Web 3.0 often denotes an 'overblown' Web 2.0, with technical solutions developed utilising artificial intelligence (AI), augmented reality and the Internet of Things (IoT).
On Web 1.0, an ordinary user could only consume information. On Web 2.0, they could consume, access and create, but with centralised control on a platform. Web 3.0 passes the control to the content creator, thanks to decentralisation but still maintains the advantages of Web 1.0 and 2.0.
In practice, Web 3.0 introduces a concept where network members will fully own digital objects: copyrighted content, personal data, and finances. Regulators will no longer abuse censorship, and corporations can view public data but cannot use it freely if it is owned by someone else.
If Web 3.0 becomes a reality, it will fundamentally change the format of digital interaction and everyday life more than social media ever has.
Have we even reached Web 3.0 yet?
Web 3.0 consists of three layers: Smart Contracts, Blockchains and Decentralised Applications (DApps).
Blockchains contain different architecture but are ultimately based on the premise that they are available to users (depending on private or public ones) and cannot be rewritten, counterfeited or falsified. Smart contracts are simply programs run on a blockchain that run when predetermined conditions are met. DApps provide an alternative to traditional applications, either decentralised or built on blockchains.
Blockchains and smart contracts are already developing; you only have to view Bitcoin and Ethereum as examples. In contrast, DApps are not so prevalent. DappRadar has only 12,000 decentralised apps, most of them from the finance and gaming industry. Yet, traditional apps, like those on the Google Play store, number 3.4 million!
However, their number is snowballing. Research from DappRadar showed that in the first quarter of 2022, blockchain industry user activity grew by 396% compared to the same period in 2021.
Furthermore, new decentralised apps are being built.
You may have even heard of them: Metamask, Mist and Brave browsers, or messenger apps including ySign and Tox. Plus, there is a new breed of social networks: Steemit, Akasha, and Storj allow users almost total control over their digital footprint.
- First, whilst the user's true identity remains hard to track, the user's actions are visible and problematic to counterfeit.
- Secondly, economic and moral rights are secured with the help of unique non-fungible tokens (NFTs).
- Third, more web 3.0 elements are now controlled by Decentralised Autonomous Organisations (DAOs). These are analogues of family and community businesses without hierarchical structures and bureaucracy. All decisions are made collectively by community and project participants, and the contribution of contributors is reflected within its ecosystem.
The essence of Web 3.0 is the transfer of ownership (and profitability) power from IT behemoths and industry regulators to the hands of content creators. In a sense, we within society have become accustomed to trusting large corporate entities and big brands with our content and data and soon realise that we don't actually own anything we create.
This is the considerable flaw of Web 2.0.
Web 3.0, in this sense, is an excellent progression.
People can experiment with creating and managing public goods and take power into their own hands—for instance, a DAO to build sustainable cities or fight climate change. Heck, there is even a PizzaDAO to get free pizzas!
In 10 or 20 years, tens of thousands of decentralised organisations will control assets worth hundreds of billions of euros.
Why, then, are we still at Web 2.5?
A fully decentralised network still appears as a fantasy; it certainly is still in its infancy.
First, for a rapid metamorphosis to Web 3.0 to occur, there needs to be enough mass participation and technology adoption. In other words, there is not enough acceptance of the technology, the engineers and blockchain developers to implement this transition.
Presently, Web 3.0 is mainly adopted by IT specialists, crypto enthusiasts and early adopters seeking to improve an industry. This presents a paradox because one of the principal criteria for moving to Web 3.0. is universal accessibility.
Yet, some early adopter businesses like Gucci, Tag Hauer and LVMH have entered the area using NFTs as branding and accepting crypto as payment. Change is slowly occurring.
The second reason is the infancy of the IT industry and a lack of regulation. With the increase in digital assets, it became necessary to update regulations to protect the ownership rights of content creators, game characters, and crypto assets.
Technically, NFTs solved the issues of ownership. Still, there is no consensus on its legality within national and international governments to adapt to new regulatory mechanisms. For example, only some US states are considering voting on blockchains. All are required to completely overhaul an archaic voting tool.
The third problem is the discrepancy between the aims of Web 3.0 and the economic interests of the stakeholders that formed the modern centralised internet.
Web 3.0 eliminates the main mechanisms of business monetisation. It contradicts the authorities' ambitions to de-anonymise internet users as much as possible. Consider why governments wish to track cryptocurrency transactions by knowing who is behind a wallet address, thus removing anonymity.
The main question is how quickly the market can change. Now, content is primarily created with advertisers' budgets, for which the IT giants collect data. Changing our mindsets, developing the habit of paying ourselves to develop each step and being responsible for our data can take decades.
Thus, we are still at the stage where we don't trust ourselves with our data. Giving it to an IT giant to manage and pay for this development means we abandon the responsibility for its keep and are not entirely responsible should it be counterfeited or lost.
An example is NFT wallets, where if we lose our keys, we lose access to what is held there. We are not able to complain to anyone. We are ourselves responsible.
Web 3.0 is about a cultural mind shift
The fact is that the process of rethinking the web is more about culture, education and popularisation than about specific IT solutions. These IT solutions will be discussed for years to come, for instance, which technologies will have a critical impact, impact on the development of the internet, and still, we will not decide.
Web 3.0 must work on the mass perception of it, and whilst this occurs, our products will be Web 2.5 - built using Web 3.0 technology, ultimately blockchain applications, but still where an intermediary will provide guardianship of that project.
Web 2.5 is the hybrid version we currently have, that is, the internet, which is still reasonably centralised but is actively experimenting and implementing elements of Web 3.0.