The Internet is an evolving entity, reinventing itself at such a rapid pace that it is difficult to stop long enough to describe it. Web3 is the next iteration which is still in the early stages of development.
As with Web1 and Web2, perfect hopes and plans are plentiful. Will the biggest tech companies with the most resources dominate the space or will disruptive technologies and new pioneers emerge, bolstering the equality of the Internet?
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Web3 promises a decentralized future of the Internet built on blockchain technology and the Internet of Things. But what would that look like and could it be done?
Predicting how the next chapter of the Internet will look means re-exploring the Web that once existed.
Web1 began as a decentralized network that connected individual computers and servers. In the 1970s, the United States government developed ARPANET As a communication system linking military command centers. Soon, academic and research institutions joined the network and the Internet was born as an open source environment, meaning that anyone could build on it freely.
By the 1990s, websites still had one primary function: displaying information. The first browsers were introduced but at the time, ads were blocked, which seems hard to believe today.
Web2 is the Internet as we know it now. It is a more interactive environment with social media and creator platforms allowing users to post and interact with content.
Web2 heralded the era of online marketing and sales with mobile devices and improved broadband networks.
In 1996, Steve Jobs made a visual prediction in a Wired magazine interviewAnd the “The best way to think of the web is as a direct distribution channel to customers, whether it’s for information or commerce. It bypasses all intermediaries.”
Amazon success (AMZN) – Get an Amazon.com Inc. report.ebay (ebay) – Get an eBay Inc. report.The growing digital shopping experience has proven the validity of jobs. By 2012, e-commerce sales have reached 1 trillion dollars all over the world.
With the backbone of advertising, Meta (dead) – Get the Meta Platforms Inc. report.the alphabet (The Google) – Get the Alphabet reportand many others have benefited greatly from the dominance of social media, search platforms, and video streaming services.
However, big technology has been criticized for violating user privacy and this criticism has a price. The European Union data protection authorities issued a total of $1.25 billion Fines since January 2021.
Lawmakers and users alike continue to question how companies collect and share personal data.
Even some of the founding fathers of the Internet, including the inventor of the World Wide Web, Tim Berners-Lee, wondered if the Web as it exists today could be the free and open forum that he promised. He said in a broadcast on BBC Radio in November of 2019,
“If you had asked me 30 years ago where we would be, I kind of hoped that we could use web tools effectively to promote democracy. But now we see with the exploitation that we saw with Cambridge Analytica as well as the misinformation, the lack of accountability, the blocking and censorship by governments, This is not what we see.“
So, is Web3 the answer?
Web3 aims to decentralize the Internet and launch a multidimensional and immersive environment called “metaverse” designed for greater user engagement.
Blockchain technology is widely expected to change how information is shared and stored, providing verifiable, unreliable, and distributed data on peer-to-peer nodes or servers that could enable the creation of new economic sectors and new forms of commerce.
In theory, decentralized applications can transfer a lot of power and control to the public, marking a shift to a more user-owned web.
Buying and selling peer-to-peer assets, such as NFTs, is just the beginning. The ever-growing adoption of cryptocurrency and the ever-growing e-commerce has effectively alienated middlemen from parts of the economy.
Keep in mind the transaction fees that credit card companies charge retailers. It adds what appears to be as small as 1 to 4% moving through the supply chain. The inefficiency of small transactions forces many businesses to buy in bulk and effectively leads to the shutdown of small businesses.
Advocates of decentralized finance, or ‘Defi’, are lobbying and promoting more personalized financial models and even a future without central banks and financial markets.
Pioneers in the space include OpenSea, the premier digital marketplace for crypto holdings and NFTs, Coinbase for buying, selling and storing cryptocurrency, and Decentraland, a metaverse environment where users can meet, chat, play games, socialize, and attend events.
However, critics are already beginning to question some of Web3’s lofty ambitions and warn of potential manipulation.
If Web2 is an example, then ideal predictions can be modified by market forces, industry leaders, and even politics. Can the Web3 dream come true or does the past already have the answer?