Omnipresent for a few months in the speeches of start-ups and in the press, the expression may seem obscure. Let’s take a look at a concept that is considered both as a major upheaval of the Internet and as a scam factory.
The different stages of web evolution: 1.0, 2.0, 3.0
With the rise of blockchain and distributed applications, we have entered the third major stage of web evolution.
Lately, crypto-currencies and NFTs are all the rage. Even though the speculative fever has subsided, the general public is now aware that something new is happening with digital currencies and that it could be a game changer.
The World Wide Web, known as “WWW”, was first launched in 1991. But as technology has advanced, new versions in the form of Web 2.0 and Web 3.0 have appeared. Web 2.0 and Web 3.0 are obviously considered more advanced and easy to use compared to Web 1.0. But most of us are confused about the changes and evolution that have taken place. This article aims to clarify the differences through the points mentioned below.
From Web 1.0 to Web2
Web 1.0 was simply an information portal where users passively receive information without having the possibility to post comments or reactions.
It is a limited interaction between end-users and websites.
The Web 2.0 encourages participation, collaboration and information sharing. Youtube, Wikipedia, Facebook, etc., are examples of Web 2.0 applications.
It encourages participation and data sharing.
From Web 2.0 to Web3
Web3 is a semantic Web that refers to the future. In Web 3.0, computers can interpret information like human beings and intelligently generate and distribute useful content tailored to the needs of users. Tivo, a digital video recorder, is an example of Web 3.0. Its recording program can search the Web and play back what it finds for you based on your preferences.
Web3 can easily read data like a human and could also distribute or adapt useful content to end users.
The Progression of the World Wide Web. Source: Arca
Why web3 is important
The idea is to give power back to Internet users by creating a “decentralized” web, where they can “transport” their data from one service to another. Web3 aims to eliminate the intermediaries that are the big tech companies.
Web3 would be built on the blockchain. This technology is not only used for cryptocurrencies, it is also used to conclude contracts or to control the functioning of applications (such as “DApp”, or “decentralized applications”).
As a reminder, it is a kind of registry that contains a list of all exchanges made between users. This register is decentralized – i.e. stored on the servers of its users – and very secure because it relies on a cryptographic system of validation by the users for each transaction. Hence the name “blockchain”.
In the case of Web3, this would allow the creation of financial assets, in the form of tokens for example, to ensure the internal functioning of each service. The platforms would therefore be operated, owned and improved by communities of users.
Each user would have a single personalized account, creating a record on the blockchain of all their activities. And, for example, each time they post a message, they could earn a token for their contribution, giving them both a way to participate within the platform and a financial asset.
The concept of Web3 is still taxed by its detractors for being too vague and nebulous. “It sounds more like a marketing buzzword than reality at the moment,” said Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla and SpaceX, who is known to be a crypto-enthusiast. The fantastic billionaire also mockingly tweeted: “Has anyone seen Web3? No way to find it”.
In response to this tweet, Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey replied, “It’s somewhere between a and z.” A thinly veiled reference to the American venture capital fund Andreessen Horowitz, also known as “a16z” and a major investor in Web3.
The entrepreneur, who recently left his position at the head of the social network, indeed doubts the potential of Web3 to give power back to users, believing that venture capital funds will eventually regain control. “You don’t own Web3. The VCs and their backers own it. It will never escape their motives. It’s ultimately a centralized entity with a different label,” he says.
Skeptics also argue that the concept is far from proven beyond niche applications, many of which are services for cryptocurrency users.
Finally, regulators have raised concerns about some aspects of the project, particularly decentralized finance, or DeFi, aimed at making users independent of banks. This could encourage money laundering.
Conclusion: there is not one, but several webs that coexist
All these uses, all these architectures, all these visions of digital content and services coexist and are linked through an increasingly dense IT infrastructure.
In all this profusion, you will note that it is not a question of replacing, but of completing. The objective is to offer more and more content and services, in different formats and through different terminals.
As the New York Times notes, venture capitalists have also become infatuated with Web3 and have begun investing billions of dollars in projects, such as the creation of dedicated applications. In short, Web3 is starting to take hold… but it still needs to prove itself.
Many Web3 developers have chosen to build DApps because of Ethereum’s inherent decentralization:
- Anyone who is on the network has permission to use the service – or in other words, permission isn’t required.
- No one can block you or deny you access to the service.
- Payments are built in via the native token, ether (ETH).
- Ethereum is turing-complete, meaning you can pretty much program anything.
The forthcoming wave of Web 3.0 goes far beyond the initial use case of cryptocurrencies. Through the richness of interactions now possible and the global scope of counterparties available, Web 3.0 will cryptographically connect data from individuals, corporations and machines, with efficient machine learning algorithms, leading to the rise of fundamentally new markets and associated business models. The result is akin to a “return to the global village” — daily immersion in the human-centric & highly personalized interactions from which we used to benefit, yet now delivered at the global scale of the internet and supporting an ever-increasing myriad of human and machine skills specializations.
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