What is Web3 and what does it mean for your average joe?
Simplified (because it’s about to get a whole lot more confusing), Web3 is the newest version of the internet. By that, we don’t mean the current one has been uninstalled and replaced with something shiny and new. What we actually mean, is that things have been added and updated to the internet we already use in order to keep up with the changing landscape – we’re talking NFTs, the metaverse, AI, and the other revolutionary things that are happening right now.
But before we jump straight into the technical world of Web3 and what it means for the future, it might be pretty handy – for some context of how we got to where we are today – to jump back to where it all began.
This was the earliest internet and the foundation of what we currently have. It started with a few people creating content and web pages for a larger audience, allowing them to access info and facts, and largely to advertise brick-and-mortar businesses.
It can also be described as the “read-only” web, as it was designed simply to help people find information quickly and easily. Plus, it goes by this name as well because back then, visuals, controls, forms, and interactivity were not available.
Basically, when Web1 was launched, it was the first glimpse of a worldwide network that was destined to be the mammoth information-sharing and digital communication portal we have now.
Some of its characteristics included:
- HTML forms were sent through email.
- GIF buttons and graphics.
- Content came from the server’s filesystem, not a relational database management system.
- Was made up of static pages connected to a system via hyperlinks.
- Had HTML 3.2 elements like tables and frames.
Web2 was the natural next step up from Web1. It was a massive progression from the “read-only” era and consists of the current state of the internet. Of course, that meant more usability for end-users and user-generated content compared to the 1990-2005 one.
It doesn’t actually refer to any specific tech internet upgrades, though. Instead, Web2 details how the internet evolved to be used in a 21st-century environment. When the shift began, there was a higher level of information sharing, which meant users needed to be able to actively participate in the experience, rather than passively. I.e, just reading and digesting information.
From Web2’s inception, new business models opened while some struggled to adapt to the consumer landscape transitioning towards digital. Plus, the second version of the internet saw the rise of social media, influencers, apps, e-commerce and more.
Some of its characteristics include:
- Free info sorting, i.e letting users classify and retrieve data collectively.
- Encourages self-usage, plus used forms of interaction like:
- Social media
- Social networking
- Web content voting
- It’s not limited to specific communities – it’s used by society as a whole.
Web3: 2022 and beyond
Now for the complicated bit – sorry. We’re only just at the beginning of the Web3 era, which means nobody fully knows what to expect as the years go by. We just know that it’s the next natural evolution of the internet as it grows out of Web2.
What we do know, is that it’s building off the past generations and adding to it, just like the earlier versions of the internet did before. We can also guess that certain trends that are currently circulating will be central to shaping Web3, like combining increased interactivity and functionality with more decentralisation. Plus, machine learning, privacy, and safety.
So, let’s dig a little deeper into each function:
Decentralisation = fairness
It seems the major focus of Web3 is decentralisation, which means making online communities publicly owned, and information sharing transparent. Instead of said info being stored through massive databases like Google, it will be shared and stored freely in a variety of locations.
This is called distributed computing, and everything will be shared by Decentralised Autonomous Organisations (DAO). These are community-run groups that rely on each member to work collectively to ensure the common goal is reached in the best interests of everyone.
Apparently, DAOs are favoured amongst crypto enthusiasts, and they’re used primarily to make decisions in an unbiased management approach.
Blockchain = privacy/permissionless
Blockchain – a system that records transactions made in bitcoin or other cryptocurrencies – is a central aspect of decentralisation. Things that are owned on the internet will be registered there, and due to its publicly accessible and transparent data system, anybody will be able to see what goes on it.
People registering digital assets (NFTS) and tokens (crypto) will use blockchain, as it lets them transfer these digital goods without having to know the other person. You don’t have to reveal your identity if you don’t want, but if you do, you can link your blockchain wallet (this can be thought of as your Web3 ID) with your personal info.
Blockchain technologies and past infrastructures have one main difference – databases. In the past, they were controlled by a single organisation or person and had full control over the system. This meant control over how data was changed or stored, which could lead to fraud and errors.
However, with blockchains, anyone is able to create systems and anyone is able to audit them. So, the fact that it’s open to everyone, means that people can learn to understand the systems and develop trust with those who use their apps.
Encryption = security
Another crucial aspect of Web3 is encryption, and data can only be accessed if it’s intended for certain parties. OK, encryption is already used to protect our online data, but as the internet grows, it will be used to make sure data can be owned both publicly (transparent) and privately.
For example, it will be put in place to keep your info private as you transfer assets and ownerships on the blockchain.
AI = machine learning
Did you know that AI (artificial intelligence) was on the brain way back in the 90s? With the idea that computers would be able to contextualise information like a human brain, the aim is also to be able to understand meaning and emotion in order to provide us with a more intelligent search engine. While all those years ago it was still a dream, it’s making its way into the Web3 world as we speak.
For some context, AI might be able to find you the perfect pair of shoes at the best price for you by using your style and personal preferences – just like a retail assistant would in a physical shop. It may also be able to pick the ideal holiday or car for you and provide you with hyper-curated and customised options.
AI has a whole host of other potentials, including using its advanced way of learning to create things of value, like manufacturing new products or medicines. Right now, Web3 can already provide examples of AI, including things like AI-generated art which is then sold as – you guessed it – NFTs.
*Just hit up Paris Hilton’s (or self-professed “Iconic Crytpo Queen’s”) IG if you need some “average joe” explanations on the latter.
Cons of Web3
While it’s probably too soon to tell if there are many disadvantages or blips – Web3 is still in its infancy – there are some cons that have been circulating the online space. Some of the most common ones include:
- Less advanced devices may not be able to handle Web3. This is because it uses various technologies that are pretty high-tech, i.e, the things we mentioned before – AI, blockchain, machine learning power, etc.
- Beginners or those not well-versed in the online world may find it complicated to understand and navigate at first.
- Web1 and 2 websites will become outdated.
- Some experts think it may become difficult to regulate. For example, decentralisation could cause monitoring and regulating difficulties, potentially leading to increased cybercrimes.
- Public and personal data could be easier to access due to how interconnected Web3 is. This could make it easier for anyone to access private or public data that is shared online.
- Existing websites will require an update as Web3 ones become more popular. This might put pressure on existing websites and businesses to upgrade even if they don’t want to.
Why should we care about Web3?
Even as the “average joe”, there’s a strong chance Web3 will affect your life in the future. Dubbed as the “read/write/own” chapter of the internet, (look how far it’s come!) rather than using the current free tech platforms in exchange for data, Web3 will allow you to take part in the runnings and workings of the protocols. So basically, this means you’ll be able to become shareholders and participants as well as customers.
Plus, if you eventually own enough of these governance tokens (shares/cryptocurrencies), you’ll be able to have your say over the network. For example, you’ll be able to spend your assets to vote on the future of Web3 protocols, like decentralisation.
And while we know it’s in its early phase and is still stunted by a few problems, there’s no denying that Web3 has heaps of potential. It’s expected to challenge and change large organisations like Google, which dominates, controls and earns money through “our” web use, and instead provide “the average joe” more power.
Ultimately, the creation of a new online world that changes how people use content and share technology is coming, and it’s probably going to be more accessible than you think.