What is Web 3.0? Isn’t there just one internet? If you are having these thoughts, you are not alone. Web 3.0 is a term coined by Ethereum co-founder Gavin Wood. Web 3.0 (aka Web3) describes the next version of the internet. How will Web3 be different than the current system? First, let’s go back to the early days of the internet to see how we got here.
Lucky for me, I’m of the generation of the “before internet times” (what’s up, Millennials!) and grew up right alongside the world wide web. I remember the pre-computer days, then my Dad’s O.G. IBM PC with the Monochrome monitor.
Next came the dial-up internet days, plugging my house's landline into our massive desktop computer to instant message my middle school friends. And then, finally, the creation of laptops and wireless internet. As we have all experienced, the evolution of the internet is non-stop. Since its inception, there have been two iterations, and now a third is being developed. The versions have been described in varying ways, but in my opinion, the easiest way to understand the three stages is as follows:
Web 1.0: Read-Only (early 1990s-early 2000s)
The first version of the internet was open-sourced (decentralized) and used as an information-sharing network. For users, it was a place to consume information from static websites. There was very little to no interactivity on the websites or between users.
Web 2.0: Read-Write (early 2000s-present)
This is the version that is being used today by most people. Companies created platforms to not only share their content but for users to share content and interact with each other very easily (i.e., Facebook, Youtube, etc.). The ease of participation is wonderful as the mass of users has dramatically increased. However, the downfalls of the current system are also significant. The behemoth companies that created these platforms get the majority of traffic and the lion’s share of the benefits from the system. Therefore, these large companies are the gatekeepers of what happens on the internet. As users on Web2, you don’t own the content you create or the information you share; the company that owns the platform does. The “free” platforms are often the biggest culprits as they are essentially monetizing their user base. The saying goes, “If you’re not paying for it, you’re not the customer. You’re the product.” Web2 birthed the advertisement-driven revenue model and, in turn, the sale of user data. On the monetization side, users either do not earn revenue or earn a tiny percentage of the revenue for the content they contribute. Regarding security, because these platforms collect and store personal user data, our privacy is at risk at all times.
By this point, I hope you are thinking, “There has got to be a better way!” Rest assured, it is coming!
Web 3.0: Read-Write-Own
Web3 doesn’t technically exist yet, but it is in development. Many believe it is the future of the internet and will solve many of the Web2 issues. An exact description of Web3 isn’t available since it is a work in progress, but there appears to be a consensus that the following key features will be part of it:
Decentralization: Big tech companies will no longer be the gatekeepers. Blockchain technology will be an integral part of the new and improved system. Data will be open-sourced rather than on centralized servers. The community will be financially incentivized to maintain the data and develop core infrastructure.
Ownership: Ownership of content will be completely transformed. Content ownership will remain in the hands of the creators and users, and decentralized applications (DApps) will replace the current centralized platforms we use today. Additionally, Web3 purchases will be on-chain via NFTs (non-fungible tokens). Ownership of NFTs remains with the purchaser indefinitely unless they are sold to another user. For example, in Web3, items purchased for the avatar of your favorite online game will remain your property even if you no longer play the game, rather than being owned by the platform and disappearing if you delete your account. You can then sell the NFTs directly to another user if you choose.
Control of your Digital Identity: Gone will be the days of having to put your full name, birth date, and other personally identifying information into systems with questionable security. Your online identity will be transferable across DApps and will be linked to a wallet address. Wallet addresses are completely anonymous unless the user chooses to share additional personal information. This dramatically contrasts with the Web2 system of having individual logins for each platform that require you to divulge personal information to join.
Native Payments: The integration of wallets and a token economy (cryptocurrency) will remove the traditional payment model being used today, which is incredibly exclusionary, where payments are required to go through a third-party system (i.e., banks, Paypal, etc.) which requires the sender and/or receiver be a part of their network. In Web3, all domestic and international payments will be sent and received directly from one party to another without an intermediary for very little to almost no cost. The system will improve access to financial services and empower users to begin earning like never before.
Slowly but surely, decentralized systems and resources are beginning to become mainstream. Some of the above Web3 systems exist in some capacity already and are being used by early adopters. Many Web2 companies are recognizing this and attempting to get into the Web3 space in various ways. The question is, will these Web2 companies fit into the new Web3 model? Even though there is a long way to go before Web 3.0 becomes a fully realized reality, it is an inspiring time. I look forward to witnessing the continued evolution and discovery happening every day!
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The content is for informational purposes only. Nothing contained in this article constitutes a solicitation, recommendation, endorsement, or offer of a security, token, or application. This is not investment or legal advice. Please do your own research.