approach, where you’re required to nail an interface to a dedicated webpage — which is dependent on the centralized DNS and hosted at some centralized web server — it’s obvious which one has more potential applications in the decentralization space.
Decentralised Browser Contest
- So, from a more philosophical perspective, rather than technical, how important do you think the DeBot Browser contest is to decentralising the internet?
What could be more crucial to the cause? More than just this, we need alternative implementations of Free TON Browsers in addition to the Ton Surf App (developed by TON Labs). This makes any DApp in Free TON fully independent, un-reliant on a single point of a centralization. This guarantees availability, regardless of the circumstances. It doesn’t even matter if support (by the team who may have initially developed such a DApp) ceases altogether.
In this respect, a DApp in Free TON becomes more real and self-sufficient than a physical object, which could be burnt or blown up!
- Are there any pitfalls with this lack of censorship?
Freedom of speech is a universal value and saying freedom of speech can go too far so it shouldn’t be allowed, this is no solution. A consensus based on more information and discussions is more stable than an illusion of a consensus based on censorship.
Some say that a lack of moderation (a better name for a censorship) could lead to a proliferation of internet crime. And again there are much better approaches rather than establish a discretionary subjective censorship (moderation). Freedom of speech comes together with the “Freedom of Attention”. It means that users could rely on social indexing, i.e. peers content rating rather than on centralized algorithms feeding them with preselected information.
“Under the Hood”
- So, in terms of the technical application of such a system then, could you describe the comparative work flow of accessing a site through Free TON instead of a traditional server?
You should start a Free TON browser first, then enter a human readable address and viola, you get your app/page in front of you. The same experience as for Web 2.0.
- In the infographic I’ve seen (below), HTML, and CSS on the client side are replaced by an interface. Does this still use HTML and CSS (if not, then what is used instead)?
No. To use this web legacy stack we would have to integrate the dreaded java virtual machine into a Free TON browser, which is not native for a backend (blockchain). So this leads to significant unnecessary increase of code complexity, and then to security issues when taking into account the fact each browser works with user keys.
So, Instead, we have a “blockchain native” TON Virtual Machine, which is far more strict and secure for front end applications.
Interfaces are abstract ‘interface elements’ which could be called from DeBot/DePage code by simple declarations like ‘draw y/n buttons’, for example. This part of approach is similar to HTML.
- Are there any compromises the end-user would see? I.e. would connection/loading speeds suffer?
Free TON browsers are in their early days. In React Native browser (Ton Surf) we have 14 interfaces, while HTML has 160. In that respect such a front end will look less diverse, but its development is driven by the community and should ramp up quickly. But the pay off is that this is the only option you can use to get end-to-end decentralization for users.
Those cases are a little while away, but theoretically why not?
- Awesome. And, you’ve mentioned it would be ideal for DeFi pages then? Say, for example, Beefy on (Binance Smart Chain) or Compound on Eth?
Exactly. DeFi is the best showcase for such a technology, since it has very simple interfaces and the most value in DeFi comes not from the Fi but from the De.
DeBots/DePage technology adds front end composability to DeFi’s backend composability (smart contracts).
- Are there any other key areas you think this system would greatly affect and improve?
We can do true DeXXX for any use case with a simple interface which values decentralization first: DeElections, DeTickets, DeCharity, DeWiki, DeGovernance.
- What is a TRUE DEXXX, compared to a standard DEX then?
Maybe easier for your readers to include a link to the FLEX demo than have me describe it in words?
- Done. To veer off a little and wrap up, what else are you excited about in FreeTON and the crypto space in general?
We are at the beginning of a 10-20 year new tech cycle which will change how people interact with the world in their everyday lives. Decentralization will seize social networks and governance applications at first, and then the rest will follow.
Free TON is one of a few projects which puts sustainable decentralization at the top of the priority list on all levels, especially compared to the vast majority of speculative projects with zero long term value. No token sales, no central controlling elements, and meritocracy above all else. Because of this, I can’t say there is anything more exciting to me in this space than Free TON.
If you want to learn more about the DeBot Browser contest, maybe even take your shot at walking away with the 75,000 Ton Crystal (~$40,000 at time of writing), then check out all the details here, or visit freeton.org and work your way forward from there.