Technology is an ever-changing world of new and exciting advancements. Even things that have long been a staple in society, like the world wide web, can adapt and update. Since its inception, the web has changed in many ways.
The best part of technology is there is always room for that growth. It is the undiscovered lands of today, offering opportunities for “explorers” to roam free and create.
To better understand the Internet’s evolution, it is ideal to understand its stages of development, often broken down into phases called Web 1, Web 2, and Web 3.
The Evolution of the Web
To understand the differences in Web2 vs Web3, it is first necessary to understand how the phases came to be and what they represent. Each unique version of the net has added new features, and created new opportunities, but also added its own set of challenges to the mix.
Let’s break down each of the iterations to have a better grasp on each stage.
Web 1.0: The Beginning
In its infancy, the web was a new and exciting opportunity in technologies. Just think of its first days, when the computer sciences was a field few had heard of, let alone harnessed its power.
From its humble beginnings of data storage and file sharing, the Internet sprung out of seemingly nowhere to become a necessity in daily life. But, it begs the question, how did we get here?
The Birth of the Net
While jokes circulated heavily in its day about Al Gore and his contributions to its success, it was a United Kingdom-based developer that invented the Internet.
Tim Berners-Lee, a British scientist, invented the programming and what would become to exist as the world wide web in 1989 while working at a company called CERN. Berners-Lee’s web was originally conceived and developed to “meet the demand for automated information-sharing between scientists in universities and institutes around the world,” according to his company’s website. (See, we even need the web now to define words for us!)
A Read-Only Web
The earliest versions of the web were a read-only format. “Web 1,” as it has been labeled in retrospect, was considered an alternative way to access information. There was no user interaction in this model. You simply logged on (probably through a noisy and slow dial-up connection), and consumed what was available.
Internet users were simply allowed to use the space to gain access to information. It was as if you had a major connection to newspapers, stacks of data, and updates from across a globe all in one place, and this was, as they say, a “giant leap for mankind” itself.
This period of the inter-webs was largely called the 1990s. The net was disorganized and confusing. There was little to no personalization, and, while it was seated in a goal to democratize access to information, it had major limits in regards to who could use the tech.
Due to high costs and limited access (i.e. you likely had to trek to a library to use the earliest forms), the goal of granting greater distribution of information took a back seat as developers figured out new ways to make the tech more readily available.
Web 2.0: Read and Write
Thankfully, as improvements evolved the shape of the web, the next iteration, now being dubbed “Web 2.0,” was born. In this new model, which gained traction in the mid-2000s, there were some major changes for the better.
Interaction of Internet Users
The biggest change from the first to second versions of the web was the added benefit of users beginning to interact with the space. From basic communication services, like AOL’s Instant Messenger, to the vast sea of social media platforms you are familiar with today, such as Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter, there have been some wild add-ons during Web 2.0, transforming into the beast known as the world wide web to get us to where we are today.
From additions such as blogs and chat rooms, and message boards, to social media, there were countless new examples of human interaction now made possible via the web. In today’s world, one could live completely isolated from humans, relying solely on the technologies of the Internet.
Spanning over two decades, it was not until the early 2020s that talk of another, new Internet would even be discussed, and in that time, plenty happened online.
Web Browser Technologies
As time went on, the Web 2.0 iteration saw the growth of APIs, application programming interfaces, or software that permits two applications to interact with one another. This emergence, along with other tech developments, leads to the option of using the “Web as Platform.” Previously, software apps had been developed on desktops, but as 2.0 grew and allowed more and more user interaction, so too did this concept, where software apps were created on the web itself.
A Big Business
During the formation of 2.0, platforms like Google, Amazon, Facebook, and Twitter emerged to become frontrunners in the space. These companies owned major portions of the net by putting products, services, and software out there for general consumption.
Early on, such companies were thought to bring order to the Internet by making it easy to connect and transact online. Think back even in your lifetime. Many of us are of an age to recall a time that there was no Internet. Minimally, you can think back to a time when it was only used for research or by major tech companies.
Today, it is a part of your daily life, whether you wish for it to be or not. Nearly every service on the planet relies on its computers and networks. From ordering a pizza to booking an entire vacation, the general population slowly became reliant on the technology brought about by the net.
Too Much Power?
As Spiderman was once told, “with great power, comes great responsibility.” And, major corporations throughout Web 2.0 have certainly become powerful. Many critics say, over time, those companies have amassed too much power.
From gathering your personal information to storing credit cards and identities, the web has become a scary space for some. The idea that such corporations can know intimate details about you (that, let’s face it, you likely put out there yourself via social media and online profiles) brings about a fearful concept.
Is this technology becoming too big for its britches? Is too much authority owned by large companies? Some think so and hence was born the Web 3.0 concept.
Web 3.0: Addressing Challenges
After watching the evolution of the many generations of the web continue to change, it was becoming more and more evident that users were not likely to sit quietly, allowing big business to take over every part of life.
Regret in Retrospect
There is no arguable reason to think that the net should not exist at all, as it has clear benefits for many across the globe. However, even its original creator has looked back with some regrets since its evolution of changes.
As far back as 2005, Berners-Lee was already starting to think of its next generation. In an interview at the time, the creator said “I feel like the web should be something which doesn’t try to coerce people in doing, putting, particular sorts of things on it … that it’s open, as a sheet of white paper.”
While it created a big tech change, it also created a network that let nearly anyone post nearly anything online. This caused obvious problems about who should (or should anyone) control the space. Should information be fact-checked or confirmed in any way?
“The problems of bad information out there are … problems, I think, with humanity” is how Berners-Lee phrased the issues soon discovered as the web opened to the masses. Even this developer could see that change may be on the horizon.
A Negative Net
If you are on the fence that there are negative portions of the net, take a look into trolling, hate speech, and even trends such as “Swatting,” or calling emergency services to a location as a prank. These are just some of the examples of open posting gone wrong and show purposes that original creators of the net might not have considered when opening the virtual doors to these virtual worlds.
It is evident that if you give the world a chance to speak, there are going to be some that speak in harmful, hurtful, costly, or negative ways. Even a small group of users can poison the well for many. From the ability to blog post to make your site, the technology behind a Read-and-Write net gave some the idea to use the power, not for good, but evil.
Room for Change
It is no wonder then, that by 2006, Berners-Lee coined a new phrase, and began working on a new concept for the web. These ideas would later support and create a foundation for Web 3.0.
A Semantic Web
This creator’s solution to the Internet’s faulty system of misinformation was what he called the use of a “semantic web.”
To understand his phrasing, let’s look back again at the previous iterations of the web. If 1.0 was a version that relied on HTML web pages and very early e-commerce stages, it was 2.0 that brought about uses like social media platforms and user-generated content. The introduction of these new 2.0 media also allowed for content creation that went rather unchecked.
Because of this, misinformation was just as easy to come by as the truth, and the two became ultimately quite muddied. Phrases like “fake news” became common vocabulary in pop culture, even used by a president, to explain the entire network of free information.
What Is a Semantic Web?
Berners-Lee has said that the semantic web would bring about greater automation. It would create an interface with systems, people, and devices (such as artificial intelligence or machine learning) working side-by-side.
Content creation and decision-making would thusly involve a combination of humans and machines. The goal of it was ultimately to distribute tailored content to the internet consumer.
An Example for Today
In today’s online world, the closest practical application of this semantic concept is that of a search engine. Let’s take Google, for one example, a world leader in search engine operations. The fact that one “Googles” a term (yes, it is a verb) denotes the level of popularity the company has obtained over the years.
Google can use bots, alongside human applications and checkpoints, to crawl the web for “SEO” terms or search engine optimization. These keywords and phrases have become an industry of their own, with specialists monitoring and learning right alongside machines, to continue to perfect the program’s ability to find the most relevant materials when the internet user types words into a search bar.
If you’ve grown up along with the company, you likely recall firstly the massive amount of competition which now seems to have fallen by the wayside as Google set industry standards (remember Ask Jeeves?), but also how a wonky and seldom accurate list of URLs soon became a highly accurate search engine that could not only find what you want but predict what you were going to type even before you typed it. Now that is some evolution!
While Web 2.0 brought about some ability for the user to write onto the net, Web 3.0 has a heavy focus on a user-generated content delivery network. Focused on bringing the “power back to the people,” the access for users to be the creators is key in the newest blockchain network styles of Web 3.
The individual users of tomorrow’s web may have to face malicious actors on their own, but when it comes to the server-side, key innovations involving decentralized protocol permits users to become more involved in the process of creation, development, and ownership.
From Web 2 to Web 3
Web browser technologies were on the move for the past several decades, and the transitions have been massive. We’ve gone from a bucket of information for viewing only, to a complete social web, where users can read, write, create, communicate, and so much more.
But what changes from Web2 vs Web3? And what are the pros and cons of such a transition? What new tech will it allow for, and what new challenges will come along with them?
Let’s dig more into the newest iteration of the world wide web, with our current in-progress transition to a Web 3.0.
A Decentralized Web
Web 3.0 isn’t just a marketing buzzword being brought back to life. Building on the concepts of the semantic web, Web 3.0 aims to become the next step in the network’s evolution.
If you consider 1.0 to be Read Only, 2.0 to be Read-and-Write, then 3.0 aims to be, with the help of artificial intelligence, a space to Read-Write-Interact. It is a step away from a central authority and aims to give power back to the people.
The third edition aims to allow users to interact with content by creating their own, including 3D graphics, websites, and apps. Web technologies now allow for far more user-generated content. The net is no longer a space for reading information but instead is an interactive and social web.
While it doesn’t sound much different in abilities, transitioning from 2 to 3, it does have a major difference when it comes to its core concepts. Much like the world of crypto and the blockchain tech behind them, the Web 3.0 model focuses on being a decentralized web.
A Move from Authority
A focused position of Web 3.0, as opposed to the Web 2.0, versions includes a major step away from big tech companies. Instead of a central authority, a newer version of the web would operate more like a blockchain. It would rely on a peer-to-peer network and not the authority and oversight of a major corporation.
This paradigm shift would provide users with the opportunity to have some ownership of their work, while also being free to remain anonymous, post content more freely, and openly create with shared content and programming.
In other words, advances in web technologies will allow network participants to claim ownership, for example by becoming a site owner, instead of relying on big business to have the final say, as it currently largely exists in Web 2.0.
A move from single server storage was needed, and tech answered that call by evolving the Internet. No longer will users be at the mercy of a server’s file system. Text or image format language can be created by the developer, which is far more often now to be your common man, and not a big business.
Pros to No Power
Without companies like Facebook, Google, or Amazon at the helm, the new waves of the web, which came about as early as 2012, attempted to limit the problems these corporate owners were causing.
From privacy infractions to accusations of spreading hate speech, to aggressive business practices and unethical uses of AI, these companies had laundry lists of issues. The future was looking dismal for the small guy, and it seemed unless you were a multi-billion-dollar owner, you were doomed, sentenced to live a life under the thumb of these companies.
With decentralized autonomous organizations at the helm, the network participants are in charge of the content, which allows for more free speech, flexibility, and freedom from the current restrictions in web browsers. Social media dialogue and the virtual community forums that it generates are not something many want to be regulated by big business.
No longer would sites like Facebook be permitted to censor data they deem “unfit.” On a decentralized network, everything from online shopping to computer games could be accomplished with the use of blockchain technology. More dynamic content can exist, with multiple applications in the works, along with some still being developed as we speak.
A ‘Decentralized Online Ecosystem Based on Blockchain’
Perhaps not as catchy of a term as semantic or even the simplicity of 3.0, it was Gavin Wood who, back in 2014, used the term “a decentralized online ecosystem based on blockchain.” It took until around 2021 for the concept to become a popular option, coinciding with the interest level the public showed in crypto, not to mention some hefty investments from those backing such technologies.
A Big Plus
Decentralized finance is a major pro for the new-found web, as its fundamental technologies allow for banking to be done without the centralized control of a government or bank. There are plenty of ticks in the “pro” column here, as increased access, flexibility, anonymity, and security are gained as users shift from centralized financial systems.
But Also a Minus
Governments may find the decentralized apps a problem, as they have far less control over things like tax collections. Until the law catches up with the tech, there is a gap in defining features such as what assets are taxable and what is not.
For example, the U.S. Government has already deemed crypto such as Bitcoin or Ether to fall under a standardized definition, allowing them to be considered traceable and taxable assets.
As we’ve stated, the pillars that this new web, changing from Web 2 to Web 3, would stand on were similar to those that formulate the world of cryptocurrency. There would be a public, distributed ledger of sorts, known as a blockchain, which would create not only transparency in the net but also a high level of security with immutable blocks of data.
A system of decentralized protocols also aims to move away from a monopolized system of control, where a handful of corporations own the web. Instead, any platforms or apps created on Web3 would be owned by a collective group of users. It would not be the property of a centralized gatekeeper.
Those who wish to earn ownership stakes would help to develop or maintain those services, via the blockchain. As you may well be aware, the use of decentralized networks relies heavily on energy-intensive operations, which are not too Earth-friendly at present. But, the concept of an Internet owned by the people, for the people is a far cry from today’s controlled space.
Key Features of Web3
By spreading the wealth (figuratively and literally), the new steps of a decentralized web would create a less company-controlled environment, where the network’s users could benefit from monetary gains, not to mention ownership of the work.
The idea that a user on everyday devices could earn income while surfing the web is, not a shock, a big hit with those across the globe. Using their computers, working from their site, or even becoming their cloud provider could be a realistic future for users of Web 3.0.
With the use of blockchain technologies, websites could see a major change as data is no longer stored on centralized servers but instead spread across the Internet (and globe). No longer will a single point of power, a single database, or a single corporate CEO in a back office, be in control of a network of data. Instead, Web 3.0 will take into consideration audience insights, added security services, and open-sourced data to better serve all.
Free Web Hosting Services
Already decentralized sites like Ethereum offer free hosting sites for users to create their dApps (decentralized applications), not to mention host entire websites at no cost.
This increased access should open the doors to more developers, leveling a playing field for those trying to get a foot in on the tech industry. No longer do you have to have seniority at Apple, for example, to pitch a new application.
With a simple log-on to Ethereum’s network and a common gateway interface, you can create your own, use the open-sourced programming and smart contracts of the system, and profit from your development.
The Future of Web 3.0
It is clear when comparing Web2 vs Web3 that many changes have occurred, and still are happening today. Web pages themselves have greatly changed in dynamics, ownership, and abilities.
We’ve gone from a limited ability to interact, to complete ISP-run web servers. The world operates on a web-centric business model, where nearly every business is somehow incorporated with the net. The participative social web is a part of daily life for most.
While the future is never known for certain, Web 2.0 gave today’s developers a huge leg up on tech. It was a springboard introducing the space to user participation, cloud provider technologies, and even the advent of terms like a computer scientist (a job that didn’t exist a few decades prior).
As it is often said, change is the only constant. Wherever Web 3.0 is headed and whatever new change is on the horizon, the only thing one can truly guarantee is there is more to come.
Stay informed of the plethora of changes occurring in the technology space, especially when it comes to decentralization. Plenty is happening at a rapid pace, and understanding those evolutions is crucial to interacting in an Internet-dependent world.
Thankfully, you can rely on relevant results anytime you search on FLOLiO. Staying informed is an easy process with our vast resources, informative articles, and research tech guides which can help you understand the crypto world in a flash.
Web2 vs Web3 was just one step in the ever-changing and -adapting world of tech. Stay tuned for more!