The next iteration of the World Wide Web is on the rise, and it’s bringing blockchain with it.
As I’m typing this piece from a centralized server via Web2, I’m thinking about how differently I could be reporting the news in the near future.
Web2 is the internet we know and love today, dominated by the Big Tech companies: Alphabet, Amazon, Apple, Meta, and Microsoft. But, there is a new version on the rise that wants to put the power back in the hands of everyday people.
Web 3.0, better known as Web3, is what society is dubbing the next iteration of the World Wide Web, with a dash of cryptocurrency. Ethereum co-founder Gavin Wood coined the term Web3 in 2014 as he started investing more in creating decentralized technologies. He settled on the term Web3 after considering the versions of the internet that came before it.
In the early 90s, non-interactive links and homepages arrived on the internet, mainly accessible via dial-up. This was Web 1.0 and the era of static web pages. Web2 was born amid the dotcom bubble in the new millennium, and is characterized by the ability for the user to create and share information. We’ve been using this version of the web for more than two decades, enabling developers to create computer code that lets you open and edit digital files instead of just viewing them.
We’ve seen plenty of Web2 rebrands, but the technology and cryptocurrency industries are ready for a more considerable change that allows people to read, write, and own their versions of the internet. Enter Web3.
In a way, Web3 is a blend of its predecessors: a decentralized internet before Big Tech took over, mixed with the advanced applications of the modern web.
Decentralized, in this context, simply means that no one entity controls how users experience the internet. It’s the World Wide Web in its most basic, ideal form — unregulated, peer-to-peer communication that does not require or include an intermediary. Those intermediaries, detailed below, can do everything from censor content to use algorithms to regulate which users see which pieces of content.
But how do Web3 and cryptocurrency work? And is Web3 really the internet of the future?
Let’s talk about it.
How does Web3 align with blockchain?
Web3 will be a portfolio of decentralized apps that run on blockchains, Ethereum reports, and it will grant anyone permission to use the network’s services. The idea of Web3 gained the most traction this year after significant growth in cryptocurrencies.
Right now, our participation on the internet is controlled by central authorities. You’re able to Google topics because the site’s parent company, Alphabet, allows you. You’re able to post photos on Instagram because Meta said you could. While Twitter has loosened up its restrictions on what you can post, it still controls who can hold accounts and tweet. Remember when the platform banned former President Donald Trump?
The mission behind Web3 is to create a decentralized web that permits sites and services to exist across any and all computer networks. Blockchain technology will validate user data, and you’ll have to purchase everything in Web3 with cryptocurrencies.
Blockchain tech and digital tokens will power Web3, so if you’re still not familiar with cryptocurrencies, it might be time to get with the movement.
What about the metaverse?
The terms Web3 and the metaverse have been used interchangeably, but make no mistake: they are inherently different. In the metaverse, users will only be able to jump from one online world to the next if they operate on a decentralized internet. Since there isn’t one brand or entity that owns the metaverse, users could easily move their digital assets around.
Essentially, the metaverse can only operate on a network as free and open as Web3. The metaverse is a growing phenomenon, and it’s safe to say it wouldn’t be possible without the advancement of Web3.
Check out this story where I detail why the metaverse matters right now.
Why should you care about Web3 right now?
Think of Web3 as an extension of Web2, which incorporates the advanced technologies we see coming to fruition today. The idea of Web3 is not only fueling the formation of the metaverse and expansion of cryptocurrency, but it touches on other major tech industries, including gaming, NFTs, and virtual and augmented reality devices.
A decentralized internet may prompt the demise of Big Tech companies online. Now, I don’t foresee Alphabet, Amazon, Meta, and Microsoft disappearing from the Nasdaq altogether. Still, I can see these companies working a little harder to compete with everyday internet users striving to claim their stake in Web3.
Web3 may also prompt a more extensive acceptance of what blockchain and cryptocurrencies could offer. Ethereum supports both cryptocurrency and NFT systems, which allows users to make payments, build applications, and everything in between.
Some of Web3’s biggest pros are that it can’t be regulated, and there are no finance protocols. But some would say those are the primary cons, too.
Twitter creator and Block Inc. CEO Jack Dorsey has been one of the most vocal tech giants to voice his opposition to Web3. He recently went against some venture capitalists online for his strong opinions about Web3’s ownership.
Dorsey went as far as unfollowing big names in the crypto and VC worlds, including Andressen Horowitz co-founder Marc Andreessen, Coinbase CEO Brian Armstrong, and Gemini co-founder Tyler Winklevoss. Dorsey is an avid supporter of Bitcoin, but he just can’t get behind non-Bitcoin crypto projects like Web3. In a tweet response, Winklevoss said, “It’s really quite alarming how Big Tech has anointed themselves the arbiters of the world’s truth and morality. Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Web3 fixes this.”
(I found this response from Winklevoss very interesting because of him and his brother’s famed debacle with Facebook.)
Critics like Elon Musk think Web3 is as real as flying cars.
Despite criticism, everyday users will be the ones who decide how real Web3 is. After all, that’s the point of it anyway.