What Web 3.0 Really Means
The idea of “Web 3.0” remains elusive to a lot of people, that’s why I’ll take a shot at fleshing out what the term means from my own perspective.
The first stage of World Wide Web evolution, or Web 1.0, features a read-only, static Web, which primarily functions as a one-way publishing medium. Visitors can go on websites to browse digital content, although there was little way of user interaction or content generation. (If you’re thinking digitized tabloids, you’re getting the gist of it.)
To better organize our ideas, let’s begin with some of the most important questions revolving around our target subject: digital content. (I go with that simply because it is the overarching theme throughout the evolution of the Internet.)
- Who creates it?
- Who owns it?
- Who’s in charge of it?
- How is the value allocated?
Predictably, as for Web 1.0, the answer to all these questions is platforms.
The second-generation Web, or Web 2.0, gives users an opportunity to contribute content and interact with other web users. Its primary applications at this stage are social networking and e-commerce. Web 2.0 sites served simply as infrastructures that didn’t create much content themselves but rather relied on user submissions.
Since, however, Web 2.0 platforms enjoy full ownership and control of the infrastructure, they have every bit of user data (including any digital content and footprint by users) handed to them on a silver platter. The result? Platforms are given a complete set of abilities to modify, delete, blacklist users’ contents, or outright ban them. Besides, it’s the platforms, not individuals, that have a say in how the content-generated profit shall be allocated.
A quick comparison (above) reveals that even though Web 1.0 is across the board user-unfriendly, confining content generation to the hands of a small group of sites, it is at the very least a system that upholds the basic market economy idea that as you sow (and own) so shall you reap.
Web 2.0, on the other hand, does a terrific job in exploiting the fundamental rights of creators, botching data privacy protection, and eroding user-generated value. The digital enslavement in all but name.
This adequately explains the existence of Big Tech oligopoly and the fact that those megacorps have been eating the profit cake that tens, if not hundreds, of millions of users made — and have it too.
The next stage of evolution, Web 3.0, is where individuals gain sovereignty over their own digital content as well as the opportunity to control — through a set of protocols — who gets to profit from it.
Digital contents will get treated not just as data, but as assets , since there will be a system designed to protect them as it would any tangible asset. Web 3.0 is close to a digital-age market economy in that regard, which acknowledges and guards IP rights, and supports fairer exchange of value only by contract agreement.
If the market economy frees up productivity (and it does) in a way that thousands of years of the feudal system plus slavery never did, the 2.0–3.0 transition will witness pretty much the parallel effect taking place upon the digital economy development.
Blockchain technologies are core to Web 3.0
In simple terms, the blockchain is a decentralized computational protocol that how various parties shall reach a consensus about a series of facts. It uncouples control of user data from power to operate infrastructure, effectively preventing singular platforms from encroaching on user data, assets, and user identity by abusing the administrative power over computational infrastructures.
It also brings transparent and traceable confirmations of ownership (economic rights, more loosely speaking) to individuals. Specifically, tokenization (made possible by the blockchain) will transform ordinary rights into digitalized and authenticated rights, ensuring traceability of trading, conversion, and alteration records of those rights.
Finally, it creates and automatically executes protocols. The best example of this is smart contracts: a smart contract can allow protocols that allocate value and rights to be efficiently and faultlessly executed without the help of TPP. And did I mention smart code audits yet?
In a word, the blockchain is really just an indispensable part of the Web 3.0 evolution — but that’s not even the point. The point is the empowerment of individuals with authentication and protection they need over the digital assets they enormously value.
Since there’s no proven way to perform authentication on original data, any attempt to authenticate or transact original data is either unscalable, costly, or futile. (Sometimes all at the same time.)
This brings us to tokens. Tokens are by far the only blockchain-based entity that is simultaneously subject to effective oversight and authentication, and for that reason, tokenization is the only real way by which digital data and ownership can be secured.
The vast majority of tokens that exist across Web 3.0 will be non-fungible tokens (NFTs).
Right now, we are at the transitioning phase from Web 2.0 to 3.0, a process expected to last from 10 to 15 years. The result of such a transition is the rebirth of the World Wide Web and, along with it, the global digital economy.
Metaverse is an important Web 3.0 application of social networking.
The era of Web 3.0 will see the inevitable rise of numerous massive, decentralized platforms, with a multitude of start-up entrepreneurs and digital-asset zillionaires. Social media empires and Big Tech oligopolies might not be around as much as they are today. Or so we hope.
Nations failing to hop on the Web 3.0 train will be left out well within 15 years, with their economic scale and impact proving trivial in the new age of the global digital economy.