As my partner Brad noted in 2019, the first generation of the internet (aka “Web 1”) was built as a “stateless” system.  In other words, data packets could be moved around the network, but the network itself couldn’t store them or create persistent data out of them.  So, a generation of companies (aka “Web 2”) emerged to solve this problem, essentially making it so data could be saved and used among applications. 

Fast forward 20 years, and the data in the Web 2 layer has provided tremendous value, to shareholders, consumers, developers, and small businesses.  But it is fundamentally limited in its utility, due to its basic architecture: stored within databases inside companies.   While there is some connectivity among Web 2 databases, primarily via APIs and data exchange protocols like oAuth, the fundamental architecture at this layer is one of proprietary data, held separately.  This places structural limits on innovation, knowledge, and consumer choice, but until recently, it was the only practical approach.

Today, “Web 3” has introduced a new approach to solving the data problem: moving from the proprietary, compartmentalized, siloed model to the blockchain model of universal, public, verified, synchronized data systems. Whereas the default nature of Web 2 was segregated data by default, the default nature of Web 3 is connected, composable data by default.  The first use cases for this system were currencies and financial assets, because having a global, public, immutable transaction ledger is a highly useful data structure, and the resulting assets can hold value.  But this is just one of the infinite data structures that will be built on the Web 3 architecture.

Which brings us to Ceramic.  Today, we are excited to announce our Series A investment in 3Box Labs, the developers of the Ceramic network.

Ceramic is a decentralized network for composable Web 3 data.  Ceramic’s data network enables the publication, verification, and reuse of data throughout the Web 3 ecosystem, such that many applications can build on common data sets, using standard data models.

What does that look like in practice?

  • Member profiles & reputation systems can be shared across DAOs, protocols and applications, evolving and referencing attributes across projects (e.g.: DAOhaus, BuilderDAO, Rabbithole)
  • Social graph, social networking and publishing primitives can be developed and shared across systems (e.g., CyberConnect, The Convo Space)
  • NFT metadata can be verifiably extended and enriched (e.g.: FungyProof, GeoWeb)

These are just a few examples, and in each case, Ceramic offers both turn-key reuse of public data, and a system for driving towards common standards for popular data types, making re-use and remixing across applications possible.

While it is still very early in Web 3, we have learned a few things.  First, verified, public data assets have real value: from simple payment transactions, to complex DeFi protocols, to NFTs representing media ownership.  Second, composability drives innovation: when anyone in the world can integrate, wrap, fork, and remix, new ideas get built blindingly fast.  And third, standardization drives composability: emergent standards like ERC-20 and ERC-721 make it possible for complex open systems to interoperate in (mostly) predictable ways. Ceramic builds on all of these tailwinds.

For developers in Web 3, this approach means the ability to build data-rich apps much more quickly, benefitting from an existing network of data and data standards that’s already linked to users, accounts, and assets. Rather than build these into application-specific databases, Ceramic offers developers a different path: building on, and contributing to, a single global data network.  The Ceramic network has been in beta for the last several months, serving hundreds of apps and millions of requests, and will be launching on mainnet shortly.  Developers looking to build on Ceramic can get started with tutorials, ecosystem examples and dev docs.

The team behind Ceramic, including founders Michael, Danny, Joel, have been deep in the internals of Web 3 data for years, and they are hiring.   Consistent with our investment thesis prongs of “enablers of open, decentralized data” and “access to knowledge”, we are excited to support 3Box’s growth and the push towards Ceramic mainnet launch, alongside our friends at Multicoin Capital and a long list of other investors and supporters.