The Internet is not what it used to be in the 1990s and early 2000s. If you had the opportunity to use the service back then, you probably remember the sound of the dial-up connection attempting to link to the internet. Classic, right?
Going on search engines such as Yahoo and MSN at the time would not yield as much information as it does today. Mind you, people can now look up how to write that perfect thank you email after an interview!
Web technology has certainly evolved in so many ways. There’s always something new to discover on the internet, and a plethora of mobile applications have also been developed (with more being created every day). You could say that technology has made our life much easier and more convenient.
Let's take a look at some web history to see where it all began:
This was the earliest version of the Internet, which was regarded as “read-only” and lasted from 1989 to 2005. It has little to no interaction, where users were passive and what most people were doing at the beginning was exchanging and forwarding emails.
However, it was also the beginning of digitalised communication. Remember those chat rooms you used to visit on MSN, Yahoo, and even mIRC? (surely you recall "a/s/l") That's what it's all about. It was the "read/write" function that allowed users to chat and interact with one another.
Then came this version, where user-generated content was all the rage, and we're still using it today! The Internet and the World Wide Web evolved into more than just a source of information, allowing users to interact with content creators, and with one another. The evolution brought social media platforms, video sharing sites, blogs, podcasts, and the list goes on.
When Web2.0 features were introduced, this technology saw an increase in content from 250,000 sites in 1996 to a whopping 80 million sites. Hence, any internet user today has the potential to become a content creator. This is also supported by the invention of the "cloud", which stores the collective intelligence of published and user-generated content. Users can create their content for the rest of the world to access without needing to know much about publishing or web design.
Almost any type of information resource and service can now be found on the Internet. The question now is, "Where do we go from here?" The Web has already been upgraded numerous times to keep up with the fast-paced world. Banking activities, social interactions, and even grocery shopping are now all at our fingertips.
We are, believe it or not, in the process of transitioning to Web3, a new level of internet access and connectivity that’s expected to be more intelligent and efficient. With all the hype surrounding this upcoming web technology, you don't want to miss out on learning how it will benefit you, and seeing some examples of Web3 in action.
First off, we’ll start with: "What is Web3?"
According to Investopedia, “Web3 represents the next iteration or phase of the evolution of the web/Internet, and potentially could be as disruptive and represent as big a paradigm shift as Web 2.0 did. Web3 is built upon the core concepts of decentralisation, openness, and greater user utility.”
What this practically means is that Web 3 is a technological upgrade that intends to shift away from the centralised Web 2.0. Why? Because the majority of online activities are currently taking place on closed platforms (where users’ data are being stored) that are owned by corporations such as Google, Facebook, Youtube, Amazon, and many others, in addition to being controlled by governmental regulations.
Web 3 is emerging to address the unfair dominance and lack of personal privacy. The new Internet aims to decentralise the online ecosystem into a single platform based on blockchain technology, giving users control over their data without being attached to corporations. No wonder it seems like the transition towards Web 3.0 crosses technological precedence!
When interviewed by Wired, Gavin Wood (the man who coined the term Web3.0 in 2014, pictured below) stated that the fundamental issue as societies become larger and less defined is that there’s "now a weird kind of brand reputation thing" that expands globally. He went on to say that Internet users form powerful, albeit regulated, organisations.
Regulations for a wide range of industries, particularly those that are relatively new, are evolving much more slowly in Web 2.0, as regulatory bodies' work has yet to catch up with the advancement of the various industries. Hence, according to Wood, the centralised model of Web 2 is a broken one.
In terms of how the Web 3 world might look, he explained that “the initial breed of Web 3 applications will probably be mostly small iterations on Web 2.0 applications. But one thing that Web 3 brings that Web 2.0 cannot easily service is financial obligations or economically strong applications.”
With Web 3, industries take on the role of regulators. Wood defined Web 3 as "less trust, more truth", implying that rather than simply trusting that one company will not be able to decrypt users' private messages, it’s preferable to know for certain that they'll not be able to do so. As a result of this need for openness and transparency, the concept of decentralising the Internet and its services arose.
Let’s compare the operations of centralised and decentralised networks. Currently, we're still in the Web2 era, which refers to the Internet that we are all familiar with: One that provides services in exchange for your data (be it location, demographic, or bank details).
On the other hand, the invention of Web3, which uses blockchain technology (among other types of technologies), allows users to participate without having their data monetised for use by regulators or providers.
In terms of censorship, there are major differences. Take, for example, Twitter. Currently, Twitter as a corporation has the authority to censor any account or tweet; however, with a Web3 app, tweets are subject to less to no censorship because the control to do so is decentralised.
Furthermore, payments for certain types of work on Web2 may fail due to a lack of personal data or other issues, whereas in a Web3 payment application, no personal data is required, and no type of payment is preventable. It certainly makes Web3 sound more like a world web of freedom.
Nevertheless, there are advantages and limitations to both forms of digitalised networks. The table below summarises the points elaborated, as well as other notable comparisons between centralised and decentralised technologies:
|Users' data becomes trading material in the presence of a central regulator.||Users can keep personal information safe when using the Internet and its services.|
|Censorship is regulated by a central authority – restricting parts of the network from interacting with one another.||Information gets sent out across the network as censorship is reduced (perhaps none at all).|
|Higher performance with less computational resources, resulting in easier implementation.||Lower performance due to expanded computational resources, making implementation more complex.|
|Conflicting data is referred to as the central authority for ‘truth’.||Resolving conflicts about the state of data would require a usually complex protocol.|
|Single point of failure as it can simply be brought down by an attack on the central authority.||No single point of failure considering the network is still operational even when the majority of stakeholders are attacked.|
|Participation in the network is controlled by a central authority.||Anyone and everyone can participate as there are no “gatekeepers”.|
When it comes to technology, there'll always be benefits and drawbacks to using it. The same goes for Web 1 and Web2. That’s why we constantly see upgrades and advancements to create a better version of the previous one. It will come as no surprise if, ten years from now, we are already comparing Web4 and Web5!
One of the most appealing aspects of Web3 is that it enables users to generate income, collect assets, and claim ownership of the content created on the web, whether digitalised or simply added to the Web. This has been the more recent applications of Web3 with non-fungible tokens (NFTs) and the metaverse – all of which are virtual products. Because the coin/token is digitalised, we can easily refer to it as Web3 crypto.
On the downside, according to Ethereum – one of Web3's pioneering developers – limitations include slower transactions because they require miners to process, in addition to being transmitted across the network. Issues may also arise in the implementation of Web 3.0 as cybercrime grows and evolves, necessitating enhanced cyber security.
More information about Web3's benefits and limitations can be found in the table below:
|Users can generate income through their digital, virtual content. The transaction is carried out online with non-fungible tokens (NFTs).||A mash-up of technologies such as blockchain, machine learning, and AI – requiring upgrades to device specifications and existing sites.|
|Anyone and everyone can participate. No permission is required to use services as there'll be no party to impede access.||Regulations affect access to public and private data, as well as the possibility of increased cybercrime.|
|Better transparency in data access and transactions. No middleman or intermediaries gaining profit from data or transactions.||Adopting implementation necessitates additional steps and software, so education and training are required.|
|More efficient and personalised web experiences – with semantic web and customisations.||Not yet integrated into modern browsers, therefore public access is currently limited.|
|Applications and websites would analyse users’ internet usage and offer customisations based on preference, device used, and location (among other factorisations).||Existing sites and applications will need to be aggressively upgraded to retain their market and clients if Web3 is to be fully implemented.|
Surprisingly, Web3 is already in action, and it’s gaining momentum too. Some of the sites and decentralised apps (dApps) are:
Essentially, the decentralisation efforts of the Web that this next version offers are still ongoing, and here's what to expect if you use Web 3.0:
To summarise, the goal of Web3 implementation is to give users control over their data via a decentralised Web system. Along with that, many more Web3 processes, such as blockchains and cryptocurrencies, will emerge.
Living in a world where things are happening and operating digitally could very well be the way forward for us as Internet users. The day will come when everyone will be able to live, learn, work, and participate in the digital world. If you aren't, you're missing out!