Web 3.0 is a buzzword that has been circulating the internet in recent years, and it is sometimes used synonymously with Blockchain technology. I recall when I first started seeing and hearing the term “Web 3.0” thrown around in various magazines and articles, I had no idea what they were talking about.
“Web 3.0?” I recall thinking. What happened to Web 1.0 and 2.0, and how are we currently on Web 3.0?” I’d never heard of them.
With no understanding of what Web 1.0 or 2.0 were, I was worried that I had missed out on something essential, like stumbling into Lord of the Rings 3 without seeing the beauty of the previous two films. The FOMO was strong in me, and I knew I needed to do some investigating to find out more.
So, if you’re wondering what all the fuss is about “Web 3.0,” and if it’s making as much sense to you as attempting to watch the Elf scenes from Lord of the Rings without subtitles, you’ve come to the right spot because I’m going to break it all down here and get everyone caught up.
A Brief History of the web
When it comes to Web 1.0, 2.0, and 3.0, it’s crucial to note that there are approximate as many alternative explanations, understandings, and meanings as there are people who use these terms. It’s like walking up to 100 different people at a Crypto conference and asking them what cryptocurrency means to them.
Each person will offer a unique answer that is unique to them. These concepts do not have a universally accepted definition or a “one-size-fits-all” description.
What exactly is Web 1.0?
To comprehend Web 1.0, we have to go back to the beginning of the internet. The internet, believe it or not, was developed for a very different reason than viewing kitten videos, shopping, and reading memes as we know it today.
The beginnings of the internet can be traced back to the Defense Advanced Research Project Agency (DARPA) in the United States, which brought together some of the world’s brightest minds in 1969 to work on what was originally envisaged as a military communications project.
The early internet was essentially made up of web pages linked together by hyperlinks. The pages were mostly text-only, with no images, and they were “read-only,” with no ability to interact with anything in any meaningful way. Essentially, the early internet was nothing more than a massive library of ebooks.
Early government branches, research laboratories, educational facilities, and institutions were able to connect via commercial servers to browse web pages and share information, making Web 1.0 a great resource for information exchange. Because there were no read/write capabilities, people would mostly log on to read about things.
As a result, much of the information on the internet was created offline before being published and shared. Basic chat capabilities via a bulletin board system (BBS) would not be deployed until a few years later, allowing users to engage with one another.
Dynamic URLs, as well as future innovation and developments, would eventually progress the internet and its capabilities from Web 1.0 to 2.0. Because the transition between both webs was a gradual process that occurred over time as new features and services were added to existing infrastructures, there is no precise definition or time date for when Web 1.0 became Web 2.0.
One fascinating fact I discovered, and feel free to share it at your next cocktail party to amaze most likely no one, is that advertising was originally outlawed on Web 1.0, and it would be years before any adverts were permitted to appear on the internet at all. It’s hard to believe that today.
What exactly is Web 2.0?
Web 2.0 is when things start to get exciting, and it’s the internet as we know it today, complete with our favorite shopping sites, video streaming platforms, cryptocurrency articles, video games, social media sites, and everything else! A simple illustration of what it would have been like for an eCommerce store to transition from Web 1.0 to 2.0 can be explained with an example of what it would have been like.
An eCommerce store developed on Web 1.0 would have looked like a shopping magazine, with a few basic photos and text that a user could browse through and read, but that’s about it.
All of the extra integrations and features, such as the ability to add things to a shopping cart, check out, pay by credit card, and write a review for others to read, were made possible by Web 2.0. Web 2.0 would also usher in a new era of user-generated content, in which ordinary people like you and me could create stuff and have it published on the internet, such as this article or those humiliating and cringe-worthy Facebook posts from back in high school. Who remembers MySpace among those reading this?
In 2004, web pioneer Dale Dougherty, an O’Reilly VP (the media firm, not the auto parts store), invented the term “Web 2.0.” Web 2.0 is also known as the “Social Web,” “Wisdom Web,” “People-Centric Web,” “Participative Web,” and “Read/Write Web,” because it is the first time that humanity has been able to share information on a global scale and easily socialize and pass wisdom (or cat videos) to anyone, anywhere in the world almost instantly.
With activities like blogging, video sharing, chatting, voice messaging, emails, and social network posts, this period ushered in user-generated content on a scale never seen before. The “Social Web” achieved mass adoption faster than any other technological development in history, a record it would keep until Bitcoin arrived a few years later.
We are now in the middle of the transition to Web 3.0, much as the slow transition from Web 1.0 to Web 2.0.
What exactly is Web 3.0?
Early pioneers who were there throughout the transition from Web 1.0 to Web 2.0 had the insight to see that the evolution to Web 3.0 will eventually happen, just as there are already early debates about Web 4.0 and 5.0, even though we have barely broken into Web 3.0.
Bernes-Lee, a British computer scientist who is credited with the invention of the World Wide Web, coined the notion of Web 3.0 in 1999. Web 3.0 is known as the “Semantic Web,” in the same way that Web 2.0 is known as the “Social Web.”
Bernes-Lee envisioned the Semantic Web as being capable of understanding all data on the internet and allowing machines to perform many activities without the need for human participation.
Much of what Lee predicted would happen to the internet in 1999 has already happened, however, John Markoff of the New York Times coined the term “Web 3.0” in 2006. Instead of calling Web 3.0 the “Semantic Web,” Markoff would call it “The Intelligent Web,” and list five qualities.
The Intelligent Web’s 5 Characteristics:
1. Semantic Web – Web 3.0 extends beyond keywords and quantitative values to comprehend information such as photos, videos, and audio, as well as more complicated relationships between products, locations, and specific behaviors.
2. Artificial Intelligence – Software that can decode natural language and understand the intent is known as artificial intelligence. It can also tell the difference between authentic and fraudulent data and deliver more dependable information.
3. 3D Graphics — The third generation of the internet should include the utilization of 3D graphics and virtual reality (VR) technologies to deliver information about real-world locations, products, and objects of interest.
4. Connectivity — In web 3.0, information is increasingly connected through semantic metadata, allowing users to take advantage of all available data.
5. Ubiquity – Data silos are no longer an issue. Every device should be connected to the internet, and different applications can access different types of content.
All five of those qualities are evolving and defining the internet as we know it right now. Each of those areas is undergoing technological developments to create a more advanced version of the internet than the one we use now. One of my favorite definitions of the internet was that it was just the total of humanity’s knowledge made available to everyone.
Web 3.0 promises to establish this information more sensibly than is currently achievable with the existing engine schema for firms like Google.
Web 3.0 necessitates the use of declarative ontological languages such as Web Ontology Language (OWL) to create domain-specific ontologies that machines can use for intelligent reasoning, not merely keyword matching, allowing machines to digest content in a more human-like manner.
However, what does Web 3.0 have to do with Blockchain and Cryptocurrency?
For the first time in human history, Blockchain technology delivers a secure method based solely on well-defined and irrefutable mathematics, rather than on flawed, fragile, and emotionally biased human nature. This ensures that the crucial systems and services that operate our daily life are trustworthy and reliable.
We already put our faith in calculators above our mental arithmetic abilities; Blockchain is similar, but for many more and higher-impact areas of our life, with use cases spanning many industries, including finance, health care, supply chain logistics, gaming, farming, and agriculture, and more. Blockchain technology is already being integrated into standard Web 2.0, with a separate Web 3.0 framework based on Ethereum networks.
Data decentralization and an environment for transparent, verifiable, tamper-proof, and secure data exchanges and transactions are now possible thanks to advances in technology such as distributed ledgers and Blockchain.
Integration of blockchain into Web 3.0 will allow users to overcome Web 2.0’s current issues with centralization, surveillance, and exploitative/manipulative advertising, as well as provide the framework for a decentralized infrastructure that will be able to displace centralized tech giants, allowing users to rightfully own their data.
Individuals will be sovereign, owning and regulating who earns from their time online, if Web 3.0 embraces and uses Blockchain technology and infrastructure on a large scale in a decentralized manner. Users will be able to choose how they want to be compensated for their time and data on a decentralized web, replacing the old, unethical practices of IT behemoths who profit billions each year from the exploitation of user data.
We’re already seeing early progress in this area, with millions of users (including myself) switching from Google Chrome to the Brave Browser, which incorporates Web 3.0 and Blockchain capabilities, allowing users to be fairly compensated for their time watching advertisements or to opt-out of tracking cookies and advertisements entirely, freeing them from the surveillance and manipulation practices of tech giants.
It’s crucial to note that Web 3.0 does not inherently imply decentralization, and this utopian dream cherished by millions will face a significant uphill battle if it comes to fruition.
Decentralization and Web 3.0
As I previously stated, Web 3.0 and Blockchain technology are frequently used synonymously, which can be confusing and inaccurate. There’s nothing in Web 3.0’s technological foundation that says it has to be based on, or that it has to use Blockchain technology at all.
Though, as we have seen across many industries, I believe it is a reasonable expectation that Blockchain technology will continue to evolve, be integrated into, and play a significant role in the advancement of Web 3.0. This leads us to another misunderstanding: many people believe that Blockchain technology inherently equates to decentralization.
Many individuals mistakenly believe that Web 3.0 plus Blockchain technology equals decentralization, which is not the case. On the contrary, it could have the exact opposite effect!
While many of us see that Blockchain technology has the potential to create a truly decentralized, peer-to-peer system, the contrary is also true.
Blockchain technology has the potential to bring about the polar opposite of freedom and decentralization: authoritative control and centralization on steroids! This is why a government-backed and regulated central bank digital currency is one of the most seriously controlled central bank digital currencies (CBDC).
Why is a Decentralized Web 3.0 being pushed?
While Blockchain has the potential to liberate us from authoritarian regimes and digital behemoths that monitor and manipulate every part of our online lives, it also has the potential to enslave us more than ever before.
The government could have complete control over every penny that goes into your bank account, monitor every penny that leaves your bank account, track every single purchase you make, and monitor every website you visit if they decided to do away with cash and only use a central bank digital currency or adopt a centralized internet infrastructure.
In a worst-case scenario, they may have complete control over what information a country is permitted to access on the internet, as well as the country’s whole monetary supply. That sounds like a world I wouldn’t want to be a part of. Anyone else starting to think of George Orwell’s 1984?
Many individuals may read this and say to themselves, “Oh well, I don’t do anything criminal and have nothing to hide,” but it’s not only about the law. This could give the government the authority to limit fundamental liberties that we take for granted.
Do you want to go to a protest or speak out about a cause you care about? For something as minor as not liking your political post on social media, the government could intervene and withhold cash from your account for a month. What if they made it illegal for adults to drink more than two pints of beer every week? (Tragic!) Payments for any alcohol-related purchases could be automatically blocked.
If they had centralized internet access, they’d undoubtedly prevent an essay like this from being produced and you from reading it, stifling free speech on a large scale, akin to what we’ve seen in North Korea and China. Have I yet painted a bleak enough picture? I believe you get my position.
As if that weren’t reason enough to push for a decentralized Web 3.0, as I’ve already mentioned, many of the exploits of tech behemoths are downright creepy and unethical, harming society by furthering social divides between opposing viewpoints and manipulating the outcomes of major events like political elections and Brexit.
Many articles are now being published on how social media giants are abusing and harming democracy, indicating that big tech businesses have overstepped their bounds and that these perversions touch us all. People are being used as livestock, controlled and abused by huge internet giants like Facebook, Google, and Amazon, according to some extremely intelligent and deeply distressing documentaries that have lately come to light.
Companies like Facebook (which also owns Instagram) have been caught secretly sharing and selling our personal information to third parties for a variety of reasons, including creating psychographic profiles on users to influence political campaigns and selling that information to marketing and advertising companies so they can target us with ads.
These immoral actions by companies like Facebook have landed the firm in hot water and court on several occasions. Facebook has been accused of and has been found guilty of, some of the most heinous crimes committed in our society.
I’m talking about major issues like spreading hate speech that fueled genocide and war crimes in Myanmar, as well as being accused of human rights violations and fueling multiple “Anti Facebook” rallies around the world.
If you haven’t seen the documentaries “The Social Dilemma” or “The Creepy Line,” about how social media and tech behemoths are manipulating society, I strongly advise you to do so to gain a better understanding of the nefarious deeds and intentions of many of the companies with which we interact daily.
Try not to chuck your computer out the window out of fear, contempt, or fury while watching these, and you’ll see why decentralization is so vital.
People are naturally enraged and looking for alternatives when we learn more about the shenanigans behind some of these internet behemoths and how we are being misled. These realizations are just one of the motivating causes behind the decentralized Web 3.0 revolution and adoption of Blockchain technology.
Current Web 3.0 Implementations
As I mentioned earlier in the article, Web 3.0 does not necessarily imply the integration of Blockchain technology, but for the purposes of this article, we will assume that the two will be further developed together and working hand in hand and that each mention of Web 3.0 should be taken to mean that Blockchain will be woven into the internet’s framework.
Blockchain technologies, such as Bitcoin and, more specifically, Ethereum, are already providing the early, fundamental infrastructure required for Web 3.0, and we have seen numerous use cases based on this technological innovation.
Do you recall how the Internet became the most widely embraced technological innovation of all time? Well, crypto and blockchain acceptance is outpacing early internet adoption, implying that it is currently present in many forms and will likely continue to expand exponentially into the daily lives of internet users worldwide. For good reason, finance is the main field in which Blockchain technology has had a massively disruptive influence.
With countless scandals and dirty dealings that have existed in traditional finance since the inception of a monetary system itself, Blockchain technology and Web 3.0, thanks to networks like Ethereum, have provided a framework that is replacing the trust that has been lost in the traditional finance space, helping to eliminate corruption, reduce costs, and increase efficiency by rebuilding financial applications that can potentially replace all of the legacy services that have existed since the inception of a monetary system itself.
Many of the services provided by traditional banks are now available through decentralized finance programs like Aave, which allow users to lend their crypto to earn interest and borrow cash against their crypto holdings in a significantly more efficient manner than banks.
Decentralized finance applications already allow users to borrow against collateral, lend, invest, get a mortgage, and even buy insurance almost instantly, bypassing all of the red tape and restrictions imposed by banks, as well as their exorbitant fees and criminal interest rates. A peer-to-peer banking system is a truly incredible concept.
Millions of users have turned to Decentralized Finance (Defi) as they have grown tired of banks making billions off the backs of their customers, providing little in return unless you are happy with the 0.01 percent interest rate they pay on your savings accounts and being charged 20 percent interest to use their credit cards.
In the video gaming, fashion, and medical industries, Web 3.0 is already blurring the barriers between reality and digital reality. I’m sure you’ve heard a lot about the “metaverse” in recent weeks, with companies like Facebook and Microsoft investing billions of dollars to create their virtual worlds, and decentralized metaverses like Decentraland, the Sandbox, and Bloktopia being featured on YouTube.
The multibillion-dollar gaming business is being impacted by Web 3.0 and Blockchain technology, which is generating an entirely new economic landscape based on a play-to-earn model that has the potential to radically upset our current economic structure.
The “Spatial Web,” which will be a much more advanced advancement of Web 3.0, blurs the barriers between reality and a virtual landscape. This will include improved geolocation capabilities, virtual and augmented reality technology and completely immersive metaverses that will make distinguishing between virtual and real-world objects impossible.
The Spatial Web will effectively be a hyper-realistic mapping of our entire world, with every facet of life (apart from really living) being connected and completely interactive.
Why Does It Matter?
The move to Web 3.0 is an unavoidable technological evolution, and the ability to build on top of, or incorporate Blockchain technology into this technological evolution, makes it a “people’s” revolution.
Many high-profile economists and technologists are referring to Blockchain technology as “the Fourth Industrial Revolution,” with fantastic papers like Klaus Schwab’s Shaping the Fourth Industrial Revolution, with a foreword by Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft, being written, published, and studied at length within academia and business circles.
Many people support this revolution because it offers hope for a future with a peer-to-peer, trustless decentralized infrastructure that can support a monetary system, healthcare system (basically any infrastructure system), and the free flow of information without bias or manipulation because these infrastructures and systems will not be controlled by any central authority pushing their agendas, effectively freeing us from the shackles of governments and ineffectively freeing us from the shackles of governments and ineffectively freeing us from the s
Others believe this is a pipe dream, a utopian, possibly anarchic libertarian vision that will never materialize because the same authoritarian regimes that people want to save are adopting and utilizing Blockchain technology and Web 3.0 to ensure that they will adapt to and change with these innovations, rather than being replaced or rendered redundant, which is also a very likely scenario.
Either scenario is fine with me because, while it may not be as utopian as some would like, it is still a tremendous improvement over the existing challenges in the Web 2.0 environment and the mending of some of what is broken.
While some dream of a Blockchain utopia and others dread a Blockchain totalitarian state, let’s look at the facts instead of our prejudices, dreams, and concerns. Regardless of where you think Blockchain and Web 3.0 will lead, the technology has a lot of advantages and nearly endless potential, limited only by human ingenuity and creativity.
A utopian system, a decentralized system, a peer-to-peer monetary or any other form of system or infrastructure, and full immersion into a virtual metaverse will not be the distinguishing characteristics of Web 3.0. While all of these are prospective Web 3.0 characteristics, behaviors, and products, the key distinguishing element of Web 3.0 will be verifiability.
Regardless of what the future Web 3.0 looks like, one quality will remain constant: every piece of data for every single transaction on Blockchain will be tamper-proof, time-stamped, and publicly recorded, allowing anybody to verify and validate data flows.
This technology’s most impactful feature is that fundamental, straightforward characteristic. When transactions are publicly verifiable, there is no need to “take someone’s word for it” or trust that they are telling the truth; everything on the Blockchain is completely transparent.
As we spend more of our days online and upload more of ourselves, we have no idea what is happening with our data or identities. Where is that information going and how is it being used? Web 3.0 will bring much-needed transparency and honesty to the Internet, forcing everyone to be more ethical and moral than they are now.
When you combine verifiability with smart-contract functionality built on top of that technology, you get a society where everything runs like clockwork, with calculator-like precision, eliminating distrust, third-party intervention, manipulation, deception, and human error in a wide range of scenarios.
Web 3.0 will significantly increase the scope of what is possible between human and machine interactions, building on the already existing smooth peer-to-peer payment networks, richer information flows, and trusted data transfers without counterparties that Cryptocurrency users currently enjoy.
The creation of limitless and unfathomable new economic and commercial models, such as empowered global co-operative groupings, decentralized autonomous organizations, and self-sovereign and self-governed marketplaces, will be aided by this technology revolution. This is significant because:
By transferring value peer-to-peer and eliminating third-party intermediaries, societies will become more efficient, returning value directly to market buyers and suppliers.
One of my favorite companies now in development in this field is Authentium, which is using Blockchain technology to eliminate third-party, frequently exploitive intermediaries in the supply chain business, allowing farmers and agriculture workers to keep more of their income.