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What is Web 3.0?
A brief look at how we got to Web 3.0
I was out last night for a seasonal catch-up with some friends, and they saw something I had posted on Web 3.0. The three of them asked me, “What the fuck is Web 3.0?”.
So, I thought I would write something to explain it.
Like all these things, we need to look at how we got here first, so let’s look at the previous versions of the Web:
At the start of Project Xanadu, Ted Nelson coined the term "link" in 1965. Nelson had been inspired by "As We May Think", a famous 1945 essay by Vannevar Bush. In the essay, Bush described a microfilm-based machine (the Memex) in which you could link any two pages of information into a "trail" of related information and then scroll back and forth among pages in a trail as if they were on a single microfilm reel.
In 1987 Apple released the HyperCard database program that allowed for hyperlinking between various pages within a document and other documents and separate applications on the same computer. This was followed in 1990 by the Windows OS, which did something similar with its operating system and ToolBook.
The first widely used open protocol that included hyperlinks from any Internet site to any other Internet site was the Gopher protocol from 1991. HTML soon eclipsed it after the 1993 release of the Mosaic browser (which could handle Gopher and HTML links).
HTML's advantage was the ability to mix graphics, text, and hyperlinks, unlike Gopher, which just had menu-structured text and hyperlinks.
The oldest identified social networking site was The Well, established in 1985. Cyworld, created in South Korea in 1999, was the first to allow user-customizable virtual space. Blogs, developed in 1997, and social networking sites, such as Six Degrees, rose to prominence in 1999. Friendster followed in 2002. These social media platforms pioneered the interactive online environment that we know today.
Web 1.0: Read-Only (1990-2004)
In 1989, Tim Berners-Lee was developing the protocols that would become the World Wide Web at CERN, Geneva. His idea was to create an open, decentralized protocol that allowed information sharing from anywhere on Earth.
The first inception of this protocol, now known as 'Web 1.0', occurred roughly between 1990 to 2004. Some of us may remember the unique sound of a dial-up modem that gave us access to Web 1.0. These were mainly static websites owned by companies claiming a space on the “Web”. There was close to zero user interaction, and individuals seldom produced content. This led to it being called the read-only web.
Data was not seen as significant, as the key metric at the time was the number of “hits” or visits your site achieved. The very early sites were directory listings with phone numbers for a transaction to take place traditionally. So, for example, if you were looking for a hotel, you looked up the number on the website and called them to make a reservation.
Web 2.0: Read-Write (2004-now)
The Web 2.0 period began in 2004 with the emergence of social media platforms such as Facebook and Flickr. Instead of a read-only, the web evolved to be read-write. Instead of companies providing content to users, they also began to provide platforms to share user-generated content and engage in user-to-user interactions. An example of this was Bebo. As more and more people came online, a handful of rapidly growing companies began to control a disproportionate amount of the traffic, data and value generated on the web. Web 2.0 also developed the advertising-driven revenue model. While users could create content, they didn't own it or benefit from its monetization. But there were some benefits to Web 2.0, such as:
Social Networks – Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn are all Web 2.0 examples as they promote sharing, interactivity, and a personalized user experience.
Blogs – Almost every blog site is a Web 2.0 example.
Video/Image/Media Sharing Sites – YouTube or Flickr. These sites are made for sharing multimedia-based content and spawned the video blogging industry (vlogging).
Wikipedia – Wikipedia is one of the quintessential Web 2.0 examples. This is a site where people can add their own information on topics for sharing with other people.
RSS Feeds – Website content syndication so that it’s available in other contexts is another example in some circles.
However, Web2.0 centralization led to the emergence of profiling, targeted annoying advertisements, and the harvesting of personal data. This data was then used to build a profile of the user, which was sold for everything from voting preferences to purchase potential.
Web 3.0: Read-Write-Own
The premise of 'Web 3.0' was coined by Ethereum co-founder Gavin Wood shortly after Ethereum launched in 2014. He framed a solution for a problem many early crypto adopters felt: the Web required too much trust. Today, most of the Web people know and use relies on trusting a handful of private companies to act in the public's best interests.
Core concepts of Web 3.0
Web 3.0, the decentralized web, refers to using blockchain technology and decentralized protocols to create a more secure and transparent internet. It is designed to give users more control over their data and online activities while allowing for more secure and decentralized applications and services. The core concept of Web 3.0 is decentralizing the control of content and data from Big Tech companies to users.
Although it's challenging to provide a rigid definition of what Web3 is, a few core principles guide its creation:
Web 3.0 is decentralized: instead of large portions of the internet being controlled and owned by centralized entities or companies, ownership gets distributed amongst its users and builders.
Web 3.0 is permissionless: everyone has equal access to participate in Web3, and no one should get excluded or oppressed.
Web 3.0 has native payments: it uses cryptocurrency for spending and sending money online as an alternative to relying on the dated infrastructure of banks and payment processors.
Web 3.0 is trustless: it operates using incentives, economic mechanisms, and rewards instead of relying on trusted third parties.
So, what does this mean for me?
Web 3.0 will impact our lives in ways that we may not see. The technology exists today, but we may not be aware of it.
Twitter and other social media platforms can censor any account or tweet in Web 2.0, but Web 3.0 tweets should not be censored but should be managed by consensus.
Web 3.0 payments and fund transfers are token-based and do not require sharing any personal data with third parties. In the absence of centralized control, there are no intermediaries to pay.
Web 3.0 servers are not controlled by Big Tech and are instead based on a decentralized network of thousands of computers. Hence, in the absence of a single point of failure, Web 3.0 servers never go down. This may be a network of smartphones, for example.
User authentication occurs via blockchain-based private keys instead of a traditional central authority such as a company identity or membership.
Data ownership is retained by the user in Web 3.0 and not harvested the way it is in Web 2.0. The user may also be rewarded for sharing personal or transaction data.
Some examples of Web 3.0
Decentraland: Also referred to as the metaverse, Decentraland is a place where users can meet, socialize, attend events, and buy virtual land using cryptocurrency. It is an example of how Web 3.0 democratizes user-based rules and regulations by removing the middleman.
DTube: DTube is a YouTube-style, decentralized corporation that puts the power in the hands of users without letting a centralized entity (such as Google with YouTube) determine which videos can be seen in users' feeds.
Filecoin: Filecoin is a Google Drive, type open-source, personal, and decentralized storage solution which pays users who offer their spare storage capacity to the network.
Steemit: Steemit is a social blogging site similar to Reddit, where users get paid cryptocurrency for their content based on votes or likes given by other users.
Alexa, Siri, and Bixby: Amazon’s Alexa, Apple’s Siri, and Samsung’s Bixby are all perfect examples of Web 3.0 and its potential in the future. These virtual assistants tick all the right boxes when understanding Web 3.0 by merging artificial intelligence (AI) and Natural Language Processing (NLP) to create a semantically intelligent web application. All these AI-enabled assistants can understand voice requests and potentially perform even more complex and personalized commands in the future.
Wolfram Alpha: Wolfram Alpha is another application in Web 3.0 today that answers user questions using computation instead of generating a list of web pages as other search engines do. While search engines such as Google respond with the most popular or promoted search item, Wolfram Alpha gives you precisely what you asked for. For example, if you search "France vs Brazil" on Google and Wolfram Alpha, Google will also provide football-related results (since it is the most popular search). At the same time, Wolfram Alpha gives you the differences between France and Brazil.
TIKI: TIKI is a decentralized exchange where users can exchange their data for an agreed reward, such as a discount on future purchases. The governance for the exchange is managed by a Decentralized Autonomous Organization (DAO). This means that users control the governance, not a central entity.
Web 3.0 has the potential to revolutionize the way we use the internet by making it more secure, transparent, and decentralized. It is still in the early stages of development, but it has already attracted significant attention and investment from both individuals and companies.