Did you know that the average person spends almost 7 hours a day consuming online content? A few decades ago, that number was 0, and it was all changed by one thing. The Internet.
The technology revolution has been enhancing our daily lives for centuries, but nothing has changed the course of mankind like the internet. In the 1990s, we were introduced to a database that democratized access to information online. In the first iteration of the internet (Web 1.0), there was no logging in, interacting with posts, viewing analytics or even advertisements, only access to information. But this was just the beginning. As the years went on, the internet morphed from static desktop web pages designed for information consumption to interactive experiences and user-generated content like we see it today. But what if it all changed again?
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In this article, we will be talking about the newest iteration of the internet, Web 3.0. In a Web 3.0 world, the internet is built upon the concepts of decentralization, openness, and greater user utility. No more analytic tracking to base what you see on the internet, instead people controlling their own data. Users will go from social media to shopping to researching using a single personalized account, creating a public record of every single activity on a blockchain. Here, we will discover how the internet has transformed throughout the years and get a quick glance of what a Web 3.0 world would look like for us in the future.
Throughout time, mankind has been able to set us apart by having the ability to organize ourselves through communication that strives towards a common goal. We have been trading value and exchanging information for as long as we existed. In this section, we will go back in time and discover the major social and technological stages that have led to maximized reach around the world for human collaboration.
Before the Internet
Before urbanization, civilizations could trade value, information and work by physically communicating with others in geographical proximity. Without access to far villages and countries, trading usually involved life essentials like food, shelter and security. Instead of having businesses, people had roles that they would play in society like farmers, priests, teachers, doctors etc. With all these roles filled, villages could live very simply but efficiently without contact to the outside world.
When cities started to arise and urbanize, trading value, information and work became increasingly more significant. Businesses became economically viable because although geographic restrictions remained, higher population density allowed for a wider array of skills. As we started to have the ability to communicate with others outside geographical proximity, trading value and information became even more significant.
When the web was introduced in 1990, true global businesses began to form, and our human collaboration reach was finally growing to become fully maximized with access to the internet available around the world.
Web 1.0 was pioneered by a computer scientist at European researcher CERN named Timothy Berners-Lee. This early Internet was mostly composed of web pages joined together by hyperlinks. These websites had very limited functionality without significant interaction from users. Although much growth was needed, Web 1.0 created a gateway for businesses, individuals and governments to consume and occasionally post content. At the beginning, there were not many content creators, and most internet users were consumers looking for information. Individual webpages were made of static pages hosted on web servers run by an internet service provider (ISP) otherwise known as browsers. The first version of a browsing service was Netscape.
Around 10 years after the dawn of the web, the term Web 2.0 started to be thrown around as content consumers were encouraged to become content creators. Web 2.0 does not refer to any specific technical upgrades, but a shift in how the Internet is used. Rather than taking a passive approach with Web 1.0 by simply viewing, Web 2.0 provided an environment where more users could become active participants. This didn’t just mean more content and information, but interactive utility as well.
Innovations in the Web 2.0 era allowed individuals to publish articles and write comments, advertise, and have the ability to create accounts on different sites. The exponential growth of Web 2.0 has direct correlation to the innovation of mobile internet access and social networks, as well as the introduction to powerful mobile devices like iPhone and Android. These developments led to “The Rise of Apps” that greatly expanded online interactivity and utility. WordPress and Squarespace are some examples of apps that were created to enable self-publishing websites, and social media platforms like Facebook (Meta), Instagram, and YouTube opened up unlimited possibilities.
The Internet we know and love, still in the Web 2.0 stage, maximized our human collaboration reach by giving us access to all corners of the world and a new way of doing business. But, since most internet service providers are controlled by tech giants like Google, Microsoft, Amazon, and Facebook (Meta), we still see limitations. Because of this, people of the internet have little control over how their data is used. Many allegations say that these companies also suppress freedom of speech and exploit their data for profit. They pretty much decide what can and can’t be said. This brought us to the idea of a decentralized web, or in other words, Web 3.0.
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Web 3.0 represents the next iteration of the internet and in many ways, makes a return to Burners-Lee’s original idea of the semantic web, where no permission is needed from a central authority, and you get to control the data you put out and see. With Web 3.0, humans, machines and businesses will be able to trade value, information and work with global counterparties they don’t know or explicitly trust yet, without an intermediary.
Still in a very early stage, Web 3.0 has the ambition to become a verifiable, trust-less, self-governing, permission-less system that has built in payment incentives using cryptocurrency. Web 3.0 also introduces human like AI that runs smart programs to assist users.
Instead of developers building and deploying apps that run on a single server or database hosted by a cloud provider, Web 3.0 will see applications that run on blockchains with smart contracts instead and have data stored on decentralized cloud networks. To achieve a stable and secure network, developers are incentivized and compete against each other to provide the highest quality services to users. Developers that participate in creating, governing, or improving one of the projects themselves will be incentivized financially with cryptocurrency. Consumers of Web 3.0 DApps will have to pay for the service, similar to how you have to pay for your monthly subscriptions on Web 2.0. Below, we will go over the key features of Web 3.0 and what it may provide for the future.
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Unlike Web 2.0, where data is primarily stored in centralized storage locations and targeted to users that have been tracked based on internet activities, Web 3.0 data can be stored in multiple locations simultaneously and allows you to search for content without being tracked by centralized companies. This idea breaks down the massive databases that are currently held by the internet giants like Facebook (Meta) and Google preventing their censorship and giving greater control to users. On a Web 3.0 server, users also have the ability to trade information and goods with unknown others without the need for a middleman. Every activity is verified and recorded on the blockchain by thousands of computers at the same time.
Trustless and Permissionless
Another huge feature that comes with Web 3.0 is the ability for users to interact with each other without directly knowing their identity or going through a trusted intermediary like Facebooks Messenger. When it comes to doing trustless business, Smart contracts on the network will automatically follow through with transactions agreed on by both parties once each of their parts in the contract are met. An example of a smart contract on a Web 3.0 server would be an engineered code that automatically transfers cryptocurrency to a sellers account once their goods agreed on in the contract are shipped. A Web 3.0 internet also allows anyone to participate without the need of authorization from a governing body, hence the characteristic, “Permissionless”.
Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning
In Web 2.0, you may have noticed that content and ads are targeted to you based on the information that tech giants have picked up on your previous activity and searches. AI on a Web 3.0 internet aims to advance that technology but do so in a decentralized way where no company owns that information. Web 3.0 will use machine learning, which is a branch of AI that uses data and algorithms to imitate the way that humans learn, gradually improving its accuracy.
As we enter the third decade of Web 2.0, many people think it time for us to start regaining the ownership of our personal data and dethrone the large corporations that dominate the internet. For too long, these tech giants have taken our personal data in exchange for access to their platforms and services which are monetized and used for profit. If you understand the benefits of decentralization and wish to use an internet that provides equality to all users, you can be excited about Web 3.0.
Nobody can confirm when exactly we would be able to see a fully integrated Web 3.0, but there are online communities like the Web3 Foundation, Ethereum Network, Polkadot and more who are currently working on different projects aimed at bringing Web 3.0 to life. Experts say, in the most sensible scenario for Web 3.0 enthusiasts, the technology will operate alongside Web 2.0, not fully supplant it. In other words, blockchain-based social networks, transactions and businesses will grow and thrive in the coming years but, although it is a possibility, knocking out Facebook, Google and other tech giants completely is not likely in the near horizon.