Considered as the next version of the Internet, Web 3.0 is a concept that has made a lot of buzz recently. It even has investors betting $27 billion on it. But what does this paradigm shift mean for the rest of us? And what will happen to the current version of the Internet, Web 2.0? Here’s everything you need to know.
History of the Internet
Web 1.0, as one would appropriately guess, was the first iteration of the web. These were the days when the world would use a dial-up connection to access the Internet. Users would also only spend a few hours a day connected to it.
Applications and web pages in the Web 1.0 era were static and generally read-only. They were mainly hard-coded HTML pages. This meant there was minimal user interaction, and so Web 1.0 primarily offered a one-way platform to publish content. That is, users didn’t have the many options available to us today when it comes to consuming content. They weren’t able to share funny videos or articles with friends at the click of a button, hit any ‘like’ or ‘dislike’ buttons or even post their own content as effortlessly as uploading a photo to Instagram or Tweeting.
But technology began to develop and the world moved to a more dynamic and user-focused Internet. Enter Web 2.0.
This is the internet as we know it today. It has brought about interactive experiences and user-generated content on platforms such as Twitter and YouTube. It’s the era of social media, mobile-first and cloud technologies.
According to a study done by Forbes about Global Online Content Consumption, the average amount of time people are spending online now is just shy of 7 hours a day. Thanks to mobile devices and instant access to the Web, we’re always connected. Information is more easily obtainable than it ever was.
Web 2.0 has also been a huge enabling factor for the success of e-commerce. In 2020, the global projected revenue generated with Web 2.0 was almost €30 million, compared with almost €2.5 million in 2007. That’s a 91.6% increase.
Think about the way business is conducted now and you’ll see it has affected that increase. For example, companies like Uber and Amazon are able to provide a number of valuable services all in one place. For example Amazon offers cloud services, online shopping and streaming services, while Uber has their taxi services as well as food delivery.
Thanks to Web 2.0 technology, they can offer frictionless customer experiences and reduce the effort that a user has to put in. This makes them highly attractive to users and so their revenues increase.
Web 2.0 has drastically changed the way people trade information and conduct business. With 59.5% of the world’s population connected to the Internet, it has paved the way for more utopian communities. Now they can interact with one another from anywhere in the world.
This global coordination has its benefits and downfalls. While it does allow for strangers to form a digital bond and trust one another through platforms like Facebook and eBay or Amazon, there is a lot of dependency on these platforms to deliver our businesses. They can dictate whether a business is a flop or fail. Take for example Facebook, which has a set of ever changing rules that can impact your marketing strategies. They could update their algorithm which will affect your organic reach so your ads aren’t being seen by all users, and this subsequently hinders your business.
What is Web 3.0?
The essence of Web 3.0 is said to be that it’s built on decentralised data networks. With Web 2.0, there is a small group of companies owning the majority of the platforms that the rest of the world use and contribute to the success of. These users don’t see the same level of benefits as the owners, especially with financial rewards since they could never earn nearly as much as owners. But Web 3.0 seeks to distribute the power so it isn’t centralised.
There won’t be any need for third parties when interacting with data. So instead of a company like Google hosting and setting the rules for how a user can consume their data, the data will be hosted by many computers and accessible for everyone. Users will no longer just be commodities that generate value and revenue for these tech giants, while giving up control over their personal information.
To do this, Web 3.0 relies upon blockchain technology.
What is a blockchain?
A blockchain is a digital system that keeps track of each transaction made by a network of computers. Its use is rising around the world with 40% of top tech companies already developing a blockchain, according to PWC. The system is based on peer to peer networks that review and verify data, making it difficult for anyone to hack or make alterations to. Because of this, the blockchain directly offers users the security and assurance of data privacy that third parties usually would.
It does this by linking together blocks of data from each transaction using cryptography. These transactions are verified using computer algorithms in a peer to peer network and then time-stamped for reference. Each one is added on to the next, building a never-ending
chain of reliable and traceable data. This means there are multiple groups that keep an eye on each other to ensure data transparency, accuracy and security.
For example, the blockchain was first developed to support Bitcoin, a cryptocurrency. When someone uses Bitcoin to make a purchase, that transaction is confirmed and recorded by a majority of computers. And once it has been recorded, the data from the transaction can’t be altered. So instead of someone relying on a bank, where data can easily be manipulated, to record their transactions, they rely on the blockchain. Using a blockchain allows individuals to deal directly with each other, without the need for a third party such as the bank. There’s also less room for error because of the minimal amount of human-data interaction.
Another aspect of Web 3.0 is the use of Artificial Intelligence (AI). With AI, computers will be able to process and understand information just as a human would. Through simulating the way humans think, AI machines can help humans manage the knowledge and tasks that they depend on every day.
Siri, Alexa, Google assistant and self-driving cars usually come to mind as examples of AI machines. But, AI is used for a number of different applications. Netflix uses a subset of AI called machine learning to learn about your show preferences. It uses this information to offer recommendations and suggestions based on certain catalogues. For example, the “Because you watched” catalogue will bring up a list of shows similar to one you’ve already watched because Netflix knows what interests you. This gives the shows a higher chance that you’ll click on them and keep watching.
With the increased use of AI in Web 3.0, there’ll be greater user utility. It will make it easier for everyone when searching the web. For example, search engine bots can trawl the Internet to help you complete tasks saving you the effort and time. So if you’re planning a holiday, it would search multiple websites and compile the results for flights and accommodation based on your specified budget.
Defining features of Web 3.0
To summarise, Web 3.0 is defined by these key features:
No need for third parties to get involved with controlling data. This leads to the power of data ownership being distributed among a large number of groups rather than only a handful.
- Greater user utility
Users have more control over their personal data. They can also cut down on time and effort when completing tasks with Web 3.0 technology.
- Relies on blockchain technology
Data transactions are verified and recorded in a never-ending chain. It uses cryptography to ensure that the data can’t be hacked or altered. This increases security, privacy and removes the middleman, hence decentralising the network.
- Uses AI technology
From personal digital assistants that can help make your everyday tasks easier to collecting data, AI uses continue to grow. Web 3.0 will see this growth enable machines to think and act rationally without being explicitly instructed to do so.
Does Web 3.0 already exist?
Some aspects of Web 3.0 are already in use. For example, AI has been, and will continue to be, integrated into our realities. Cryptocurrencies are stabilising and continue to thrive. The metaverse is taking over the gaming industry. Web 3.0 is definitely in existence.
But from what experts predict, Web 3.0 and Web 2.0 will coexist alongside one another, with Web 3.0 supplementing and building on to Web 2.0, rather than completely replacing it. So there won’t necessarily be new places we’d have to go to access information, it would just change how we do it.
This is because it’ll be hard to completely knock out the current tech giants such as Google, Meta and the like. Instead, these companies will have to implement Web 3.0 technologies to stay relevant.
What does Web 3.0 facilitate?
Where Web 2.0 facilitated the rise of mobile-first applications like social media and cloud technologies, Web 3.0 will take it a step further. Its prevalence is said to facilitate:
One of the main features of Web 3.0 is that it relies on blockchains. These were developed to power Bitcoin, a cryptocurrency. The future of cryptocurrencies are envisioned to not only lie in using them to make purchases, but also using accounts linked to cryptocurrency to log in to platforms like Twitter and other social media.
- Non-Fungible Tokens
Blockchain technology also lends its powers to Non-Fungible Tokens (NFTs) which are virtual assets. They represent real world objects like pieces of art, instruments or even clothing. The assets are end to end encrypted so they can’t be duplicated, thus raising their value.
- AI Technology and its counterparts
Web 3.0 will facilitate concepts like the metaverse, a version of augmented or virtual reality thanks to AI. Here there’ll be an overlap of our physical and digital lives where you could socialise, shop in a virtual marketplace and also earn revenue.
- Consumer privacy
Right now, consumers don’t have much say in how their personal information is mined and used by tech companies. In order to use their products, they have to follow the rules set by these companies and yet they don’t gain the same levels of benefits as the owners do. Instead they end up adding value to the companies at the cost of their personal information. Web 3.0 will help to change this around thanks to blockchain technology and the use of decentralised networks.
How has Web 3.0 been received?
As with all advances in technology, there is excitement around Web 3.0 and what it strives to achieve, but it also comes with some doubt and fear.
Because Web 3.0 is centred around permissionless and open networks, trying to regulate and enforce any kind of gatekeeping is going to be very difficult. Concerns about policing hate speech, cybercrime and fake news will rise even higher than they are now because of the lack of any governing bodies.
There is also the question of how the laws of different countries will apply to the usage of Web 3.0 especially for multinational companies.
But, tech firms are still investing big in Web 3.0. Antler, a Singapore based venture capital platform is said to be investing $50 million in over 100 startup companies in India in the next 3 years.
Web 3.0 is not just the dream of tech fanatics, but a growing reality for all of us. Although it seems to still be finding its feet, there is no doubt that it will soon have a huge impact on the way we conduct our everyday lives. From easing our tasks with AI to giving us back control over our personal information and helping to keep it private and secure, Web 3.0 will see many advantages. But as with its predecessors, it will also pose some fear and concerns.
However, Web 3.0 affects the world, step into the future with us because whatever changes may come around in the tech world, our promise for delivering the right solutions for your business every time will remain.