Have we reached peak “web” or is another digital communications evolution just around the corner? We’ve been through two phases already, Web 1.0 and 2.0, and proponents of a new way of thinking and structuring the web are talking about a third movement. Web 3.0, or simply “Web3” is promising to bring about a decentralized online ecosystem based around blockchain.
To put Web3 in context, the world wide web has seen some major transformations since its emergence in the late 1980s, so it’s reasonable to expect more change.
Web 1.0 was the original web, structured around decentralized open protocols. Surfing the web meant looking up information in directories, typing into Usenet newsgroups and visiting static websites.
Web 2.0 was, and is, the social web, where user-generated content exploded alongside increasing consolidation and centralization of web activity on closed platforms operated by a handful of Internet giants and super apps, such as Google, Facebook, Amazon, and WeChat.
Currently, users have less than ideal control over their own web activity. Information is stored in fixed locations at unique web addresses and is found using Hyper Text Transfer Protocol, or HTTP. People can’t scrutinize or manipulate the code that governs their communications and financial transactions. They can’t access and don’t own the data those activities generate. As a result, users put a great deal of trust in large companies to safeguard their data and perform to their expectations.
Web3 addresses this problem with a technology layer that lets users govern transactions themselves through a system of digital checks and balances through the blockchain and cryptography. Web3 seeks to demonopolize the web services space by shifting ownership over apps and platforms to users. In place of a few, powerful gatekeepers, ownership will be earned by those who help to develop and maintain those platforms and apps.
With blockchain, information can be stored in several places at once by anyone, and generated data remains decentralized. With Web3, no central authority holds all the keys and ownership reverts to users, with security, trust, and performance expectations a function of a distributed, peer-to-peer system.
Key Web3 Features
Any kind of activity that happens in Web 2.0 is a candidate for Web3. But financial activity is an important test bed because of the innovative way blockchain verifies transactions. Cryptocurrencies and NFTs (Non-Fungible Tokens – virtual items bought, stored and traded on the blockchain) are swiftly growing in popularity and value. This is proof that Web3 may well be moving past its current incubation stage.
Other features flourishing alongside blockchain will transform and define the future web:
Ubiquity – It might feel like everything is already connected to the Internet, but Web3 can take connectivity one step further by becoming omnipresent in time and space, connecting more people and devices to information and content. Web3 goes beyond computers and smartphones and integrates other smart devices and systems through the Internet of Things.
The Semantic Web – Machines communicate with numbers, but people still rely on human language. The Web3 revolution will use Machine Learning (ML) and Natural Language Processing (NLP) to decode human communication – from text, to speech, to body language and emotions. In previous iterations of web search, for example, you were only pointed towards a range of possible answers. You still had to read to find exactly what you were looking for. Now, ML does the reading for you and gives you accurate, human-quality answers instantly. As these new functionalities improve, they’ll be integrated into apps and services for better experiences.
Artificial Intelligence (AI) – Web3 advancements will move beyond human language understanding and use data and analytics to develop insights that translate to the physical world, in areas such as pharmaceuticals, medicine, and materials development. Web3 can be used as an extensive training simulation for computers to learn about real world activity, advancing Artificial Intelligence with better language models, computer vision and other functionality for downstream applications.
Advanced Graphics – Web3 promises to blur the line between the physical and the digital even more by revolutionizing 3-D graphics technology inside virtual worlds.
A smart, human-centric web
It’s hard to imagine our lives being more integrated with the web than they already are, but that’s precisely what Web3 promises. The exciting part of the coming transformation will be seeing how advanced intelligent computing on more smart devices will converge with the benefits of the decentralized blockchain. With more voices coming together to build for tomorrow, the future looks smarter than ever.