Welcome to 3.0

Why the Internet (as we know it) is broken, and how the world will fix it, together.

source: ‘Ethereum: The Worlds Computer’

The Internet started mainly as message boards or instant chat rooms and quickly blossomed into a collaborative information and a global communication tool. It had the potential to link every individual on Earth together and internet innovators have given us the tools to completely change the way we interact, innovate and grow. Thus, the internet seems to help us. But does it really?

The problem is that we are looking at applications as the product, but that’s incorrect. It’s the wrong product. You are the product of the internet. You, the user, are being bought at market price and sold, aggregated, and resold — not unlike financial instruments. The value lies in predicting user’s actions so those actions can be monetized. With more information than ever before, users have less privacy than ever. We are data creationists — but we do not own what we create. Since physical data is tangible, we know when someone takes something without permission. This paradigm does not function in the digital world. You are not notified when someone takes something digital that is not theirs.

But our digital data is just as important, if not more important, than physical data, and even more powerful when connected. With the internet, you can be in three places at once and create multiple identities through different social media tools. In the real world, people don’t act the same around every group of people, whether it is your intention or goal. Yet, underneath these identities, the problem remains the same. You do not own your data, and your identity is being bought and sold.

Why is this happening? Because there is no such thing as a free lunch. The infrastructure that runs the Internet is big and expensive. When you pay Verizon or Time Warner for internet access, that is all you are paying for — a gate fee into the global network. And all those apps that you ‘get’ free, don’t run on some magical information cloud. if we don’t pay for apps (or much of anything, really) who pays for the web?

Amazon Web Services is Amazon’s largest source of revenue and hosts traffic such as Netflix and Soundcloud. Google has created a massive search index and gives away email storage to entice users. Facebook adds 7+ petabytes a month to their servers, effectively adding enough storage for 350 million pictures a day. Tech giants offer many ‘free’ products but these products cost millions of dollars to operate. These companies subsidize their costs by selling your data or your interests to the highest bidder. And it just so happens that these companies are also the ad providers (Facebook, Google, Apple).

While they aren’t letting others view your sensitive data, you can bet that these providers are doing research and studying your data to ultimately provide a better product and turn a larger profit. The countless hours spent on these sites yields little reward for users but defines the company’s balance sheets. A cycle quickly develops: if users didn’t post pictures on Instagram, Facebook wouldn’t have paid $1bn for the company. But if Facebook hadn’t bought Instagram, would it have had the money to continue to operate? Could they monetize?

This vicious cycle does not represent what open communication on the Internet was meant to be. We should be rewarding the little guy for finding software bugs, for providing open-source systems to enable mass collaboration and development. Siloing information stagnates innovation, we need to use the internet to ‘mindshare’.

It’s time to change this model; to reward those who enrich our digital worlds. It’s time to use ethical collaboration to foster innovation and growth, with infrastructure built to support just that. It’s time to decentralize the Internet, to move to version three.

In the third edition of New Media, Terry Flew described what he believed to characterize the differences between Web 1.0 and Web 2.0: “[the] move from personal websites to blogs and blog site aggregation, from publishing to participation, from web content as the outcome of large up-front investment to an ongoing and interactive process, and from content management systems to links based on tagging (folksonomy)”. (1)

So if advertising dollars helped to power the infrastructure to shift to version two, what will cause the shift from v2.0 to 3.0? Nilay Patel recently authored an article titled Welcome to hell: Apple vs Google vs Facebook and the slow death of the web, describing the destruction of the internet due to Apple’s new ad blockers that have potential to destroy a main source of revenue for companies. While Patel’s thoughts end in a haunting statement, the future of the Internet is incredibly bright.

Internet 3.0 — where information and connections are no longer limited by incomplete standards and censored data. A web where data can be authenticated to its originator, content creators are valued by the quality of their content not necessarily ‘likes’, and users actually own all of their own data. Imagine being compensated to watch advertisements through an attention market or using automated micropayments to pay $0.0002 cents to read an article on a website.

This future may sound distant but the tools required for web3 are coming. They are built off of decentralized Blockchain protocols and have taken many shapes — starting with Bitcoin and including Ethereum. These tools will allow reputation, persona, finance, and connectivity to fully exist with integrity in the digital world.

What exists today? The technology to control phyiscal access to locations is being developed by Slock.it, UjoMusic.com is demonstrating a functioning example of how the blockchain can create transparency in the music industry, Boardroom and Weifund are digitalizing and distributing business.

We (at ConsenSys) believe in a decentralized future and we’re here to help.

Jesse Grushack (Business & Strategy, developer)

More information:

  1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Web_2.0
  2. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Semantic_Web#Web_3.0
  3. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Attention_economy
  4. Ethereum101.org