As the name suggest, RSS3 is proposed to be a successor of the original RSS standard, which was the first prominent information distribution protocol. Data, similar to land, labor, capital and all other means of production, has changed dramatically in terms of ownership since the 90s. Here, we provide a historical and structural perspective in regarding why a new type of information distribution protocol would benefit all stakeholders in Web3 and how this new protocol should be built to carry out these benefits.
Let’s start by examining the history of RSS and the corresponding landscape. RSS was initially released in 1999, that was a time when application providers and cloud services were scarce, and everyone had to be their own data center. If you want to set up a website, you will have to set up your own server, and have it host your files. This was decentralized by design, if everyone who has the intention to set up an online existence would be one who has the technical knowledge with sufficient time and money. With that in mind, this was a period of time when only a few group people were able to participate in the digital world. However, its decentralization nature was healthy enough for a distribution standard to born and thrive - the original RSS. If you look at the original protocol, it was designed with the assumption that all websites would want to comply with the same standard at their own cost. This was only possible in a very decentralized network - the nodes are so scattered that when a very small number of nodes comply, the standard would naturally become the most adopted standard, which later on drags on other nodes to comply.
Things started to shift with the development of what we categorize as Web2. One of the most significant characteristics for Web2 is about having application providers offering services of extremely low entry-barrier. Basically, there is no cost or effort is needed for joining such services, and that helped almost everyone to become a part of the Internet. While users gained convenience, they lost independence. While users’ data was stored on their own server with high cost and maintenance efforts in Web1, now users store all their data on the servers of application providers. This makes all service providers extremely powerful - they later on became the kings of the data kingdoms, and abused their power with autocracy. An open standard like RSS, which was already prominent by the beginning of Web2, started to lose dominance when these gigantic applications became their own standards which are not open, and had very few incentive to comply. With these closed dataset getting more and more powerful, the competitive advantage of a open standard dropped dramatically - it simply could not provide enough data. Also, as an open standard with very limited financial incentive, RSS was left behind in terms of updates, so that social interactions, monetization and other significant features remained missing. These all led to the fall of RSS, which now mainly serves traditional blogs and podcasts.
And here at the beginning of Web3, we are seeing some interesting trends. For one thing, user’s digital existence has grown dramatically in terms of form, quantity and networks, which makes an existence much harder to aggregate than just one website. Also, most services would still be delivered to users through application providers, who will still be making a lot of decisions for their users just as a Web2 app does. However, since Web3 applications are mostly built upon decentralized and permissionless protocols, there is a possibility where a protocol would actively aggregate all information across different applications and networks, and construct unified feeds for applications to use. This, of course, would be extremely challenging as well, since it has to be built as a decentralized network itself, and that an efficiency that is much higher than a blockchain is needed. If this is possible, then we are likely to see a situation like this, where all applications keep their own way of storing data, but at the same time interpreted with the same standard.
Application providers will not have to actively comply to specific rules or protocols in order to become truly permissionless and interoperable - the distribution protocol does it for them.
With the above information, we can actually come up with a simple chart showing different data ownership landscapes and its corresponding possibilities for distribution protocols:
With a well designed decentralized network, information distribution in the era of Web3 will be constructed with tremendous influence. It will create genuine data portability among all information - no matter where and how it is created. And with free information distribution, magic will happen toward platformless medias, decentralized social networks, crypto e-commerce platforms, and much more to come.
After a year of heavy research, we released the whitepaper of RSS3 which specifies how such a network will be constructed. All things we showed before, given it’s the pre-node, the Web3 Pass or Revery, are all merely demos for what the RSS3 network will be like and what it could power - That was only the end of the beginning, and this long and adventurous journey just got started.