Web 3.0 is a buzzword that has been floating around the depths of the internet in recent years and is a term that is often used synonymously with Blockchain technology. I remember when I had first started seeing and hearing, “Web 3.0,” tossed around in various publications and articles, I didn’t fully grasp or comprehend what on earth people were referring to. I remember thinking, “Web 3.0? I’ve never even heard of Web 1.0 or 2.0, what happened to those and how are we already onto Web 3.0?”
With literally no idea what Web 1.0 or 2.0 were, wondering if I had missed out on something important, sort of like accidentally stumbling into Lord of the Rings 3 without witnessing the magic of the first two, the FOMO was strong in me and I knew I had to do some digging to learn more. So, if you are in a similar position wondering just what all this talk is about “Web 3.0,” and if it is all making about as much sense to you as trying to watch the Elf scenes in LOTR without subtitles then you have come to the right place as I am going to break it all down here and get everyone all caught up and up to speed.
History of the Web
When people talk about Web 1.0, 2.0 and 3.0 it is important to make a distinction that there are about as many different explanations, understanding and definitions of these terms as there are people who use them. It is sort of like if you walked up to 100 different people at a Crypto conference and asked them what cryptocurrency means to them, each person is going to give a different answer which is personal to them. There is no universally agreed on, nor “one size fits all,” description for these terms.
What is Web 1.0?
To understand Web 1.0, we need to crank the clocks way back to the inception of the internet itself. Believe it or not, the internet was created for a completely different purpose than watching cat videos, shopping and reading memes as we use it today. The origins of the internet begin with the Defense Advanced Research Project Agency (DARPA) in the United States in 1969, where some of the most brilliant minds from across the globe came together to work on what was initially conceived as a military communications project. The early internet was mostly comprised of web pages that were joined together by hyperlinks, mainly text only without any visuals and the pages were “read-only,” without the ability to interact with anything in any significant capacity. Essentially, the early internet was basically just a giant depository of ebooks.
Web 1.0 became an incredible resource for the sharing of information, with early government branches, research laboratories, educational facilities and institutions accessing web pages and sharing information as they were able to connect via commercial servers. People would mainly log on just to read about things as there was no read/write functionality and much of the content populating the internet was generated offline first before being uploaded and shared. It wouldn’t be until a few years later where basic chat functionality through a bulletin board system (BBS) would be implemented allowing for the interaction between users.
Eventually, dynamic URLs and further innovation and advancements would evolve the internet and its capabilities, transitioning Web 1.0 to 2.0. The transition between these webs was a gradual process that took place over time as new features and functions were added on top of already existing infrastructures so there is no clear definition or time frame for when Web 1.0 officially became Web 2.0. One tidbit of information that I found interesting, feel free to bust out this fun fact at your next cocktail party to impress most likely nobody, is that advertising was actually banned on Web 1.0 and it would be years until any advertisements at all were allowed to exist on the internet. Difficult to imagine that today.
What is Web 2.0?
Web 2.0 is where things get exciting and is basically the internet as we know it today, featuring our favourite shopping websites, video streaming platforms, Crypto articles, video games, social media sites, you name it! A simple example that helps visualize the transition from Web 1.0 to 2.0 can be explained through an example of what it would have been like for an eCommerce store. An eCommerce store built on Web 1.0 would have been like a shopping magazine with some basic images and text that a user could scroll and read through but that would be about it. Web 2.0 is what enabled all the additional integrations and features like being able to add items to a shopping cart, check out, pay by credit card, and leave a review for others to read. Web 2.0 would also bring about the revolution of user-generated content in which everyday end-users such as you or I could create things and have them posted to the internet such as this article, or those embarrassing and cringy Facebook posts from back when we were in high school. Who reading this remembers MySpace?
The concept of Web 2.0 was coined by web pioneer Dale Dougherty, an O’Reilly VP (the media company, not the auto parts store) in 2004. Web 2.0 is often referred to as the “Social Web”, “Wisdom Web”, “People-Centric Web”, “Participative Web”, and “Read/Write Web” as this would be the first time that humanity could share information on a global scale and easily socialize and pass wisdom, (or cat videos) to anywhere in the world nearly instantaneously. This era ushered in user-generated content on a scale that was never before possible with things like blogging, video sharing, chatting, voice messaging, emails and social media posts. The “Social Web,” reached mass scale adoption quicker than any other technological advancement in history and would hold that claim until Bitcoin would come along a number of years later.
What is Web 3.0?
The concept of Web 3.0 isn’t exactly new as early pioneers who were present from the transition from Web 1.0 to Web 2.0 had the foresight to know that the evolution to Web 3.0 would eventually happen, just as even now there are already early discussions about Web 4.0 and 5.0 though we have barely broken into Web 3.0. The first concept of Web 3.0 comes from Bernes-Lee, a British computer scientist who is credited with the invention of the World Wide Web, coining the concept of Web 3.0 all the way back in 1999. As Web 2.0 is often referred to as the “Social Web,” Web 3.0 is often referred to as the “Semantic Web.”
Bernes-Lee had a vision that the Semantic web would be capable of analyzing all the data on the internet, allowing machines to handle many tasks without human intervention. Much of the capabilities that Lee had imagined the internet would develop back in 1999 have already come to fruition, though a more recent denomination for what Web 3.0 would comprise of came to light in 2006 by John Markoff of the New York Times. Instead of the “Semantic Web,” Markoff would refer to Web 3.0 as “The Intelligent Web,” and would state that it would have 5 characteristics.
The 5 Characteristics of the Intelligent Web:
- Semantic Web – Web 3.0 goes beyond focusing on keywords and numeric values so that it understands content like photo, video, or audio and more complex associations between products, locations, and specific behaviours.
- Artificial Intelligence – Artificial intelligence software is able to decrypt natural language and understand intention. It can also recognize real from fake and provide more reliable data.
- 3D Graphics – The third generation of the internet should integrate the use of 3D graphics and VR technologies to provide results regarding real-life places, diverse products, and objects of interest.
- Connectivity – Within web 3.0, information is more connected through semantic metadata, leveraging all the available information.
- Ubiquity – Data silos are eliminated. Every device should be connected to the network and content is operable by different applications.
It is quite clear that all five of those characteristics are currently evolving and shaping the internet as we know it. Technological advancements are happening in each of those areas to create a more advanced version of the internet from the one we use today.
One of my favourite descriptions of the internet was explained simply as being the entire combined knowledge of humanity accessible to everyone. Web 3.0 promises to establish this information in a more reasonable way than is currently possible with the limitations that exist within the current engine schema for companies such as Google. Web 3.0 necessitates the use of declarative ontological languages like Web Ontology Language (OWL) to produce domain-specific ontologies that machines can use for intelligent reasoning; making conclusions and not just matching keywords, enabling machines to process content in a more humanlike way.
But what does Web 3.0 have to do with Blockchain Technology and Crypto?
For the first time in human history, Blockchain technology provides a reliable mechanism that is based purely on clearly defined and indisputable mathematics rather than erroneous, frail and emotionally biased human nature. This allows for the trust and integrity behind the critical systems and functions that run our daily lives. We already trust calculators over our own mental arithmetic capabilities, Blockchain is kind of like that, but for many other and higher impact areas of our lives with use cases ranging across all industries such as finance, health care, supply chain logistics, gaming, farming and agriculture and more. Blockchain technology is already being interwoven into traditional Web 2.0 with an entirely separate Web 3.0 framework being built on networks such as Ethereum.
The rise of technology such as distributed ledgers and Blockchain allows for data decentralization and an environment for transparent, verifiable, tamper-proof and secure data transmissions and transactions. Blockchain integration into Web 3.0 will allow for the ability to overcome Web 2.0’s current issues with centralization, surveillance and exploitative/manipulative advertising, while also providing the framework to support a decentralized infrastructure that will have the ability to displace centralized tech giants, meaning that individuals will be able to rightfully own their own data.
If Web 3.0 adopts and utilizes Blockchain technology and infrastructure in a decentralized manner on a mass scale, this will enable individuals to be truly sovereign, owning and controlling who profits from their time online. A decentralized web will allow users to dictate how they wish to be compensated for their time and data, removing the previous, less than ethical practices from tech giants who are profiting, making billions each year off the exploitation of user data.
We are already seeing early progress in this area with the millions of users (myself included) who have migrated browsers from Google Chrome to the Brave Browser which incorporates elements of Web 3.0 and Blockchain capabilities which allows users to be compensated fairly for their time watching adverts or can choose to turn off tracking cookies and advertisements altogether, freeing them from the surveillance and manipulative practices of tech giants.
It is important to clarify that Web 3.0 does not automatically mean decentralization, and there is going to be a serious uphill battle if this utopian dream shared by millions will make it to fruition.
Web 3.0 and Decentralization
As I mentioned earlier, Web 3.0 and Blockchain technology are often used synonymously which can be misleading and not exactly accurate. There is nothing in the technological framework of Web 3.0 that states that it has to be built on, nor utilize Blockchain technology at all. Though I think it is a fair assumption that Blockchain technology will continue to further develop, be integrated into, and play a massive role in the advancement of Web 3.0 as we have already seen happen across many industries.
This brings us to another disconnect in understanding and that is that many people assume that Blockchain technology automatically means decentralization. Many people are currently under the incorrect assumption that Web 3.0 + Blockchain technology = decentralization, which is not the case. On the contrary, it could actually lead to the complete opposite!
While many of us appreciate that Blockchain technology has the capability of creating a decentralized, true peer-to-peer framework, the opposite is also true. Blockchain technology can also lead to the opposite of freedom and decentralization and lead to authoritative control and centralization on steroids! This is why one of the biggest concerns in the Blockchain space is a government-backed and controlled central bank digital currency (CBDC). Be sure to check out Guy’s video on why this is such a dire concern that is shared by many. This brings me to the next segment, and that is, “the problem.”
Why the Push for a Decentralized Web 3.0?
While Blockchain does have the ability to free us from authoritarian regimes and tech giants that monitor and manipulate every aspect of our online presence, it also has the capability of putting us under the thumbs of governments more than ever before. If the government decided to do away with cash and only utilize a central bank digital currency or adopt a centralized internet infrastructure, they could have full control over every penny that goes into your bank account, monitor every penny that leaves your bank account, track every single purchase you make, or website you visit. In an extreme but possible scenario, they could even have full control over what information a nation is allowed to access on the internet or control the entire monetary supply. Sounds like a world that I would certainly not want to live in. Starting to sound like George Orwell’s 1984 to anyone else?
“Big Brother is Watching You” George Orwell’s Terrifying Classic about Government Manipulation and Control in the famous novel 1984. Image via massacinzentadotblog
Many people may be reading this thinking, “oh well, I don’t do anything illegal nor have anything to hide,” but it isn’t just about legalities. This could give the government the power to restrict basic freedoms that we take for granted. You want to attend a protest or speak out about something you believe in? Well, the government could step in and block funds from your account for a month for something as little as not liking your political post on social media. What if they decided that every adult can only have two pints of beer a week? (Tragic!) They could automatically block payments to any alcohol-related purchases. If they controlled centralized access to the internet they would surely block an article like this from being written and block you from reading it, suppressing free speech similar to what we have already seen on a mass scale in North Korea and China. Have I painted a dire enough picture yet? I think you get the point.
As if that isn’t enough of a reason to push for a decentralized Web 3.0, as I have already briefly touched on, many of the exploits of tech giants are downright creepy and unethical, damaging society by furthering social divides between opposing viewpoints, and manipulating outcomes of major events such as political elections and Brexit. Big tech companies have overstepped their boundaries and these perversions affect all of us, with many articles now being released on how social media giants are exploiting and undermining democracy. There have been some very insightful and deeply disturbing documentaries come to light recently that show how people are essentially being used as livestock, being manipulated and exploited by big tech companies such as Facebook, Google and Amazon. Companies like Facebook, (who also own Instagram) have been discovered secretly sharing and selling our private information to third parties for various reasons such as creating psychographic profiles on users to influence political campaigns and being sold to marketing and advertising companies so they can leverage that information to target us for advertising.
These unethical acts by the likes of Facebook have seen the company land in hot water and in the courtroom on multiple occasions. Facebook has been accused of, and have stood trial for some of the worst crimes that exist in our society. I’m talking big ones like propagating hate speech that fueled genocide and war crimes in Myanmar and being accused of human rights abuse, driving multiple “Anti Facebook,” movements globally. If you have not yet seen the documentaries, “The Social Dilemma,” or, “The Creepy Line,” about how social media and tech giants are manipulating society, I highly urge you to watch them and understand the dastardly deeds and intentions of many of these companies that we interact with daily. Try and watch them without throwing your computer out the window out of fear, disgust, and anger, and then you will understand why decentralization is so important.
As we are finding out more and more about the shenanigans behind some of these tech giants and how we are being manipulated, people are understandably furious and are looking for an alternative. These realizations are resulting in just one of the driving factors towards this revolution and adoption of a decentralized Web 3.0 built on Blockchain technology.
Current Implementations of Web 3.0
As I mentioned earlier in the article, Web 3.0 does not necessarily mean Blockchain technology integration, but for the remainder of this article, we will be working under the assumption that the two will be further developed together and working hand in hand, and each mention of Web 3.0 should be assumed that it will have Blockchain woven into the framework of the internet. Blockchain technologies such as Bitcoin, or more so, Ethereum are already providing the early, basic framework needed for Web 3.0 and we have seen many use cases already implemented and built on this technological innovation. Remember how the Internet was the fastest adopted technological innovation of all time? Well, the trajectory of crypto and blockchain adoption is surpassing early internet adoption meaning it is already here in many forms and will likely continue its exponential growth into the daily lives of internet users everywhere.
Finance is the largest industry in which Blockchain technology has made a massively disruptive impact and for good reason. 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 such as Ethereum have provided a framework that is replacing the trust that has been lost in the traditional finance space, helping eliminate corruption, reducing costs and increasing efficiency by rebuilding financial applications that can potentially replace all the legacy services that currently exist across the entire financial space.
Decentralized finance applications such as Aave are already providing many of the services of traditional banks, allowing users to lend their crypto out to earn interest and borrow cash against their crypto holdings, in a far superior method to banks. Decentralized finance applications are already providing users with the ability to borrow against collateral, lend, invest, get a mortgage, and even purchase insurance nearly instantaneously avoiding all the red tape and restrictions imposed by banks and without needing to pay their extortionate fees and criminal interest rates. The concept of a peer-to-peer financial system is a truly amazing thing.
As people have become tired of banks making billions off the backs of their customers, providing little in return unless you are happy with the 0.01% interest rate they pay you on your savings accounts and being charged 20% interest to use their credit cards, millions of users have turned to Decentralized Finance (DeFi) enjoying returns that are much higher than what is offered in traditional finance. I could talk about how superior DeFi is to traditional finance all day, but to avoid those weeds, you can learn more about DeFi here. At the time of writing there is over 100 billion dollars locked up in DeFi protocols where millions of users are enjoying higher returns, less red tape and bureaucracy and their best chance at reaching a level of financial health than the banks will ever be able to compete with. DeFi adoption is a trend that has seen exponential growth, a trend that is expected to continue as younger generations are trusting more of their wealth to Blockchain technology and DeFi applications than the legacy financial system.
Web 3.0 is also already blurring the lines between reality and digital reality, which is having a huge impact in the video game, fashion and medical industries. I am sure you have no doubt heard all about the “metaverse” in recent weeks with Facebook and Microsoft getting involved in a big way, pouring billions of dollars into creating their own virtual worlds, and decentralized metaverses like Decentraland, the Sandbox and Bloktopia being featured all over YouTube. Web 3.0 and Blockchain technology is impacting the multi-billion dollar gaming industry and creating an entirely new economic landscape utilizing a play-to-earn model which could fundamentally disrupt our current economic system as I have covered ad nauseam here, here and here. With things like virtual reality, augmented reality and Metaverses already in play, these are the early days of Web 3.0
Blurring the lines between reality and a virtual landscape is being referred to as the “Spatial Web,” which will be a much further development of Web 3.0. This will feature enhanced geo-location capabilities, virtual and augmented reality technology and fully immersive metaverses so realistic it will be difficult to distinguish between virtually augmented objects and real-world objects. While the Spatial Web is far too complex to dive into here, it will essentially be a hyper-realistic mapping of our entire world, with every aspect of life (aside from actually living) being connected and fully interactive. Deloitte writes a fantastic in-depth article about the concept of the Spatial Web here.
Why All This Matters
The transition to Web 3.0 is an inevitable technological evolution, with the capabilities of building on top of, or incorporating Blockchain technology to become a, “people’s” revolution within this technological evolution. Many high profile economists and technologists are referring to Blockchain technology as being, “the Fourth Industrial Revolution,” with fantastic papers such as the appropriately titled Shaping the Fourth Industrial Revolution by Klaus Schwab, the Founder and Executive Chairman of the World Economic Forum with a foreword by Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft being written, published and studied at length within academia and business circles. There was also a great report from the European Parliament titled, How Blockchain Technology Could Change our Lives, a 28 page read if you want to go further down the rabbit hole as one article alone could never do the innovation behind Blockchain technology enough justice. If this technology is disruptive enough to have the attention of the World Economic Forum, and government officials around the globe, it is worth knowing something about.
There are many who support this revolution as it provides a glimmer of hope for a future of a peer-to-peer, trustless decentralized infrastructure that can support a monetary system, healthcare system, (basically any infrastructure system) and the free passing of information without bias or manipulation as these infrastructures and systems will not be controlled by any central authority pushing their agendas, effectively freeing us from the shackles of governments and institutions who value profit over human life.
Then there are others who feel this is a pipe dream, a utopian, possibly anarchic, libertarian vision which will likely never come to fruition as those same authoritarian regimes that people want saving from are also adopting and utilizing Blockchain technology and Web 3.0 to ensure that they will adapt to, and change with these innovations, not allowing themselves to be replaced or become redundant which is also a highly likely scenario. Either scenario is okay by me, as it may not be as purely utopian as many would like, but it is still a vast improvement over the current issues that exist in the Web 2.0 space, and repairing some of which is broken.
While some dream of a Blockchain utopia, other’s fear a Blockchain authoritarian regime, let’s strip back the biases, hopes and fears and look at the facts. Regardless of what future you believe Blockchain and Web 3.0 will lead to, Blockchain technology has some major benefits and near limitless potential, only being limited mainly by human innovation and imagination.
The key defining trait for Web 3.0 will not be a utopian system, it will not be a decentralized system, it will not be a peer-to-peer monetary or any other type of system or infrastructure, it will not be full immersion into a virtual metaverse. While all those are potential features, traits, and products of Web 3.0, the key defining trait of Web 3.0 will simply be verifiability. Regardless of what future Web 3.0 paints, the one trait that will transcend all possible outcomes is that every piece of data for every single transaction that happens on Blockchain will be tamper-proof, time-stamped, and publicly recorded so anyone can verify and authenticate data transmissions. That key, simple feature is what is most impactful about this technology. When transactions are publicly verifiable there is no longer any need to “take someone’s word,” or trust that someone is telling the truth, everything is 100% transparent on the Blockchain.
We have no idea what is happening with our data or identities as we continue to spend more of our days and upload more of ourselves online, where is that information going and how is it being used? Web 3.0 will add a layer of much-needed transparency and honesty, and force everyone to be more ethical and moral than they are today. Combine verifiability with Smart-contract functionality built on top of that tech and we are now living in a society where everything is executed like clockwork, with calculator type precision, removing distrust, third party intervention, manipulation, deceit and human error across countless scenarios.
Biases still set to the side, Web 3.0 will fundamentally expand the scope of what is possible between human and machine interactions and expand on the already existing seamless peer to peer payment networks, richer information flows, and trusted data transfers without counterparties as is already enjoyed by Cryptocurrency users today. This technological revolution will support the emergence of endless and unimaginable new economic and business models such as empowering global co-operative groups, decentralized autonomous organizations and self-sovereign and self-governed marketplaces. This is meaningful because:
Societies will become more efficient by transferring value peer-to-peer, being able to cut third-party intermediaries, returning value directly to the buyers and suppliers in a market. One of my favourite projects already developing in this space is Authentium, which is utilizing Blockchain technology to cut third party, often exploitive intermediaries in the supply chain industry, allowing higher profits to be kept by the farmers and agriculture workers who dirty their hands every day to feed the planet.
Mutual ownership and governance of decentralised systems can allow for collaboration and incentivization through new economic models to solve complex and sophisticated problems.
Individuals will own their own data, no longer being sold to the highest bidder without their consent.
Decentralization solves the problem of platform or company dependency, effectively “future-proofing” entrepreneurial, business, and investment ventures.
Improved security measures, verification and validation as humans, enterprises and machines share information.
While Web 3.0 may or may not bring about the “power to the people,” type revolution that many people hope it will, Blockchain technology will continue to play a massive role across all industries that have anything to do with the internet. This is already quite evident in the fact that governments and tech giants are investing billions of dollars into Blockchain infrastructure. While Web 3.0 is transitioning us into a future that will blend reality with virtual reality, incorporate aspects of machine learning and artificial intelligence to make our interactions with devices more human-like, the Blockchain layer adds a very interesting proposition to what will be possible in both our digital and physical lives.
The rise of decentralized autonomous organizations (DAOs) built on Blockchain is certainly an interesting proposition with massive companies like Atari looking to give up control of a branch of their business to the community and many successful businesses and teams such as Uniswap and Compound Finance giving full governance control of their business to their community. DAOs are providing perhaps the fairest and democratic business model humanity has ever enjoyed.
Blockchain’s integration to Web 3.0 is also already completely reshaping the economic model of the planet as we know it with billions of dollars pouring into decentralized finance platforms, taking money away from the traditional banking and investment industry and traditional investment vehicles like gold and real-estate. Many key strategists and investors in the space such as Raoul Pal and Michael Saylor are referring to this revolution as, “the largest transfer of wealth in human history” and an article from Yahoo stated that 47% of millennial millionaires have at least 25% of their wealth in crypto. These millennials are the innovators and visionaries of tomorrow so if they believe in Blockchain now, it is unlikely that it won’t be incorporated into their future business ventures, or that companies won’t be integrating this tech to entice younger generations, furthering Blockchain development alongside Web 3.0. Interestingly, the United States SEC Chairman Gary Gensler has also recently come out and admitted that Bitcoin directly competes with the U.S. Banking System.
While it is not yet known if Web 3.0 will deliver us from the atrocities that we currently experience in the current broken form of Web 2.0, it is the best shot we have and there are already glimmering oases provided by Web 3.0. Networks like Bitcoin and Ethereum will continue to provide users with refuge from the onslaught we all face during our current day to day Web 2.0 interactions. Web 3.0 may not “smash,” and replace the current system, but it has a great chance of fixing many of the aspects that are broken when it comes to centralization, surveillance, monetizing human data, and humans being treated as second class citizens by our banks, big tech, and often our governments. As my bio states, “Blockchain technology may not be the end-all, be-all, but it is the best chance we have,” and the potential that Blockchain integration has to shape every aspect of our lives as we venture into Web 3.0 is unfathomable.
Disclaimer: These are the writer’s opinions and should not be considered investment advice. Readers should do their own research.