Jan 28, 2022
A little over 30 years ago, the first web page was created at CERN, imagined by Sir Tim Berners-Lee, and fellow scientists. They wisely determined that the web should remain an open standard for all to use. Web 2.0 transitioned the internet from sharing information to the age of social media, allowing users to create, share and collaborate without needing web design or technical skills. As the euphoria dies down, we’ve now encountered the flipside of this social revolution, with its power to influence and misinform, and the issues of data privacy. The Cambridge Analytica scandal proved the power of data to literally elect world powers.
Dubbed Web 3.0, the third generation of the web is already making waves, because it promises to return to the initial euphoria of the World Wide Web, and give the power back to users. This means:
Through massive innovation in mobile, social media, and cloud technologies, Web 2.0 touches the everyday lives of billions of people across the world. The dynamic nature of its pages means that users consume information, communicate better, enjoy interactive experiences, and generate content that can, in turn, inform creators and developers on areas for improvement. However, its fundamental shortcomings cannot be dismissed lightly. Apprehensions around the lack of autonomy users have over personal data, increasing government control, and the predominance of a few, large intermediaries over web content are well founded.
Web 3.0 aspires to be even more life-altering in expanding the scope of internet applications. Plus, it aims to address these pain-points in a comprehensive manner and by becoming more human centric. Web 3.0 will be underpinned by blockchain technologies that enable, edge computing, and artificial intelligence. Its operations will rely on decentralized and autonomous data networks, public digital ledgers, peer-to-peer communications, cryptocurrency, smart contracts and tokenization. All of this means fundamental and welcome changes for users.
So how will Web 3.0 take away the power from data monopolizing corporations and authoritarian, anti-social governments and give it back to users? By re-structuring the transactional nature of the World Wide Web and re-defining the value that users extract.
The biggest differentiators for users are:
Blockchain will ensure all transactional data is verified and immutably stored in a public, digitized ledger that is available across the peer-to-peer network. We might even think of the system as being permissionless since anyone, a user or provider, should be able to engage in consensus validation within the network without taking explicit permission from a governing body or an intermediary. Such a system is inherently trust-less as no single entity owns or has authority over it, and none of the participants need to know or trust each other or rely on an intermediary for the system to function. They only need to trust the system itself – this trust is built and distributed between participants through redefining the economic transactions and incentivizing ethical and honest behavior of those complying with network security guidelines, for instance.
Incentivization of operations, transactions, and behavior – in short, everything that makes the system work smoothly – is a desirable outcome of such a network and offered to service, data and content providers, which includes users as well.
The vision for Web 3.0 is to
We see blockchain being adopted across a widening range of services – from managing individual land records, passports/visas, social security to applications that intersperse multiple entities such as banking. A step towards the new reality, Opera recently brought out a beta version of its Web3 Crypto Browser with a non-custodial wallet to support blockchains.
There will be a greater prevalence of computing resources pushed out to the edge of the network and closer to the source of the data (such as phones, computers, everyday appliances, sensors, and vehicles) in lieu of/addition to centralized, legacy data centers. Incentivization will be a major factor here – for example, a user would be encouraged to barter or trade their personal data on their health, vehicle location, performance reviews on appliances etc. without having to give up ownership rights or privacy and operate independent of an intermediary’s intervention.
While the web’s newest iteration has many gaps to be bridged and its share of sceptics who consider it vaporware, Web 3.0 aspires to bring together the best of both worlds – the human-centric and machine-driven – to democratize the internet. In the attempt to breach technology’s next frontier, it continues to evolve and is more likely to coexist with, rather than replace Web 2.0 in the near future.