What Is Web3 and Is It the Next Internet?
If you’ve been online for the last couple of months you must have been flooded by news regarding the Metaverse and Web3 being the next digital revolution. Promised to be the best iteration of the Internet yet, Web3 is a concept some users love while some find skeptical. But what exactly is this Web3 and does it actually affect you? If you’re confused about it and want to find out more, you’re at the right place. This explainer will tell you all about Web3. So strap yourself in and let us begin.
What Is Web3
While this explainer will tell you all about Web3, I will also take the time to explain other related concepts including Web 1.0 and the Metaverse. However, if you would rather just skip to the definition, use the table below to do so.
What Are Web 1.0 and 2.0?
In order to understand what Web3 essentially is, we first need to go back in time and learn about the previous iterations of the Internet.
In its infancy, the first stage of the Internet was dubbed Web 1.0. During the time period of 1994-2004, Web 1.0 was essentially a collection of static HTML pages that users could visit. Also known as Read-Only Internet, Web 1.0 could only be accessed and not contributed to. Unless you had a working knowledge of coding languages, you could visit Web 1.0’s static pages and explore it like a giant Wikipedia directory.
Web 2.0 however, changed that in a big way. New web technologies post 2004 introduced opportunities for companies to capitalize on this iteration. Web 2.0 ushered in the era of companies like Facebook, YouTube, and many more. For the first time, the Internet became a two sided conversation in which users could not only view but generate their own content and contribute. Whether it was posting images on Facebook or uploading videos on YouTube, possibilities started opening up. This same functionality extended to mobile applications of these platforms that slowly started to come out.
Privacy vs Convenience
However, with Web 2.0 came some downsides. Existing to this day and talked about a lot, the most persistent of them are privacy concerns and data abuse. Once social media companies realized that a user’s data could be profitable, the world of third-party advertisers opened up. User data tracking became part of the conversation and targeted advertising entered. From the exact commute one makes every day to the type of Google searches a user does, everything is cataloged and then used to build an advertising profile. This same profile is then used to show users like you and me targeted ads on social media platforms. Web 2.0 continues to this day and is the version of the Internet you and I are on.
Since Web 2.0 is the current version of the Internet, the above problems still exist. A lot of users consider Web 2.0 to be centralized in a strong way. What this means is that instead of freedom for online users, all their data is stored and controlled by a select few companies in the business also known as ‘Big Tech‘. This data is mostly stored on a few select servers and is at the mercy of the owners who run the infrastructure.
When it comes to targeted advertising and data cataloging, a lot of Internet users in 2022 consider the saying that ‘the user is the product‘. However, a lot of users have also accepted this trade of data as a necessary evil to enjoy the various services like social media on Web 2.0. Since the Internet is on a global scale, there are only a few ways to avoid this. The most efficient way being is to stop using the Internet altogether. Since that is not really feasible, the concept of Web3 is so interesting.
What Is Web3?
Note: You might have seen Web 3.0 being described as the ‘Semantic Web‘, a concept founded by the ‘father of the Internet’ Sir Tim-Berners-Lee. However, the term Web3 is a distinct concept coined by Ethereum co-founder Gavin Wood in 2014.
Also figured by many to be the evolution of the current Internet, Web3 is a concept that revolves around an Internet that will be focused on decentralization, freedom, and anonymity. Theoretically, Web3’s foundation will be built on blockchain technology and will incorporate distributed computing. A big reason for this is because Web3 is supposed to be an attempt that takes power away from the big companies thereby decentralizing it.
Decentralize: To take away control from a select few members/companies and distribute it among the larger masses.
Distributed Computing: The process of linking together multiple computers as servers so as to share processing power and optimize sharing data.
A Decentralized Web
Currently, in Web 2.0, almost all of the popular social media sites and services we utilize are owned by big companies and corporations. For instance – As a general user, your social media usage might consist of browsing through Instagram and Facebook. You very well must use WhatsApp for messaging and calls. This gives the companies control over your data and what they do with it. However, most of all, this gives them control over you as a user. While there are certain parts of your data you can have removed, there is no real guarantee about its deletion.
Blockchain technology is slowly coming up to be another way to store data online. Based on the concept of distributed computing, data on the blockchain is split (Sharding), copied, and stored across a number of computers. So instead of your data being on a select company server, it might be across hundreds of computers. This grants data security and privacy. How?
Since Blockchain is focused on security through encryption, the data is assigned a security key. Without these keys, nobody but the owner can access the data. This includes any company or even the government. So even if a country were to ask for access, they won’t be able to without the proper decryption keys.
Since the files themselves will be across potentially thousands of computers, no single person can delete or modify the file without the keys or permission of the entire network. This also means that if a single or even dozens of the computers get taken out, your copied data can safely exist on the network. A potential Web3 network aims to employ these two core concepts into its infrastructure and hence why blockchain technology is important to it. However, there is more.
Trustless and Permissionless
Some other concepts fundamental to Web3 include it being Trustless and Permissionless.
A trustless network means that two parties involved in a transaction will not need to trust each other to commence it. This eliminates the need to have a third party like a reputed bank oversee the transaction. This is not the case in our current web since most transactions take place through a third-party system that may or may not be trusted. For instance – In a trustless system, User A can directly send Bitcoin to User B without the need for a third party. Since the transaction happens through Blockchain, User A does not need to trust User B for it. This also ensures that no third party can hijack this instance since it’s happening on the blockchain network.
A permissionless network eliminates the need for users to seek approval from anyone before performing transactions. So you can easily send and receive currency across to people without having to seek permission from any third party. This should mean extended freedom across Web3 for its users.
Making You the Owner
After reading all of this, you might be starting to like the idea of Web3. The above points make Web3 out to be an evolution of the Internet that gives back control to the user. Instead of giving control to a single entity or company, the Internet itself is poised to become more democratic. Furthermore, since your data itself will be in your control, this should in theory reduce or even eliminate its misuse. A user on Web3 can share their data online and decide who gets to access it and always be in full control. While this sounds amazing, there are also a few downsides to this. I’ll be discussing these below. First let’s talk about another concept you’ve been seeing a lot these days, The Metaverse.
How Does the Metaverse Relate to Web3?
You might have already seen some companies online referring to the Metaverse and Web3 together. If you’re someone with no idea about the Metaverse, I suggest checking out our explainer on what is the Metaverse first. However, to summarize it, the Metaverse is a digital universe that will combine a host of technologies into an entire online universe.
Many users online associate Web3 with the Metaverse even though they are very different concepts. However, the basic idea of involving the Metaverse in Web3 is that the former can be used to create immersive experiences that overlap both. So instead of just browsing a website in Web3, you might be able to use technologies like Virtual Reality to access the entire Web3 while using your digital controllers or even hands. The inherent connection that users make with both terms is the importance of digital currency in Web3. Since the Metaverse itself is poised to be basically another universe, it would make sense that cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin would be used inside it.
However, while a lot of people confuse the two terms, it is important to note that Web3 can exist without the Metaverse. But that hasn’t stopped the Metaverse from taking off by itself either. Besides just simple experiences, the Metaverse is evolving. From accessing the Metaverse on the Quest 2 to NFT Avatars, there’s a lot on offer. As for their combined existence, both the Web3 and the Metaverse are concepts under construction right now. Only time will tell if a legitimate and popular combination of both pops up.
Okay so all the users get freedom and everything is hunky-dory on Web3. But what about all the current companies; where do they go? This is where the existence of DAO comes in. Short for Decentralized Autonomous Organization, DAO is a concept in Web3. A DAO in theory is a group or a company that follows a set of rules through a Smart Contract that is coded inside the blockchain. This contract itself works in an unbiased way and must be followed by every member of the DAO. However, this code is also automated and in theory should take care of all the processes including legal, social, promotion, hiring, etc.
Besides freedom, a DAO lacks any type of centralization. This means there are no CEOs or Board Members inside a DAO. All the aspects inside the Organisation are changed based on a vote basis. Votes translate to having tokens that are distributed for a price when a DAO is launched. The more tokens a member has, the more voting power they get. This also gives the token holder the power to suggest changes to the DAO’s code so it may evolve or improve over time. Users can also put their tokens up for sale if they want to. However, this also in a way works against equal thinking since users with most tokens can skew the DAO to their own advantage.
No aspect of the DAO can be changed without proper voting procedures. Moreover, all the financial data inside a DAO cannot be stolen or erased since they exist on the blockchain. There are some examples of DAOs already in action. DAOs like MakerDAO and MetaCartel have been in existence for a few years now.
Will Artificial Intelligence (A.I) Be Involved in Web3?
A lot of users speculate that Artificial Intelligence has a role to play in Web3. Since the concept of Web3 involves some aspects that require automatic decision, we just might see AI involved in the process.
Downsides of Web3
While Web3 sounds good in theory, there are some red flags that have yet to be properly discussed. Some of these downsides are:
1. Bad Actors
One of the principal concepts behind Web3 is the amount of freedom each and every user has. Full control of one’s data to the point it can’t be deleted without permission sounds good. However, the same freedom can quickly become a dual-edged sword. Since this freedom translates to everyone, it opens up room for malicious folks looking to post harmful and illegal things on Web3.
A good example of this is Odysee, a video-sharing website built on the blockchain. Users on Odysee can upload and share videos and have full control over them. However, this also means that the website itself has no control over the kind of content that is uploaded. So if videos in bad taste were to do rounds on the website, Odysee will not be able to remove it. Since the content itself exists on the blockchain permanently, it cannot be removed without the entire network’s permission. Moreover, the same video can then be downloaded and shared with a plethora of users without any consequences.
The same problem exists with too much anonymity. A fundamental concept of Web3 is the ability to have a digital identity that is separate from your real one. While that is amazing for privacy, the same anonymity can be again be used for illicit purposes. Moreover, the lack of oversight when it comes to Web3 is concerning for not just people but for governments. Since Web3 is only a little more than a concept, we will see how much actual freedom it ends up getting from governments and companies.
2. Difficult to Regulate
Since the above disadvantage of Web3 is a real threat, it makes sense that governments and regulatory organizations would seek to control it. However, with the lack of any certain mainframe, regulating Web3 can be difficult. This can lead to an increase in cybercrimes such as the ones described above.
3. Who Will Own Web3?
While the concepts of freedom from Big Tech and safety are rampant in Web3, there are people who are skeptical. Most notably, Twitter’s Ex-CEO Jack Dorsey believes that Web3 is just another iteration that will have different owners but with the same problems. He said as much in his Tweet about Web3. How this plays out, however, only time will tell.
4. Higher Cost of Entry
There is also skepticism regarding the exact amount of entry that will be required to access Web3. While there is no cost to logging online, using the blockchain itself will require a system that has above-average specifications. Since PC configurations vary across the world, it’s safe to assume not everyone will be able to access Web3 efficiently.
5. Tough for Existing Businesses
If the implementation of Web3 goes right then the world will slowly start to shift to it. However, that will put a strain on businesses to shift their market to Web3 or risk losing profits. Since not every business will be able to do that, it stands to reason that the shift to Web3 will be damaging for some businesses.
Examples of Web3 in Practice
While worldwide Web3 implementation is not here yet, there are full-fledged ventures that exist on the Blockchain. You might even have heard about some of these. The most popular examples of Web3 are:
Perhaps the most heard of example on this list, Bitcoin is a digital currency that has risen in ranks and defined cryptocurrency. Bitcoin itself is based on the blockchain and is decentralized. If you’ve done even a little research on crypto, you must already have seen the effect BTC has had in the cryptocurrency market and even the Metaverse.
One of the most famous websites in the crypto community, OpenSea (visit) is an online marketplace that is dedicated to the sale and purchase of Non-Fungible-Tokens (NFTs). If that’s hard to understand then just think of OpenSea as a big Amazon or eBay for digital collectibles. Users can sort across an innumerable number of collections and purchase NFTs they believe are suited to them. OpenSea itself is built on the Ethereum Blockchain and continues to be extremely popular among the digital community.
We have talked about social media that is intrusive but what about one that is built on the Blockchain itself? diaspora (visit) is a non-profit user owned social media platform where users are in control of their data. Based on decentralization, data inside diaspora is held on independently run servers called pods all over the world. diaspora also allows users to mask their identity by using an alias instead of their real name. So if you’re someone who wants to get a feel for what anonymized social media might be on web3, check diaspora out.
What Do You Think About Web3?
I hope all your questions about Web3 have now been answered. While widespread implementation isn’t out yet, if all goes well, we should one day be on Web3. However, if you want to start preparing yourself for it, check out Opera’s Crypto Browser which offers deeper integration into the Web3 ecosystem. Got any more questions you need the answers to? Ask them in the comments below.