Is the next big thing on the horizon? Or is talk of a “web 3.0” just legend. It is coming. What it will end up becoming is anyone’s guess, but let’s break down the first, basic question about the new phenomenon: what is web3?
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Before Web 3.0
Web3, or Web 3.0, is what most tech experts would call the third wave of what we know as today’s “Internet.” Presuming that two versions came before, Web 3.0 is named such to designate that it is the third edition, so to speak, of the world wide web.
In its simplest terms, the Web3 concept can best be described as a decentralized internet. In attempt to “take back the power” that the corporate middle man owns in today’s model, users would regain autonomy, freedoms, and access without a central authority.
If you are at all familiar with cryptocurrency and the blockchain technology behind it, this concept of the world wide web would be very similar in principle.
To understand how we got to a “third” version or the “next phase,” let’s first establish what are considered to be Web 1 and Web 2.
Web 1.0: The First Version
In its infancy, the web was a new and exciting opportunity in technologies. Few had heard of it, let alone harnessed its power. From 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?
A Read-Only Web
The earliest versions of the web were a read-only format. Web 1 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.”
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.
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 own 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 over the span of 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 have the ability to 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 Defined
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.
The Birth of the Web
While jokes circulated heavily about Al Gore and his contributions to its success, it was in fact 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!)
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 basically 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 in fact 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 own site, the technology behind a Read-and-Write net gave some the idea to use the power not for good, but for 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 was one that 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 is able to use bots, alongside human applications and checkpoints, in order 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!
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. The third edition aims to allow users to interact with content by creating their own, including 3D graphics, websites, and apps.
While it doesn’t sound like any different inabilities, 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 central position of the 3.0 plan includes a major step away from big tech companies. Instead of a centralized authority, a new version of the web would be 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.
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.
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 the technologies.
As we’ve stated, the pillars that this new web 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 could earn income while surfing the web is, not a shock, but a big hit with those across the globe. Using their own computers, working from their own site, could be a realistic future 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, or a 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.
Web 3.0: The Future?
No one knows what the future holds, but one thing is for sure. Just like the value of your NFTs in your crypto wallets, the Internet is always changing. Data is always coming in and is always changing. Web 2.0 is surely on the way out, but what all will 3.0 include, and will there be a 4.0 someday?
This third edition of the web has been in the works for years, and its usefulness and strategy are only now catching on by the masses. It can be argued when Web 2.0 faded and when you consider, or if you even do, that 3.0 is here to stay, but one thing is for sure: the net is changing.
Where this tech will head is unclear. Will it, along with crypto and NFTs, continue to grow and prosper? Or is it a marketing ploy, destined to burn out just as quickly as it came to the forefront?
No matter where the Internet is headed, Web 3.0 and its role remain to be seen. The best thing to do to better understand its future is to keep yourself well informed. Sites such as FLOLiO create a trusted space to find data, understand trends, and react accordingly.