First things first. What is web 3.0, anyway? Simply put, it refers to the next technological evolution of the internet that eliminates the middleman, like tech giants, and gives more power to web participants to control their data and online identity. Currently, a great share of the business model of tech giants like Google, Meta, Twitter and Microsoft is based on exploiting user data in return for enormous profit. All allegedly, of course.
In Web 3.0, web participants can move away from having the majority of their online activities in a few dominant platforms while retaining ownership over their digital experiences. Moreover, this new iteration of the internet will allow online content to be increasingly tailored to each user, without compromising their privacy, which adds a new layer of utility and meaningfulness to the internet - and the interactions within it.
So, why should you care? Well, if control of the web is decentralized, users now only have more freedom but they can also own a piece of of the internet through digital tokens that are given as a reward for their effort in helping develop and improve Web 3.0
This third stage of the evolution of the internet will see users become active participants of the web rather than being just content consumers that can be easily commodified by a tech company.
Web 3.0 has been associated with the rise of technological advancements like cryptocurrency, NFTs, decentralized autonomous organizations (DAOs) and even the metaverse, ushering in a new internet paradigm based on peer-to-peer transactions, transparency and data democracy.
The evolution of Web paradigms
The early days of the internet, starting roughly around 1989, were the Web 1.0. Most of us would probably be shocked to open websites from back then, not only because of the primitive graphics but also by the lack of opportunities to participate, like commenting on articles or creating new pages. Despite democratizing access to information, Web 1.0 was largely seen as a “read-only” era, full of disorganized and static web pages, where participants were mere consumers of content.
The job of creating the web came down solely to developers and there was a big focus placed on e-commerce platforms. In addition, the lack of algorithms also made it extremely hard to navigate the internet. In the end, the defining aspect boiled down to content creation being the responsibility of just a few.
The second phase of the internet, also known as Web 2.0 began around 2005 when participants of the internet started creating original content and taking greater ownership over their online presence. Thanks to the rise of web applications, social media platforms and self-publishing outlets, people could now publish articles, videos, photos and post comments across accounts on different sites. Many would see it as the true beginning of social collaboration and the sharing economy of the internet. Thanks to advancements in web development and coding, platforms became increasingly more interactive and reliant on user-generated content to expand. This fueled an incredible growth in mobile-based applications at the same time that the adoption of mobile devices experienced an explosion. But as web participants became more active on the internet, big tech companies also saw an opportunity to establish a monopoly and try to gain control over the data shared by users for financial profits. This had led to backlash against these companies over privacy, data abuse and moderation concerns.
Since mid-2020, we’re seeing the emergence of a next generation internet architecture that makes its participants the sole owners of the web, breaking away from tech giants and other corporations. If with Web 2.0 users generated the content, in Web 3.0 users generate the platform, create content and capture the value from it.
Applications on Web 3.0 run on decentralized networks of peer-to-peer servers, leveraging a distributed ledger technology known as blockchain. This decentralized database allows participants to host peer-to-peer servers or contribute in other ways but suggesting improvements or becoming part of a governance entity (DAO). Participants are rewarded with tokens which in turn makes them owners of a part of the internet (or networks) and gives a vested interest in the outcome of the group’s actions. And as all data recorded is immutable and transparent, everyone within a network can see what’s being done, every step of the way.
There is also, of course, the aspect of safety that is ensured via the use of cryptography techniques on the blockchain. Without getting into the specifics, there are other tech advancements adjacent to the rise of Web 3.0 and crucial to its development like edge computing, which is helping address issues of connectivity, speed and latency.
Web 3.0 Features
Let’s take a look at the main pillars of Web 3.0:
Decentralized: Currently, internet users navigate, upload and download content using a middleman like Google and exchange personal data in return for essentially having to use the internet. With a decentralized Web 3.0, information is decentralized, meaning it can be stored across multiple locations. This way, users have more control over their own data and risks associated with the failure of centralized servers can be averted.
Open: Web 3.0 is open as it’s developed resorting to an open source software which, by definition, is open and available to the public and all aspects of it are executed in a transparent manner.
Trustless: Networks are trustless as they remove third parties (or intermediaries) to execute actions on the internet. Without an intermediary or governing body, the privacy of users can be better protected.
Permissionless: Anyone, including users and providers, can engage without the need for permission from a central authority.
Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning: The evolution of the web will see computers using natural language processing, Semantic Web and machine learning concepts to interpret data similarly to humans. This will allow internet searches to be more accurate and relevant, and will enhance overall connection. A direct impact will most likely be seen on marketing as consumers will no longer be victims of exploitative advertising but can find targeted offers that align with their true interests.
Connected and ubiquitous: Within a decentralized environment, all content on the Web 3.0 is connected and accessible everywhere, across devices and services. As data storage is decentralized, there will also never be a disruption of services, for example.
Why is Web 3.0 Important?
It’s clear when comparing Web 2.0 with Web 3.0 that it represents a massive leap forward.
The internet will be a more immersive and content-relevant space where personal data doesn’t have to be compromised. Thanks to an architecture based on peer-to-peer networks, multiple decentralized applications (dApps) can emerge that better benefits users. From P2E games to original content creation in the form of NFTs, internet users have already started experimenting with the next iteration of the web. So far, it’s proven to be a successful model.
Play to Earn gaming has emerged as the leading gaming business model of the last couple years, with titles like Axie Infinity and Mobox creating a new craze in the industry and raking in millions of dollars in profits, much of it thanks to the use of in-platform currencies that users can earn or collect and then sell in return for real-life financial gains.
And NFTs aren’t on a much different path. The non-fungible token market saw a meteoric rise in 2021 on the back of multimillion-dollar sales of digital art like CryptoPunks, The Bored Ape Yacht Club and, of course, Beeple’s now groundbreaking NFT sale of ‘Everydays: The First 5000 Days’.
The sales volume of NFTs is now on track to smash all records in 2022, as the technology is more broadly adopted across industries, from sports and music to entertainment and fashion.
While these elements have worked out so far, the development of Web 3.0 hasn’t been without criticism.
Some leading tech figures like Twitter’s founder Jack Dorsey have argued that decentralized ownership isn’t a realistic project, arguing instead that Web 3.0 will instead be owned by the institutional players (mainly venture capital firms) and early adopters currently investing in underlying tech like blockchain.
Tesla’s Elon Musk isn’t much sold on the idea either, dubbing the concept of Web 3.0 instead ‘more marketing than reality’.
There are also question marks hanging over how the transition between Web 2.0 and Web 3.0 can take place in terms of development (there are billions of web pages and an almost infinite amount of data on the internet), regulation and issues with inconsistency or unreliable results.
Advantages of the Web 3.0:
- User control and ownership over private data
- Elimination of a central entity (and risk point)
- Efficient and relevant web browsing
- Increased trust, security and privacy
- Permissionless blockchains
- Higher connectivity thanks to Semantic web, machine learning and AI
Disadvantages of Web 3.0:
- Not at all devices will be able to keep up with the processing speed of Web 3.0
- Compatibility with older websites
- Monitoring and regulation
Web 3.0 Crypto: The role of blockchain
It’s hard to separate the concept of Web 3.0 from crypto. After all, blockchain is a crucial building block of both. Ideologically, there’s a common trend as well since the Web 3.0 and crypto aim to disrupt data and financial monopolies.
Web 3.0 relies on decentralized data while using smart contracts and decentralized protocols to execute transactions on a network. Many will recognize it as some of the underpinning technologies of crypto currencies and decentralized finance (DeFi). So, in that sense it’s become almost impossible to dissociate all of these ideas from one another. In addition, we earlier mentioned how web participants who want to help build or contribute to the new digital infrastructures of Web 3.0 can be offered tokens in return for working on projects. These can be seen as digital assets and a form of crypto currency as well.
In the end, just as Web 3.0 walks toward democratizing data and empowering users, the same can be said of crypto-based projects whose goal is to democratize money and financial services.
While not absolutely certain, this is what the shape of the future of the internet looks like for now.