What even is Web3? Everything you need to know
Not to be dramatic but we are witnessing live, a major technological advancement that has the potential to change society: Web3.
You've probably heard this word flying around along with NFT, Metaverse and blockchain and may be confused about what it means exactly. While still being refined, the Web3 definition refers to the latest internet iteration which is a decentralized online network built and established through the blockchain.
As Web3 is a decentralized internet, there are no central authorities or governing bodies controlling the platforms or apps. Users control their data instead of corporations and can interact on Web3 platforms without having to give up their data in order to participate. Complete transparency and trust are at the core of these services, and this is carried out by storing all data and updates on the blockchain, where the information is accessible for everyone to see.
In understanding Web3, it makes sense to look at what came before in order to recognise why this evolution is so important.
Web1 is the first version of the internet, the World Wide Web that we were introduced to in the 90s. As it was an early model, the defining features were to view static images and words. So users would mostly find landing pages, blog posts and basic websites to engage with.
Web2 is the second development of the internet. It is the one we still engage with today, the internet where we (the users) give up our data to major corporations to use their services. The key factor here is that Web2 is centralized, meaning that a large portion of online activity occurs on closed platforms run by a small group of monopolistic corporations like Meta (previously known as Facebook), Google, and Microsoft (to name a few) and are regulated by the government. In Web2 we have video, social media and a much higher quality user experience but the issue of data collection is what incentivised the creation of Web3. People are looking to reclaim control of their data and online experience.
Web3 is ushering in an entirely new way to participate on the internet. You'll see many surface-level differences plus more nuanced distinctions compared to previous versions of the internet. With its focus on decentralization, Web3 can potentially change the structure of the internet.
The decentralization of Web3 is designed to create a more egalitarian internet by putting peer-to-peer networks in place of centralized servers. Web3 will, in theory, redistribute control over the data that corporations and governments currently hold.
Vitalik Buterin, a programmer and writer known as one of the co-founders of Ethereum explains the core features of decentralization that make up Web3 technologies like this:
- Architectural decentralization - The number of physical computers running the system. To create decentralization, there is a broad network of computers rather than a centralized server.
- Political decentralization - The number of individuals controlling the computers and the platforms. With Web3, control is not given to one governing body but distributed amongst users.
- Logical decentralization - Does the interface and database structures look more like a swarm of independent objects than a single isolated database.
A huge advantage of a decentralized network that runs on peer-to-peer interactions is that you do not need a middle man when it comes to transactions. This factor, combined with user ownership data allows people to monetize their data and content. However, this type of structure also results in users playing a much more significant role in creating protocol and determining the direction of platforms and apps. This is a big responsibility and has benefits and drawbacks.
As it is with all things, there are pros and cons to Web3 but keep in mind that it is very much still in its early stages and these problems may be addressed in the following years.
One of the main differences between Web 2 and Web 3 is that centralized networks are faster than decentralized ones, this is because Web2 can process code changes and transactions faster. Decentralized platforms have a slow transfer speed, and information may take time to reach all parts of the network. While this may sound like a minor inconvenience it has the potential to be disastrous.
Another issue with Web3 is that while decentralization is the goal, it is argued that there are still hierarchies (making them more centralized instead). In theory everyone is supposed to have an equal voice but whether that is the case is questionable.
The biggest issue at the moment is how new Web3 is. There is a learning curve that prevents it being easily adopted by the masses, from the vocabulary to using the actual software. However this issue may go away in time as simplified ways of interacting with Web3 are created, which is inevitable when it comes to going mainstream.
So far, Web3 has brought us digital ownership, NFTs, the Metaverse, the blockchain and cryptocurrencies which have already created many new businesses, careers, and opportunities in a whole new industry. If that's what can happen in only a few years, it's hard to tell how much it can change the world. There are vast amounts of investment and time going into the development of this new phase of the internet, so we can expect to continuously hear about new advancements being made in the following years.
That's all for now, but...
Make sure you join us back here for the phase of Web4.