"Onchain" is a word that’s used widely at Zora. We’ve been using this word for so long and so often that we sometimes forget it’s a new word. It captures the essence of crypto as a powerful expansion of the internet, and makes it easy for anyone to distinguish if something or someone is using a blockchain or not. It has a tangibility that isn’t always there for “crypto” or “web3”. “Putting a video onchain” sounds a lot better than anything you could say with the other terms.
There isn't really a great definition out there for onchain. So I'm going to define it here:
(of an object, activity or service) available on or performed using Ethereum or other blockchain.
1. by means of Ethereum or other blockchain.
creators would rather put their content onchain than online.
2. in or into the imagination.
that artist went completely onchain over the past couple of months.
Why put something onchain
Going onchain unlocks a range of powerful benefits that are not widely available on offchain internet platforms:
- Provenance: Anyone can cryptographically verify the creator, the timestamp, and the entire ownership history of the NFTs.
- Ownership: Because NFTs can be transferred, bought, and sold, a market may form as your content or service is experienced over time. Meaning creators and community can own the thing.
- Public: Your content will be publicly accessible to the entire internet, not just within the walls of the platform you created it on—maximizing its potential reach over time.
- Self-platformed: You are your own platform and own the direct relationship with your community.
- Permissionless: No one can stop you or restrict you from minting your content.
- Permanent and Unstoppable Your work or service runs for as long as the underlying blockchain exists.
- Composable: Can be integrated into other contexts and systems.
Onchain vs. Offchain
Using onchain and offchain as a comparator offers a level of nuance and granularity than "web2 or web3" or "centralized vs. decentralized". The core nuance that it hits home is that the core aspect of a service or object is actually operating on a blockchain or not. It's possible to run entirely centralized protocols onchain. It's possible to have web3 products that operate offchain. Or even have decentralized protocols that run offchain too.
Over the coming decade we will see the majority of societal value find its way onchain, with a full spectrum of products and services ranging from centralized to decentralized.
A new place
The term "online" has evolved beyond its initial technological definition to metaphorically represent a distinct place in our contemporary society. Much like a physical location, being "online" is now a space where people gather, communicate, learn, work, and entertain themselves. Similarly, "onchain" is evolving in public consciousness to signify a distinct, transformative sphere within the world.
On disk, Online, On chain— Balaji (@balajis) September 4, 2020
On chain is like the third level of deployment.
Files that only you care about stay on local disk.
Files that are important to others get put online.
And files that are *really* important to others get put on chain.
More than a technological concept, "onchain" has come to represent a space where trust, value, decentralization, and transparency are intrinsic values. As this understanding continues to grow, "onchain" is becoming recognized not just as a feature of technology, but as a transformative place within the internet itself.
It's "onchain" not "on-chain"
The term "on-chain" may be grammatically accurate, but it fails to fully recognize the advent of this new era. The hyphen suggests a transitional phase, not a settled reality. As new technology shapes our language, I propose using "onchain" to firmly acknowledge its transformative potential for the internet's future.
Understanding the difference between "onchain" and "online" helps us navigate this next internet phase. Adopting "onchain" signifies our readiness for an era that holds the promise of redefining the internet for the better.
Also it’s easier to type and just reads better :~)
See you onchain.
❍ 2023 jacob