What is Web 3.0? Understanding the Decentralized Human-Centric internet

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Abdulaziz AlYaqout

January 24, 2019

Interest in the concept of “Web 3.0” has grown exponentially in the last year, but what does it mean for us in 2019 and beyond? The future of the decentralized economy is based on the assumption that we will build a new distributed version of the internet to support the applications currently being developed with blockchain technology.

This article is going to explore the evolution of the internet, explain what web 3.0 is, and speculate about when we might see it’s widespread implementation.

Before Web 3.0 there was Web 1.0 and 2.0

Web 1.0 represented in glass

Web 1.0

The first version of the internet was a relatively simple system that allowed people to post and archive information. Users of Web version 1.0 could only search and view the information posted, they couldn’t interact with it.

Websites during this time were built with static HTML pages and had little to no interactive features. This meant that up until the late 1999’s, the internet was a one-way conversation from the webmaster to the user. In terms of a file system, Web 1.0 could be considered “read-only”.

Web 2.0

The second iteration of the internet allowed users to interact with websites by creating content and building communities. This was the dawn of social media sites like Facebook and lead to the explosive growth in usability and popularity that we see today. Community self-organization became possible on levels never seen before fueling political upheavals like the Arab Spring.

Unlike Web 1.0, users could now add their own content into the discussion rather than just reading what was already there. This allowed people to upload videos to sites like Youtube or post blogs to sites like Medium.

Content became king in this new landscape and the power was in many ways put back in the hands of the people, or so it seemed. While the positives of such a democratized system of publishing are obvious, the sheer amount of content being produced every day is staggering. Organizing all this new content and information so people can find and understand it falls to search engine giants like Google.

The Web 2.0 saw the formation of a content meritocracy overseen by Google that strives to bring the best and most relevant information to the top of search engine results pages. In this new knowledge economy, the most important resource is accurate and up to date information.   

The personal information, browsing habits, political views, and purchase preferences of the internet’s estimated 4.2 billion users became Google’s, Amazon’s, and Facebook’s most valuable commodity. Web 2.0 was defined by these large companies stockpiling user information and selling it to the highest bidder in a non-transparent and proprietary manner.

Some say the lack of privacy, regulation, and governance of Web 2.0 has led to a tipping point where people are beginning to ask: “is this really worth price”? The functionality afforded by Web 2.0 has changed the world, but what will the next major shift in the internet look like?

What Is Web 3.0? Or… What Will It Be?

If Web 2.0 is an attempt at creating a democratized human-centered network, Web 3.0 will be a working implementation of that goal.

The internet as it is today consists of large private semi-monopolistic companies like Facebook who build, maintain, and control publicly accessible private network infrastructure. The current system requires that users share information and value with a private entity in order to participate in the system and use the network.

In return, these companies promise to keep the network secure and police it to make sure that users are not using it to cause harm to each other or society.

Web 3.0 is fundamentally different than the current system structure. The decentralized web will consist of users who are in complete control their information and can choose to conduct value exchanges peer-to-peer whenever they please over an open public network.

Only the users who are participating in or assisting with a particular transaction will gain or lose value from it. Blockchain technology is used to publicly record transaction information, guarantee security, establish trust between users, and automatically enforce agreements.

What are the Elements of Web 3.0?

Man exploring the web 3.0 from the top of a building

Decentralized Network

The current internet is consolidated on servers controlled by central authorities that users all over the world access. Web 3.0 will be decentralized meaning that the network will be spread across a multitude of nodes operating in conjunction with one another. The benefit of this configuration is that if one part of the network is compromised, the rest of it will continue to operate.   

Decentralization also means that control of the network is distributed between many different parties. No central authority means that all changes and decisions must be democratic and support the needs of everyone.  

Blockchain Technology

You can think of blockchain technology as the engine that powers the functionality afforded by Web 3.0. Instead of needing to trust a company like Facebook to regulate a network, trust is placed in an immutable blockchain. Information held on a central server can be hacked and changed, this is impossible on a blockchain network.

Hacking is difficult because information is held in multiple storage locations at once which all have to agree with each other in order for a change to be validated, changing less than 51% of the combined network at once would immediately be invalidated and reversed.

Smart contracts and blockchain protocols govern the transactions that occur on the network. Trust is assured through the distributed nature of the blockchain network and nearly unhackable cryptographic security measures.

Internet of Things (IoT) Support

As physical machines gain a progressively greater ability to gather and report information their networking needs grow exponentially. If you think about connecting the billions of sensors that we will soon have in the world to the current Web 2.0 it’s easy to imagine server crashes and bottlenecks. The very nature of Web 3.0 makes it compatible with the distributed infrastructure of the Internet of Things.

The Web 3.0 future of the IoT will see machines becoming both sensors and network nodes meaning that the network capacity will scale as more nodes are added. The interoperability that the network provides will enable different types of machines to transact with each other without the need for human actors. This means that the autonomous vehicle you own could take itself to an autonomous tire shop and pay for new tires as soon as it detected that they needed to be changed all while you sleep.

Semantic Web

In short, a “Semantic Web” is a version of the internet that is readable and understandable by computers. It's a way to standardize web-based information so that it '      s more intelligently usable by machines.

Currently, the majority of the information on the internet is only searchable via keywords and keyphrases. This means that most of the time a search algorithm is matching keywords instead of matching context or meaning. While there have been recent strides in the area taken by Google by applying Artificial Intelligence and machine learning to the problem, we are still a long way off.

Data Ownership

Users of today’s internet have almost no ownership rights to their personal data. If a company wants to sell their data to marketers or advertisers they are more than welcome too as long at it falls with their agreed terms of service.

The problem with the current model is that a user’s information is valuable and the work of producing it falls exclusively on the user themselves. Laboring to produce something that you can receive no benefit from is tantamount to slavery.

Blockchain technology and cryptography will enable Web 3.0 users to be in complete control of their data until they decide to exchange it for a cryptocurrency like the Basic Attention Token (BAT). The beauty of this system is it removes the middlemen from the advertising networks. Users literally get paid to allow themselves to be monitored while being advertised to. Money that would have normally gone to Facebook or Google now goes directly to network users.

How Will Web 3.0 Be Implemented?

Web 3.0 dapps seen on a phone screen

Web 3.0 is being implemented as we speak. In fact, you can already visit the first signs of Web 3.0 using the Brave browser. The Web3 stack is in development, is being updated constantly, and is becoming more usable by the day.

The truth is that we may never see the total decommissioning of the Web 2.0 system because it will always have use cases and already has a massive amount of infrastructure built for it. The investment in the current status quo is just too great for many large players to simply give it up.

What we will see is side by side growth of Web 3.0 and Web 2.0. Many users will adopt the new system, many more will use both, and some will try as hard as they can to hold onto the past. The future will be a mixture of all these users existing with the ever-expanding presence of artificial intelligence and machine learning algorithms.

Final Thoughts

We are currently living in the time of Web 3.0. Thousands of developers around the world are working day and night to make the dream of a decentralized and human-centric internet a reality. The real implications of a Web 3.0 implementation have yet to be discovered, but there is no doubt that the changes to human society will be both dramatic and global.

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