WEB3: THE FUTURE OF THE INTERNET?
If you have any sort of online presence, then you’ve almost certainly heard of Web3.
However, if you’re part of the majority then it’s likely that you’re not entirely sure what it means. You may have heard people throwing around the term Blockchain and bragging about their new NFTs of a cartoon cat with an eyepatch.
If you can’t figure out where to even start trying to comprehend the concept then you’ve come to the right place, as we’ve put together a whistle-stop tour of “the internet”.
As always, the best place to start is the beginning.
Between the years 1991 and 2004, the internet was mainly just a bunch of static pages accessed by entering a specific URL into the search bar of your personal computer device.
The early internet was built around what’s referred to as “open protocols” by internet super-geniuses. That’s where we get HTTP or “Hyper Text Transfer Protocol” from, it means that a particular website is using the HTTP standard to transmit information.
In these internet dark ages, absolutely no one was making money through ads online, the ‘world wide web’ was essentially one big unorganised Wikipedia page.
The main element to grasp here is that the web was decentralised and difficult to access, with no links and zero interactivity, it was read-only. Most consumers passively consumed content in a text format, or if they could stomach the five-minute long dial-up wait, maybe an image or two.
From 2004 to our present day, the web has evolved massively. One of the biggest changes has been the move towards ‘interactivity.’ The internet has become a two-way street. Thanks to the development of new technologies, innovative minds have been able to dream big and connect pages between one another, the birth of links.
Myspace, MSN, Facebook, and many more similar services have emerged and largely changed the way we live our lives today. Social networks, streaming services, the deadly comment section are now part of our daily lives, for better or for worse.
When we use the internet, we create huge amounts of personal data that organisations can use. Have you ever googled “is it normal to cry three times an hour” only to be bombarded with ads about tissue paper on Instagram the next day? Organisations collect information about all our searches, our friends, our locations and even record our screens to advertise to us what they think we want. Maybe we do want it, that’s up to you.
See The Social Dilemma on Netflix for an in-depth view of the situation.
However, there may indeed be a light to lead us away from a WALL-E-esque future owned by corporations: Web3.
So, we’ve finally made it to the meat and potatoes of this post, what is Web 3.0?
Web3 is the long awaited benevolent power grid, redistributing influence within the internet landscape, putting the control back in the hands of the individual user.
The new and improved internet is to be built on blockchain technology, the very same tech that all cryptocurrencies rely on. In a blockchain the data isn’t held by a centralised server or authority but by all the computer systems that run on the blockchain, so if the data goes missing, there’s always another copy somewhere else. Neat!
This means that no singular entity will be able to hog all of the data, which in theory, should create something like a ‘digital democracy’ with every extra device strengthening the platform. The idea is that the new technology will allow us to become both participants and shareholders of the new web.
Now it’s time we get to the bottom of everybody’s least favourite dinner party subject, NFTs. Now it may be easy to shudder at the thought of these conversation killers but there’s more to them than meets the eye.
They’re actually pretty cool.
Non Fungible Tokens are little bits of data that live on a blockchain and represent your ownership of a unique item. The non-fungible part means that it cannot be replicated, so it’s entirely yours and will be forever, unless you decide to sell it. Theoretically, an NFT can be an image, a meme, any bit of code really.
So in an ideal world, Web3 will give users control over their data and hand power back to creators and artists.
One thing to bear in mind is that we’ve not actually arrived at Web3 yet, this promising infrastructure is still in its infancy.
The growing everyday importance of blockchain technologies such as cryptocurrencies, NFTs and the Metaverse mean that things are changing but not at such a pace that we’re experiencing a wild different internet. The Web2 so to speak.
That being said, the decentralisation of these networks could incite nefarious types to come forth and rear their ugly heads. The regulation of online activities would become more difficult meaning that we could see a surge in cybercrime, we’re already seeing debate over whether Russian banks could use crypto to bypass Western sanctions over the war in Ukraine.
The tech giants of Web2 won’t be going down without a fight though. Mark Zuckerberg’s recent announcement that Facebook is transitioning to the Metaverse perhaps foreshadows a much less democratic version of Web3, dominated by the same big players as Web2.
Whether or not we see a drastic change in the landscape, it’s not unreasonable to imagine a world where Web3 takes over, just like Web1 and Web2 did, not too long ago.