Web 3.0 is a futuristic decentralized version of the web that is expected to be owned and controlled by users (instead of tech giants such as Google and Facebook). Experts predict that through web 3.0 we would be able to experience advanced versions of virtual reality (VR), artificial intelligence (AI), and blockchain technology and in the future, this new internet might also enable us to get inside the virtual world (as digital avatars) that we currently see on our screens.
There is so much more that web 3.0 (or the future internet) promises but the real question is would tech giants allow the emergence of a user-owned internet — because the current business model of these billion-dollar companies looks like it’s just about establishing their monopoly of the internet — or will they be swept away by the flow of user-determined internet? Could there be another futuristic version just waiting to emerge? Let’s explore it.
The growth in NFT sales, online gaming, and crypto trading services during the COVID-19 outbreak also indicate the rise of a decentralized internet ecosystem because many of these new industries either run on blockchain technology or encourage users to be a part of a virtual world (or metaverse). However, for now, even organizations like Web3 Foundation and Polkadot who are involved in the creation of web 3.0 are not sure what the future internet would look like.
In fact, probably no one is — though everyone likes to speculate.
Many internet experts claim that we still have to go a long way before we experience a fully developed web 3.0 because our current infrastructure and internet ecosystem is still not powerful and transparent enough to employ a completely user-controlled internet.
Web 3.0 vs Web 2.0 vs Web 1.0
In 1999, Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the world wide web envisioned the idea of an internet that would exist without any central controlling node, a web that would be capable of processing and analyzing all kinds of data on the internet, he called such internet the semantic web. He believed that a semantic web would serve as an extension of the current internet.
“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 “intelligent agents” people have touted for ages will finally materialize.”Tim Berners-Lee, Creator of World Wide Web
These days, most of us couldn’t even imagine life without the ever-present internet.
The Internet actually originated in the late 80s and the period between 1989 to 2004 is called the web 1.0 era or the read-only era. During this time, users could only view or read information on the internet. By the year 1999, users were able to post comments and write their own content on the internet, so this is when the idea of web 2.0 started to take shape, however, it was still in an early phase at that time.
It was around 2004 that the rise of blogging websites, social media companies, and video streaming services gave rise to an interactive form of internet that was hailed as a fully-fledged web 2.0.
So web 2.0 refers to the second generation of the World Wide Web that emphasized user-generated content, user-centered design, and social media. It marked a shift away from static HTML pages towards dynamic, interactive, and collaborative applications.
Thanks to the numerous services and applications of web 2.0, we are now able to read, write, shop, share, search, play, work, and communicate from anywhere in the world with so much ease.
Whereas web 2.0 was all about the users processing and creating content and machines aggregating it, web 3.0 shifts that focus to make it easier for machines to understand and process the vast amounts of information on the web. Basically, web 3.0 wants to get machines, in the form of things like Artificial Intelligence, to “understand” and structure content to enable users to get exactly what they want and enhance their consumption of information, as well as the production of new information.
In addition to offering personalized experiences to users, web 3.0 is supposed to still give more power and security to the users — in theory, at least.
Decentralization and security
Web 3.0 is also believed to function as an extended version of web 2.0, the internet that we experience today. There is no doubt that web 2.0 has presented an immense number of opportunities to us and made our lives comfortable and fast-paced, but at the same time, it has also led to large-scale user exploitation, cyber-bullying, data theft, and the spread of misinformation to an extent that now its centralized structure is often considered a threat to democratic values.
Due to these serious concerns associated with web 2.0 many tech experts, blockchain developers, and crypto enthusiasts advocate for the development of a decentralized and user-controlled internet ecosystem. In 2006, New York Times journalist John Markoff for first time came up with the term “web 3.0” for the internet of the future, however, the term started to gain popularity when Gavin Wood, co-founder of Ethereum defined web 3.0 as the new blockchain-based internet.
Some of the most exciting predictions about web 3.0 are as followed:
- In web 3.0, internet users will exercise complete control over their data. Every user will be provided with a unique digital identity code that he or she could use to access their own complete personal information (without any need to log into a particular application or website). No central authority, internet service provider, or website will be able to use, steal, or sell a user’s data without his or her consent.
- Web 3.0 would offer a more personalized internet experience. Unlike web 2.0, where users have to use different applications and software to perform multiple functions, in web 3.0, internet users would be able to mix and integrate programs as per their use. They could customize their internet experience by combining different services together and using them as a whole. For example, imagine using an app that combines a calculator, calendar, and a notepad such that you could prepare a daily budget sheet more conveniently. Moreover, just like we see personalized feeds on YouTube and Instagram, the search engines in web 3.0 will also offer personalized internet search results to every user using AI. So if a football fan and a basketball fan search “greatest sports personalities of all time”, based on their liking, they would get different results for their query.
- In web 3.0, instead of uploading their data to centralized storage facilities owned by Amazon, Microsoft, and Google, users will be able to choose where and how their internet data is stored. They will have the option to keep their information stored in decentralized cloud networks, independent data centers, and even personal storage units. However, the development of such efficient internet data storage solutions would require huge investment and significant resources.
Apart from these developments, advanced VR and machine learning-based applications would allow users to experience digital 3D environments in web 3.0. Users would be able to try virtual clothing and accessories and even live as avatars in games, and different metaverses. Tourists would be able to virtually experience any place on the internet before they actually visit the site.
Basically, in web 3.0, users would be able to experience the 2D environment of web 2.0 in 3D, similar to what you may have also seen in Steven Spielberg’s sci-fi flick Ready Player One — or the excellent novel the book is based on.
Metaverse and web 3.0?
A metaverse is a shared 3D online world where users can meet with each other, attend virtual events, buy virtual accessories and assets, play games, and even change the environment around them. Applications like Decentraland, Second Life, Axie Infinity, and games such as Fortnite, Roblox, etc are some of the most popular metaverses on the internet. The idea of metaverse has also been explored in films like Minority Report and The Matrix.
Blockchain-based metaverses could play an important role in the emergence of web 3.0 because such virtual worlds encourage the use of non-fungible tokens (NFTs), DeFi (decentralized finance) applications, VR and AR devices, cryptocurrency, and trading of virtual assets among their users(in November 2021, an investment firm Republic Realm purchased a virtual property for $4.3 million in the Sandbox metaverse). Metaverses not only allow users to be a part of a decentralized ecosystem but also promote the development of web 3.0-related technologies.
According to a report from AR Insider, there are 2.5 billion internet users at present who participate in buying and selling virtual assets in different metaverses. Such trade activities combined with the use of NFTs and cryptocurrency in metaverse-focused applications and games are giving rise to a new kind of economy called metanomics. The influence and power of metanomics can be imagined from the fact that Mark Zuckerberg changed Facebook’s name to Meta and recently launched his company’s own metaverse called Horizon World. Apple and Microsoft are also said to be working on their own metaverse-related projects.
I believe the metaverse is the next chapter for the internet.Mark Zuckerberg, CEO, Meta
Even many high-budget Hollywood projects (like Dune) are now being promoted inside in-game metaverses prior to their release. Footwear brand Nike has recently bought RTFKT, a company that creates digital accessories for metaverse-focused games and applications. In the post-pandemic also, virtual worlds have emerged as new hotspots for entertainment, promotions, meetings, and different kinds of events.
The Meta economy is growing at such a fast pace that recently, a crypto investment firm Grayscale predicted that in the coming years, the metaverse market valuation could reach one trillion dollars. As the metaverse grows, the demand for web 3.0 related innovation would also increase, one example of this is the booming AR and VR device sales which are expected to add $1.5 trillion dollars to the global economy by the end of this decade. Therefore, every small and big development happening in the metaverse around us is inching us closer to web 3.0.
But whether or not the Metaverse will actually take shape or turn out to be a monumental flop (or emerge, but in a different form) is still a great unknown. The truth of the matter is it’s extremely hard, or maybe even impossible to predict how the internet will evolve. Still, one thing is for sure: it will continue to play a huge part in our lives and will be an important part of our society. Hopefully, it will empower users and help them become more secure.