Over the past few months, the term “Web 3.0” has been tossed around by tech giants and computer scientists. But what exactly does it mean for users?
What is Web 3.0?
Web 3.0 is the catch-all phrase tech innovators use to describe the next generation of the internet. Many envision it as a full augment from the previous iteration of the internet: whereas web 2.0 was a simple upgrade from web 1.0, web 3.0 will be more complex and will take everything from the first two versions and create an experience that is beyond what they could have offered.
To make sense of this, let’s focus on the first two webs: Web 1.0 was the first version of the internet. It was simple, designed to be a place where people can dump information, usually in the form of block text, like a virtual library. This provided content that users could access and read, but rarely interact with.
Web 2.0, on the other hand, changed the game with websites that allowed people to not just post content but also customize the way users can interact with it. This dynamic approach to web design ushered in the age of digital applications, or apps, as well as social media.
Analysts predict that Web 3.0 will be different, a completely new mindset on how we approach web interaction. Many tech innovators predict that Web 3.0 won’t just change how users access websites; it will also change how developers create websites. For this to happen, computer scientists are looking at developing complex artificial intelligence to make internet functions like search or app development easier and more intuitive. This means that Web 3.0 won’t just be analyzing and comparing keywords, it will also take into account things like context, lexicon, slang, and delve further into human language and intent.
What’s Going to be Different?
Web 1.0 gave us the term “World Wide Web”, and for all intents and purposes, it functioned exactly as its name suggested: a world-wide network of websites. The problem? Most of the websites were static, just pages upon pages of block text with no content to interact with, no user interface to consider, no consideration for user enjoyment. In short, it was boring.
The advancement of technology provided us with faster internet speeds, ushering the age of interactivity. This was Web 2.0. When Web 2.0 happened, it took the world wide web and made it into the internet we all know and love now: a network of sites where users can both observe and participate. This interactivity gave us social media, streaming music, photo journals, online games, and so much more. Web 2.0 was the phenomenon that cemented the internet as the last free frontier; a place where anyone with an internet connection can publish their inner thoughts, no matter how mundane, and create not just content but communities for like-minded individuals.
But like any new piece of technology, it came with a price. Because people shared personal, sometimes intimate, information about themselves, companies took notice. Large corporations started monitoring peoples online habits: search queries, websites visited, medical information, and a lot of sensitive data became available to organizations who were more than willing to sell it to people willing to pay top dollar for that information.
The pioneers of Web 2.0 want to change that. With 3.0, they view an internet that behaved in such a way that it favored its human users, giving them the decency of privacy and freedom to operate as they please. For the tech-savvy, web 3.0 is a digital landscape for people, with no place for faceless corporations and their nefarious schemes.
Web 3.0 intends to be what Web 1.0 wanted to be: the last, great frontier for free speech and democracy.
This kind of internet had been envisioned for some time, with computer scientists and researchers talking about a fair and transparent internet back in the early 2000’s. While the intent was there, the technology was not. But as time went on, these pioneers invented the means of the web’s evolution, central to this was cryptocurrency, a type of digital money that uses a decentralized economy to govern its value.
Web 2.0 created opportunities for the common user to not just express themselves but also find economic sustainability: things like Uber and AirBnB, even Etsy, were all designed for the individual to rely less on corporate machinery. But as time went by and the communities of those sites expanded, the need for privatization and monopoly became apparent.
To counter this, Web 3.0 proponents suggest a crypto-based superstructure that would provide users with a few advantages:
Decentralized Control: At the moment, Web 2.0 provides us access to the internet in exchange for giving up our data to companies. Web 3.0 promises to provide users with fully encrypted data that corporations can neither access nor sell to other companies. Governments will also be barred access to personal information online, and their ability to shut down sites they deem inimical to their national interests will be stifled. In short, no one individual or collective can take control of a person’s data without the latter’s permission.
Data Ownership: Because personal data will be fully controlled by users, they’ll also have the option on how complex their encryption will be, which can be customized to provide websites with only the information the user deems necessary. In Web 2.0, companies like Facebook or Apple have access to information regarding their users browsing habits. While they use this data to ostensibly make their services better, they also use it for another purpose: advertising.
Companies like these make billions of dollars a year for the data they sell. This is no secret; internet companies rarely deny that their users data is being sold. In fact, for you to access their company’s services, every user is made to agree to a EULA (End User Licensing Agreement) that severely favors the company and limits the end user’s rights to data. Web 3.0 will change that.
Cross-platform Usage: Currently, companies have the option of making their applications exclusive to their devices. In doing so, they “lock-in” users to their company. This is problematic because it means that people’s internet access is completely reliant on a single organization’s whims. With Web 3.0, applications will be customizable in such a way that they’ll be accessible from any operating system and device. Not only will this lessen the burden on developers (who, at the moment, have to create multiple versions of their program just to make cross-platform use possible), it also lessens the burden on users: one device or operating system can now access all of the internet without hindrance.
Freedom of Service: Cryptography’s success relies on its decentralized mode of operation. This makes it more secure because there is no single-point where hackers, governments, or corporations can access to disrupt service. Data storage will not be dependent on a single site or server; instead, it will be in distributed nodes with multiple backups. This strengthens data security even more, preventing a full-system failure.
When Will We See It?
Advocates of Web 3.0 believe that it’s already here; personal assistants like Siri or Google Voice and our ever-increasing reliance on the Internet of Things means that simplified searches and intuitive functions are already available.
But skeptics are a little more wary: not only is the Internet of Things still being controlled by profit-driven corporations, governments still have a huge hand in dictating what people can or cannot access on the internet.
So to answer this question, we must contemplate on what we want to see from Web 3.0. Is it just a simple upgrade of how our computers can serve us, or is it a more complex need to access and interact with data freely and without interference from governments or companies?
The future, some say, is here. But is it the future we want?