Ceramic is a decentralized protocol that claims it is tamper-resistant and even censorship-resistant that houses mutable information, meaning you can store information on the decentralized web without fear of tampering.
With this, Ceramic provides an API for users to use, store, edit, and retrieve this data.
With Ceramic, content (data) is kept in a smart document, and the smart document provides versioning control, statement management, and Blockchain anchoring on the document.
With the content in the smart document, we can then perform a combination of digital signatures and blockchain anchoring before deploying to the blockchain.
In this article, we will try to demystify the Ceramic protocol as we look at the core components, consensus mechanism, and what it really offers. With all this, we’ll review how decentralized data is managed, including the following:
On the Ceramic blockchain, you can store any type of document, like identities, credentials, policies, agreements, or even metadata that can be updated.
Before these documents upload to the blockchain, they are signed by a decentralized identifier (DID) and then anchored on the blockchain.
What Ceramic does is remove the files in our database servers because they are static and immutable and keep the data in smart documents for content management.
What smart documents do is turn our documents into dynamic objects that make updates and keep track of the updates with verifiable versions. Its logic also provides a set of rules to update the data in the document.
Ceramic provides a scalable consensus where every stream/piece of information is consistent and not tampered with. It also provides mutable streams where this information can be updated or modified and keeps a track record of every update.
And because it disallows renaming streams with a persistent ID (called the StreamID) rather than always changing the IPFS hashes, with the immutable renaming, documents can be easily referenced.
The key here is decentralized data streams, where information can be stored and accessed by the world/internet. Ceramic represents each piece of information on its blockchain as a stream.
Transactions with information are secure because of the DID Ceramic provides. With this, identities must be verified before a user makes the needed transactions to the documents.
Also, the kind of entity a DID represents does not matter, meaning users, organizations, and even applications can sign these documents.
Ceramic makes dealing with composable data easy; decentralized applications can be built with the Ceramic API plugged into them, letting us store, update, and retrieve data from these models.
To manage data on a network, we must first understand the three components Ceramic focuses on:
A scalable, decentralized data infrastructure is the first component Ceramic wants us to be aware of. It proves that Ceramic is built with scalability in mind because of the high throughput of data that can be stored in it.
Its infrastructure is not like the blockchain Layer 1 protocol that keeps a record of tokens for financial applications, but a protocol that focuses on efficiency and scalability.
Every state, or better still, every stream is owned by just one account and only that account is able to mutate the information. But other accounts can connect and retrieve the streams.
(And just in case you got lost, streams are a collection of data objects; these objects are the smart documents.)
Another important aspect is that in Ceramic there is no global state; instead, it uses a doc state, unlike other blockchains.
So, if you are the only one running the doc node and you delete the content, it is permanently gone because the document state maintains it as long as the network does.
Technically, this also provides scale. Because we handle a lot of documents, so irrelevant or unnecessary documents shouldn’t remain in the network.
Data models in Ceramic are important because applications work in conjunction with other users’ data in the network.
This means the structure of how we retrieve and store state in the network gives data composability and any developer can connect to the network and easily work with data.
The data models are also created and handled by the Ceramic community, which is open source, making it even more flexible and open for expansion.
Open APIs for data storage and retrieval are another vital component where every developer can connect to the network without any permission.
Applications can be built to work with shared data on the network, and these APIs are standardized to provide an easier developer experience.
If you notice, these three core components focus on making developers’ work easier with Ceramic, from having data models to get a sense of how the data is stored, standardized and open APIs to work with the models and scalability proof in mind.
It is important to note that Ceramic handles consensus on an individual data stream rather than an entire network, and each data stream can decide to have its own consensus mechanism which makes it flexible.
This is another reason why Ceramic is more scalable because it focuses on just the stream rather than the entire network. As you know, this is different for Layer 1 protocols, which is the consensus on the entire ledger.
So, how do these documents work? The first record of the document is the genesis record, which we can anchor on the blockchain.
For the next record, the document is retrieved and updated, signed by the decentralized identifier and anchored on the blockchain. The same goes for the next series of records.
According to Ceramic, the existing streams use diffs—a program that compares files to see if they are different— to handle state transition.
So, let’s review and note what Ceramic offers and why we should pay attention. First, it gives developers a better way to manage their applications’ data needs with dynamic content, which is placed on a peer-to-peer network.
Here, our data is predefined using a model to represent how our data will look.
Ceramic also offers a feature called smart documents, which are more like a sophisticated content manager that can accept logic on how the content can be updated, and provides versioning for record-keeping and transparency.
We can call it the Ceramic document.
And, with the interoperable data ecosystem, we can access our data from any application using Ceramic.
With the DID, we just can simply authenticate that a user is the owner of certain information.
Ceramic has been able to make this simple and easy for developers to work with open APIs.
Sovereign data has now become very powerful and taken the stand with decentralization, which is how Ceramic manages this data so well.
Instead of storing this data on centralized servers, it’s better to have identity-based storage where owners can update docs and the updates are signed to anchor them on the blockchain.
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