Eight Questions About Web 3.0
What happened to Web 1.0 and 2.0?
Web 1.0 was the original Internet, lasting through the ’90s and early 2000s. The web connected people around the world—with the classic dial tone and screeching—and introduced basic versions of email and, with the launches of Friendster in 2002 and MySpace in 2003, early social media sites. You might have logged on to a BBS for the occasional live chat, but true interaction was delayed and relatively limited. (You certainly weren’t seeing every single one of your college roommate’s vacation pictures the moment he took them.) Web 2.0 is what we’re in right now, with dominant social media platforms amplifying individual voices of all kinds, and the big tech companies that run them requiring users to turn over their personal information to participate.
So Web 3.0 is just the next generation?
Yes, and it’ll be so much better. Web 3.0 is a response to the flaws of the current state of the Internet, aiming to redefine the notion of control. As Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the web (and a supporter of Web 3.0), has written, “People want apps that help them do what they want and need to do—without spying on them. Apps that don’t have an ulterior motive of distracting them with propositions to buy this or that. People will pay for this kind of quality and assurance.” Right now, a few select companies—like Facebook, Google, Microsoft, and Amazon—have enormous control over the data the Internet produces. As a result, they have outsize power over what features are and aren’t created. They can also profit in ways smaller companies can’t, selling ads against the data they collected and using it (and the behavior it reveals) to create proprietary AI software that could lead to an even greater concentration of power.
But how would it work?
Blockchain. Just like with crypto, blockchain technology allows for complete transparency. It addresses the biggest issue between us and the companies providing our favorite services: trust. With Web 3.0, only the information we decide to share would be available.
How will it help innovation?
Right now, tech companies collect data in walled gardens that no one else has access to. With Web 3.0, all data that anyone chooses to share would become accessible to everyone. Instead of walled gardens, we’d have vibrant public parks. This would enable other organizations to create without having to inevitably compete with the tech giants that have entrenched, all-powerful data-collection systems. This would unlock currently impossible forms of entrepreneurship—introducing countless new ideas to the world. One venture capitalist has predicted, “Web 3.0 will be a reinvention of capitalism.”
What about privacy?
People would have exacting control over their data and who they do and do not share it with. That could be businesses, governments, or other individuals. This would also enable us to easily move between applications—effectively packing up everything we have and placing it elsewhere.
Any other reasons I should be interested?
One of the great frustrations of Web 2.0 is discovering that formerly available information can no longer be found. Maybe a creator let their ownership of a site lapse or, worse, government censors in places like China or Iran removed information they considered a threat. On Web 3.0, all information created within the ecosystem would live as long as that broader system exists—just like a Bitcoin ledger.
Why is Web 3.0 not here yet?
There are several technical challenges in need of solutions. For one thing, blockchain is not exactly quick. That’s a problem when efficient, speedy database access is crucial to how people use the Internet, whether they’re emailing a friend or streaming the new Loki series. Plus, there are issues of maintaining user privacy and preventing cybercrime and misinformation. These things all require a great deal of time and money to figure out.
There is also the issue of public demand. Despite voicing many concerns about data privacy, most of us seem to be very comfortable with the Internet as it is. And given how complex and baffling a concept like blockchain is to the uninformed, not everyone is itching to welcome it into their lives.
And then, of course, there’s Silicon Valley itself. Big Tech has an incredible amount of say over what is worth pursuing. Its scale gives it an enormous advantage over potential competitors, and it has the means to either gobble up young companies or to create its own alternative products that can kill off an upstart in its infancy. It is unlikely to willingly give away the data it controls. The good news is, no one is waiting for Big Tech to: “We are not talking to Facebook and Google about whether or not to introduce a complete change where all their business models are completely upended overnight,” Berners-Lee told Fast Company. “We are not asking their permission.”
How soon could we see Web 3.0 arrive?
Numerous projects are actively creating new foundations for the future. There are already Web 3.0 alternatives like Handshake, which seamlessly redirect users to Web 2.0 when something only exists there—enabling people to use the technology of the future without sacrificing the familiarity of the present. It is difficult to predict the rate at which similar Web 3.0 functions will be created. Past iterations of the Web took decades to develop, so it is impossible to say with confidence exactly when a full-fledged Web 3.0 will exist. But with each year, as its values spread to a larger part of the developer community, more and more of its apps become available to curious users. Blockchain technology grows faster and stronger, and Web 3.0 gets even closer to becoming reality.