Decentralized app developers rely heavily on centralized services like Notion and Medium to publish content, whether it’s documentation, marketing materials, or thoughts on the Web3 ecosystem. This has some advantages, in that the majority of readers are aware of these centralized content hubs, while the barrier to entry to creating an account and posting content is incredibly low. However, some native Web3 publishing tools are beginning to emerge, leveraging wallet-based identity management, NFTs for access control, and IPFS for file storage.
One such promising tool not only for Web3 developers, but for anyone who wants to take advantage of Web3 for publishing, is Cortex app. Early demos of the dApp show users creating private notes in a notebook-like structure, using Markdown for text formatting. File storage for notes uses IPFS, with plans for other storage options in the future. Roles allow the note creator to determine whether published content is viewable to the world or requires a token to access. It reminds me of the very early days of blogging, using style sheets and homemade HTML pages, before Movable Type and WordPress simplified blogging.
The Cortex network decentralizes content publishing
The team behind Cortex App just announced The cortical network, which aims to bring a decentralized approach to social media posting and blogging, with support for content types such as HTML pages, images, music, and videos; as well as for documentation and project management. The Cortex network has two main roles: users and editors. Users have an identity which is a .hmn domain, which is an NFT generated on the Polygon blockchain and stored in a wallet. Publishers play various roles in updating content and making it available, either by the individual or as part of a publication.
In an interview with The New Stack, co-founder of Cortex App, Leonard Kish Explain. “Using the editor model, you don’t need to be a crypto expert to use Cortex,” he said. “The publisher can accept traditional payment and manage the crypto side for people. We’ve also made claiming NFT domains like .hmn incredibly simple – just send a tweet. Future updates will even let people unencrypted to claim an NFT domain to begin with.
I tried to claim my own NFT .hmn domain. Although it was easy, requiring only sending a tweet, it was far from obvious that the process had worked, as there was no response to the tweet or acknowledgment. They have since updated the hmn.domains site to make it more intuitive. You can claim yours .hmn domain by sending a tweet.
Scaling Web3 content publishing
Scalability is one of the challenges of building a native Web3 publishing tool. If every update is written to a blockchain, that potentially represents a significant amount of commits. Imagine needing consensus for every tweet on Twitter, for example. Kish explains Cortex’s approach to scalability this way: “Cortex uses content-side sharing and lookup key generation, combined with decentralized storage via IPFS. This allows every content creator, consumer, and publisher to manage only the information they need. Additionally, HDIndex and HDData allow for parallelizing and combining batch creation, so even the post can be scaled horizontally. A single chained update by a publisher can include a very large number of individual commits (local updates.)”
This goes to the heart of how Cortex App publishes content. HDIndex is a cryptographic data structure based on the Merkel tree which sets the local state and enables fast data lookups. It also allows content versioning similar to how Git manages version history. HDData is a key-value store used to locate content in IPFS. The keys come from HDName, which is a human-readable namespace that allows Web3 URLs to point to content in the decentralized publishing backend.
Cortex Network Editors
Publisher roles behave similarly to a miner in a Proof of Stake blockchain, validating transactions based on token staking. Publishers also appear to perform a function similar to that of a website or app publisher, where they determine both how often content is published and which users can post to the publication. “Editors have full control over what they decide to post to their feed,” Kish said. “They organize and aggregate content from their feed. The creator sends the content to one or more publishers and the publisher decides whether or not to publish it to their feed. This may be based on a relationship with the publisher, or for public content, which[ever] the subject is.
The Cortex team is currently looking for projects interested in becoming editors. Similar to projects that have validators, as a publisher you stake tokens – in this case, CRTX – and this allows you to be a publisher in the Cortex ecosystem, with a .crtx domain for publishing. Individuals can create their own editor, but I suspect there will be a number of editor projects emerging.
What interests me most about the direction Cortex is taking with its user and publisher model is that it’s very similar to how RSS works. As a user, I can choose to post content associated with my identity. Publishers can then combine content from multiple users into posts that aggregate that content. By supporting tokenization in the context of the user’s content, the user’s role ultimately retains control over who gets access, which solves some of the wholesale piracy issues that sometimes accompany RSS . The decentralized publishing model prevents individual users from being blocked, either by a platform or by governments that disagree with what a user has posted.
Most of these features are coming this summer, so I’d be interested to see what people are sharing through Cortex App and how publishers are picking it up.
Featured Image via Deposit Photos ID: 8947358 by ArenaCreative.