From personal data pods to the 'spatial web’, ideas are forming for the next stage in the evolution of the worldwide web.
The Internet has changed dramatically since it’s inception. From Internet Relay Chat (IRC) to modern social media, it has become a vital part of human interactions and continues to evolve.
When considering the future of the world wide web, it feels natural to consult its inventor. Interviewed in 1999, Tim Berners-Lee looked back on his creation with pride and hoped that the trajectory of it’s evolution would continue to be informed by its original, decentralised architecture;
“I have a dream for the Web [in which computers] become capable of analyzing all the data on the Web – the content, links, and transactions between people and computers. A "Semantic Web," which makes this possible, has yet to emerge, but when it does, the day-to-day mechanisms of trade, bureaucracy, and our daily lives will be handled by machines talking to machines.”
The solution to these was what he called the ‘semantic web.’ Instead of rooting around a shaky network of hyperlinks to find what they were looking for, users would be able to rely on a system that could find the relevant information intuitively. Within a year, a new term was coined: Web 3.0, marking the web’s evolution beyond the 1.0 era of HTML web pages and early e-commerce into the gaudier 2.0 period, which saw the birth of social media and ‘user-generated content’.
A brief history of the evolution of the Internet
Websites and web applications have changed dramatically over the last decades. They have evolved from static sites to data-driven sites that users can interact with and change.
The original Internet was based on what is now known as Web 1.0. The term was coined in 1999 by author and web designer Darci DiNucci, when distinguishing between Web 1.0 and Web 2.0. Back in the early 1990s, websites were built using static HTML pages that only had the ability to display information – there was no way for users to change the data.
That all changed during the late 1990s when the shift toward a more interactive Internet started taking form. With Web 2.0, users were able to interact with websites through the use of databases, server-side processing, forms, and social media. This brought forth a change from a static to a more dynamic web.
What is Web 3.0
Web 3.0 is the next generation of Internet technology that heavily relies on the use of machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI). It aims to create more open, connected, and intelligent websites and web applications, which focus on using a machine-based understanding of data.
Through the use of AI and advanced machine learning techniques, Web 3.0 aims to provide more personalized and relevant information at a faster rate. This can be achieved through the use of smarter search algorithms and development in Big Data analytics.
Current websites typically have static information or user-driven content, such as forums and social media. While this allows information to be published to a broad group of people, it may not cater to a specific user’s need. A website should be able to tailor the information it provides to each individual user, similar to the dynamism of real-world human communication.
When the term ‘Web 3.0’ was tentatively coined in 2006, there was a clear line between the web of hypertext pages encountered on computer screens and the infrastructure of the internet that made it all possible. In Web 3.0, an ocean of information will be available to websites and applications, and they will be able to understand and use that data in a way that is meaningful to the individual user.
What makes Web 3.0 superior to itspredecessors?
- No central point of control: Since middlemen are removed from the equation, user data will no longer be controlled by them. This reduces the risk of censorship by governments or corporations and cuts down the effectiveness of Denial-of-Service (DoS) attacks.
- Increased information interconnectivity: As more products become connected to the Internet, larger data sets provide algorithms with more information to analyze. This can help them provide more accurate information that accommodates the specific needs of the individual user.
- More efficient browsing: When using search engines, finding the best result used to be quite challenging. However, over the years, they have become better at finding semantically-relevant results based on search context and metadata. This results in a more convenient web browsing experience that can help anyone find the exact information they need with relative ease. Web 2.0 also introduced social tagging systems, but those can be manipulated. With smarter algorithms, manipulated results can be filtered by AI.
- Improved advertising and marketing: No one likes being bombarded with online ads. However, if the ads are relevant to one’s interests and needs, they could be useful instead of being an annoyance. Web 3.0 aims to improve advertising by leveraging smarter AI systems, and by targeting specific audiences based on consumer data.
- Better customer support: When it comes to websites and web applications, customer service is key for a smooth user experience. Due to the massive costs, though, many web services that become successful are unable to scale their customer service operations accordingly. Through the use of smarter chatbots that can talk to multiple customers simultaneously, users can enjoy a superior experience when dealing with support agents.
Web 3.0: Free speech on the Blockchain
Devotees of blockchain, meanwhile, imagine a much more disrupted web in the future, with the technology affording economic transformation in cryptocurrencies and NFTs, and the basic organisation of society in the flowering of distributed autonomous organisations (DAOs.) Also, supporters and enthusiasts argue that its popularisation will restore free speech on the internet to its original, uncensored form with the added failsafe that on a blockchain network, it is (theoretically) impossible to delete information undetected.
The evolution of the Internet has been a long progressive journey and will definitely continue towards further iterations. With the massive explosion of available data, websites and applications have the ability to transition to a web that provides a considerably better experience to an increasing number of users around the world.
Web 3.0’s decentralized Blockchain protocol will enable individuals to connect to an internet where they can own and be properly compensated for their time and data, eclipsing an exploitative web where giant centralized repositories are the only owners and beneficiaries.