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Forget HTTP: Ethereum Has a New URL Standard That Can’t Be Blocked

BusinessCryptoForget HTTP: Ethereum Has a New URL Standard That Can't Be Blocked
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Web3 URLs – enabled with the launch of ERC-4804 – have made it onto Ethereum, allowing internet users to access Ethereum apps and NFTs without worrying about centralized censorship,

new ethereum standard, Topic “Web3 URLs for EVM Call Message Translation,” was first proposed on February 14, 2022, and was co-authored by ETHStorage founder Qi Zhou, Ethereum researcher Sam Wilson, and Chao Pi.

It described the proposal as an “HTTP-style” URL that could directly access decentralized apps (DApps) front-ends and on-chain Web3 content such as NFTs. After more than a year, ERC-4804 was approved and finalized on the mainnet on March 1st.

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Anthurin Jiang, a spokesperson for layer-2 storage protocol ETHStorage, pointed out that in many cases, the ecosystem still relies on centralized web servers to provide access to “decentralized” apps.

“Right now, all DApps love Uniswap […] claim to be decentralized apps,” Jiang explained, “but how [do] We come to the webpage? You have to go through DNS. You have to go through GoDaddy. […] They are all centralized servers.

Graphic explaining how the new model compares to Web2. Source: w3eth.io

Today, most users access the Internet via the “Hypertext Transfer Protocol”, more widely known as HTTP.

When an Internet user clicks on a link or types in a website address, the computer uses HTTP to ask another computer to retrieve information, such as a website or picture.

Under ERC-4804, Internet users have the option of typing web3:// (as opposed to http://) directly into their browser to bring up DApps like Uniswap or on-chain NFTs. This is because the standard allows users to run queries directly to the Ethereum Virtual Machine (EVM).

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Flowchart explaining how the Web3 URL standard works with Uniswap. Source: w3eth.io

as long as their content is on the Ethereum blockchain or a compatible layer-2 protocol, However, according to ETHStorage founder Qi Zhou, the cost of doing so is still too prohibitive.

“The key issue here is that the storage cost on Ethereum is super, very expensive on the mainnet,” Zhou said in a recent presentation at ETH Denver.

“For example, 1 gigabyte of on-chain data would cost around $10 million. […] This is unacceptable for a lot of Web 2 applications, and even for a lot of NFTs,” Zhou said, noting that layer-2 storage solutions can help reduce some of the costs.

Jiang suggested that the new URL standard is only suitable for niche applications, given the cost.

“Not everything needs to be decentralized. If you’re running a great Web2 business and you don’t need to worry too much about centralized censorship. […] You can just go for that.

On the other hand, the new standard will be useful for dApps or websites that are at risk of censorship tornado cache For example.

“For example, for Tornado Cash, many people cannot access them through their website because there is censorship,” Jiang explained.

“If you are a DApp and you are already decentralized, why are you still using a centralized website so that people can access you?”

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Example of websites that can be accessed via web3:// URL Source: w3eth.io

When asked whether the new standard could be taken advantage of by bad actors to engage in illegal activity, Jiang said:

“It’s really hard to say how bitcoin was founded. I think bitcoin was not born to be evil, but still, in the beginning, people [were] They were using bitcoin, doing shady things like Silk Road.”

Instead, Jiang believes that, like bitcoin, they are just giving people a decentralized option that they might not have had otherwise.

Jiang said the new Ethereum standard is the first of its kind for the blockchain, although it is not the first solution for decentralized web hosting.

Connected: How to host a decentralized website

IPFS, or the Interplanetary File System, is an example of a network that was created to provide centralized cloud servers in the present, only through decentralized means. However, Jiang noted that an IPFS URL can only link to static content, which cannot be modified or changed.

However, ERC-4804 will allow for “dynamic data,” such as allowing people to leave likes and comments and interact with content on websites, Jiang explained. Jiang said that being Ethereum native, the standard is also expected to be able to interact with other blockchains.