Web3 : The new and improved Internet or just another tech frenzy?
Presented as the next revolution of the Internet, Web3 is part of many conversations. But, it also raises many questions. What does this term really mean? Can Web3 be the next step for the Internet? How does it stand out? Do we need a third-generation Internet? What does it mean for crypto?
In this article, we will attempt to answer these questions. So, let's take a look at the Web of tomorrow and try to understand what's at stake.
Web3 predecessors: Web 1.0 and Web 2.0
Before looking at Web3, it is essential to understand what Web 1.0 and Web 2.0 are in order to clearly identify the challenges and possibilities for the future of the Internet.
The history of Web 1.0 began in 1989 when a visionary named Tim Berners Lee proposed a new protocol called HTTP that allowed you to access web pages. Web 1.0 (or the consultative Web) consisted mainly of static web pages, which we could consult but not really interact with.
Tim Berners Lee, in essence, invented one of the crucial parts for the development of the Internet or the "World Wide Web".
Over the following decades, there were a range of new changes and innovations (smartphones, the cloud, social networks, etc.) that made it possible to create dynamic, interactive, and collaborative websites. As a result, a new class of business emerged - web giants like Facebook (now Meta), Google, Amazon, Uber, Airbnb, and others, offering new ways to shop, entertain, research, interact, create and register for online services .
These companies helped create what is now called Web 2.0 (or the participative Web) - a fantastic evolution of Web 1.0 in some aspects, but a turn for the worse in others.
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You see, the Internet was originally supposed to be decentralised, open, free and censorship-resistant. Unfortunately, we got the opposite.
A huge part of the power and control over both the information and the value created is now in the hands of web giants, which causes a whole bunch of problems that only become apparent when you take a serious look.
With Web 2.0, it is the web giants that control our data. They collect and monetize personal data to make billions of dollars a year, and most of the time, we, the users, don't benefit from it.
Platforms have control over their users and can choose to ban and censor certain users or content that does not suit them. In addition to that, the centralised architecture of Web 2.0 increases the risk of attack, possibly leading to the breakdown of its various platforms and leaks of personal data.
Finally, centralisation also enables the direct or indirect control of platforms by authoritarian governments.
The need for Web3
As a result of all the problems of Web 1.0 and Web 2.0, a change was necessary - a new version of the Internet; a fairer internet where users could take back control over the security and the confidentiality of their personal data, avoid the sometimes unfair censorship of their content on existing platforms and receive a fair share of the revenues generated by the platforms used.
Technologies supporting Web 2.0 cannot make this dream a reality, however, the invention of Bitcoin in 2008 and then Ethereum in 2013 gave us a glimpse into the revolutionary power of blockchain technology and its consensus methods. Thus, we are now starting to see, little by little, the first building blocks of a decentralised Internet which uses blockchain and promises to solve the fundamental problems of Web 2.0.
Fundamentals of the Web3
A simple way to define Web3 is to say that it can be considered a decentralised and open replacement for the current Internet. File storage, databases, web servers, computing power, web browsers, streaming infrastructure, web applications, domain names, data indexing, and even the connectivity of each of the blocks that collectively form the Internet can and probably will be replaced by a decentralised and open alternative.
The major changes brought by Web3:
- Web servers are replaced by infrastructure blockchains like Ethereum or Cardano.
- Classic client-server architectures are replaced by decentralised architectures of computer networks that communicate peer to peer.
- File storage is no longer done on Dropbox or Google Drive but on decentralised alternatives like Filecoin or Sinovate.
- Video and audio streaming is no longer done on YouTube or Spotify but on blockchains such as Theta, Aioz, or Audius.
- Web browsers such as chrome and Firefox are replaced by decentralised alternatives - Brave, for instance.
- Data indexing is no longer done by Google but by decentralised alternatives like The Graph.
- Applications that we use every day like Facebook, Twitter, Uber, Airbnb, and so on are replaced by decentralised applications (DApps), which are applications and protocols that run without the need for a trusted intermediary.
All the initiatives, projects, and protocols presented above are just some examples and are mostly in the early stages of development. That being said, it is impossible to know which of them will survive, but we do have a good overview of the potential directions in which the Internet might go.
One thing that is certain is that Web3 solutions aim to replace or compete with their Web 2.0 counterparts.
The benefits of Web3 and what it means for the crypto world
Although there are too many to list in one article, we need to highlight at least the main benefits of making Web3 a staple in our everyday lives. These benefits range from the ones that will make using the Internet easier and more practical, to the ones that will completely change the way we communicate, do business, manage data privacy and do much more. So, let’s get to know a few:
- Platforms will be permissive, meaning that they will be open and accessible to anyone without the need for getting permission from an outside entity such as a company or a government.
- Open Data and open-source protocols make it easier to use and develop a semantic Web (use of global and open standards). Thanks to semantic Web, the content posted online respects a format that facilitates its reuse in other contexts. More concretely, the tools that manipulate the data can associate them to give them meaning.
- Internet users can, for the first time, take possession of the personal data making up their digital identities, which is linked to their address on the blockchain.
- All users of a platform can hold small pieces of the value of that platform in the form of tokens that are freely exchangeable and define the notion of digital ownership. In other words, we can all participate freely and collaboratively in systems where the common interest (i.e. the development and improvement of the platforms) is aligned with the private interest through the increase in the value of the platform's tokens.
- Instead of having a single entity like a company that has all the control and authority over the platforms, the governance is done democratically by DAOs (Decentralised Autonomous Organisation). The DAOs are communities of Internet users who manage DApps and blockchains in a democratic and decentralised way. Blockchain and crypto are therefore at the heart of the Web3 technological revolution, and the use of tokens or cryptocurrencies as a unit of value of these platforms provides real motivation to contribute to the security as well as the decisions made, and not to abuse the system.
- A lot of industries are going to be completely transformed by Web3. These include decentralised finance (Aave, Uniswap, Compound, etc.), NFTs (Non-Fungible Tokens), crypto gaming (Enjin, Ultra UOS, etc.) and the Metaverse (Decentraland, Sandbox, Aavegotchi, etc.).
All these innovations are examples of use cases and benefits of Web3, and there will be many more to come.
The Web3 development challenges
Even if the vision of Web3 is powerful, there are still many challenges to overcome, whether they are technological, ideological, financial, or organisational. Here are some of the most prominent ones.
Firstly, as Web3 is mostly ideologically driven, it is difficult to align people on what it is, even within the projects that participate in its creation. For some people, Web3 stands for "infrastructures are decentralised", for others it stands for "politically decentralised" or "its logic is decentralised". Of course, this does not help the users to understand and adopt Web3 protocols.
Another major problem is the lack of funding and a sustainable business model. If the adoption of advertising as the main way to finance the Web was a mistake, the alternatives are far from obvious. Thus, it is rare to see current Web3 projects with a real monetization method. Instead, the majority of them are self-financed.
In addition, the majority of Web3 projects are less than two or three years old and are conceptually difficult to understand. Web3 is, therefore, brand new, so it is not surprising that it is misunderstood. For that reason, users need to be educated on the advantages of using Web3 protocols over their centralised counterparts.
This emerging situation also induces technological consequences making the road to adoption an uphill struggle as the infrastructure needs to improve. Moreover, one of the most frustrating points for developers is the lack of documentation, tutorials, or videos to help them.
Finally, another big challenge for the development of Web3 is the resistance of Web 2.0 companies as well as some totalitarian states or institutions. Those who are accused of monopolising value on the Internet have not said their last word and will probably not let the golden goose go without a fight.
Despite significant challenges, Web3 seems to be full of promise. It represents a transition from a closed, centralised Internet dominated and controlled by large platforms whose value is owned by corporations, to a decentralised, open, democratically-controlled Internet directly and completely owned by its users.
Web3 is not only a different technological architecture; it is a different philosophical approach that has the potential to solve the problems of the current Internet as well. It is also the embodiment of what is called the Internet of Value - an Internet where everyone can hold and exchange digital possessions but also invest and own a part of the value of the system.
All of this is made possible thanks to the invention of several basic building blocks that did not exist before and will revolutionise the Internet. These building blocks include blockchains, smart contracts, Defi, DApps, tokens, NFTs and DAOs.
However, the most important thing to understand is that what we covered in this article is only the tip of the iceberg, and that, in the next few years, we will probably be able to enjoy the same comfort and functionality provided by Web 2.0 but with all the advantages of Web3.
Web3 will have a multitude of other effects on our lives that we do not yet suspect, but that is normal since we are at the very beginning of this technological revolution. We are without a doubt excited to see what is to come! How about you?