The internet is single-handedly one of the greatest inventions of humankind.
From finding recipes online, video calling friends, playing multiplayer games, and watching cat videos, the internet makes it possible to stay connected, cognizant, comprehensive and creative.
While the internet seems fine the way it is, word about a potential upgrade tied to the loosely defined concept of ‘Web 3’ is circulating.
What exactly is this third iteration of the Web? Who are its proponents? And how exactly does it plan to make the Web even better?
To better understand our potential future, we’ll have to take a look into the concrete past.
The internet back in the ’90s was a shell of what it is now. It was a web that was only meant for information retrieval through poorly designed web pages that were slow to load, thanks to primitive dial-up internet and a lack of research in technology. This age of the internet is also referred to as the Static Web, as you couldn’t really interact with it in a significant way.
Back then, most couldn’t fathom what the internet could eventually grow to be.
Given the almost unimaginable nature of the present, what will the future be? pic.twitter.com/b2Yw0AXGVA
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) December 20, 2021
It became the ‘read, write and interact’ saga of the internet. This is where we currently sit.
What do Web 3 proponents say about the Web 2 model?
As mentioned above, Web 2 was largely pushed by big tech and social media companies, and Web 3 supporters say that has caused this age of the internet to be highly centralized, with big tech, including Facebook, Apple, Google and Amazon holding onto the most power and consumer data — the same consumer data that Facebook uses for its targeted ads. The argument here is if the general public is the primary user base of a platform, they ought to have primary control over it and their data.
Web 3 proponents vision the internet to be decentralized, similar to how cryptocurrency aims to make our monetary system decentralized and peer-to-peer, and developers have already started making dApps (decentralized applications) on the blockchain.
If the blockchain internet vision is to be believed, you soon won’t need to create different accounts for various platforms. Your identity will be your personal wallet, with which you’ll gain access to all applications built on the blockchain.
If it’s free, you’re the product
Copies of your personal data are created and kept on servers of firms such as Google and Facebook and are used for targeted advertising.
Proponents of Web 3 say they believe in a more transparent and fair Web model that places the power in the hands of its users instead of a single controlling entity, with open-source protocols allowing everyone to build on the foundation.
Having social media applications built on a public blockchain will allow permanent and permissionless data storage that no one entity can hold, and abolish our reliance on big tech. Instead, the data will be stored in millions of computers around the world, verifying each other’s information to come to a conclusion about what is true and false.
While the idea of not giving away your personal information to a single controlling entity does sound comforting, the idea can backfire, as blockchains are a public ledger, and its information is accessible to everyone.
And how is creating, organizing and maintaining a public app with no central authority possible? It’ll be chaos. This is where Web 3 proponents bring in DAOs.
DAOs stand for decentralized autonomous organizations that allow people to have ownership and governing rights over the platform they use. DAOs layout rules for a platform, and its members get to vote for what they want to add or remove. Each member’s voting power is decided by the value of company shares they hold. A greater number of shares, or tokens in this case = greater voting rights.
You don’t own “web3.”
The VCs and their LPs do. It will never escape their incentives. It’s ultimately a centralized entity with a different label.
Know what you’re getting into…
— jack⚡️ (@jack) December 21, 2021
While the idea works out perfectly when all users are given an equal stake, the current model gives greater governing power to those who can afford to purchase a high amount of shares/tokens, which again makes the platform centralized and distributes the power among a few. Venture capitalists and big tech won’t just sit there and lose control. They would accumulate said tokens to get a greater degree of governing rights (and some are already doing this).
Further, building Web 3 applications is more complex than Web 2 applications because of the added learning curve. However, industry staples like Polygon have started helping onboard developers into the world of building decentralized applications and making the process easier and less daunting.
Hey #Developers, planning to make a shift from #Web2 to #Web3 ecosystem?
You're in luck as #PolygonAcademy is here!
A newly launched, free online school dedicated to onboarding #Web2 devs into the #Web3 ecosystem: https://t.co/RusaycjYyO [1/4] pic.twitter.com/eHQGvSYz0a
— Polygon Developers 💜 (@0xPolygonDevs) February 10, 2022
Additionally, since the data you add to a blockchain is permanent and can’t be removed by someone else, it raises the question of censorship on said Web 3 platforms that run on the blockchain. With no single body to regulate content, such platforms can become a hub for illicit activity, cybercrime, racism, hate and terror.
Added to that is the fact that blockchains in their current state are energy-intensive and contribute to carbon emissions and climate change. While companies are already working on utilizing renewable energy to power said blockchains, and other proof of stake consensus make the process less harmful to the environment, we’re still a long way from achieving anything concrete.
Since the Web 3 vision hasn’t matured into something concrete, the abovementioned concepts are just ideas constructed from available information.
The internet will undoubtedly continue to expand and outperform itself. Will the future be dominated by decentralized applications and platforms that give its users power? While I don’t have a crystal ball to look into the internet of 2030, judging by how quickly we progressed from letters to radios to computers with static Web to a model that is dynamic and interactable, I wouldn’t be surprised if the internet keeps expanding, and we gradually transition to a model of the Web that is decentralized.
There’s also a possibility of a transition to a model that retains Web 2 characteristics while gradually introducing Web 3 concepts.
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