The third generation of Internet-based services
In the beginning, it was Web 1.0. The original World Wide Web was made up of websites with lots of static content and no interaction. Users connected through dial-up modems and no one else in the house could use the phone until they were done. Then came Web 2.0, with faster internet speeds and broadband. This was the web where people came to participate and share: social media, blogging, online shopping, massively multiplayer games and video streaming. It is also the web of big data and personal information as an asset. Now, some are envisioning a Web 3.0. So, what is Web 3.0 and what does it mean for users?
Vision 1 – decentralisation
There is no single vision or description of Web 3.0. In fact, two different visions have been proposed which are almost mutually exclusive. In one vision, Web 3.0 would take the best parts from Web 1.0 – the privacy and decentralisation and the best parts from Web 2.0 – the speed and variety, and put them together.
This would create an Internet that returned control of the web to individual users by making it fairer and more transparent. This vision involves the use of blockchain to decentralise and democratise. Instead of monopolies like Facebook and Uber, which use the Internet to create private networks for public infrastructure, Web 3.0 would have multiple profit centres, sharing value across an open network.
So, how would this work?
Tools like VPN, decentralised storage, blockchain and cryptocurrency wallets would be used to remove large corporations as middlemen and let users interact more directly with each other. Instead of allowing Google and Facebook to own our data, individuals would use encryption to maintain control of their information and transactions would be signed and verified. Web-users would need to opt-in rather than opting out. Information could then be shared on a case-by-case basis in exchange for direct payment using Bitcoin. This would also prevent hackers (and government agencies) from gathering large amounts of data at once, making hacking financially untenable.
Many of the digital tools needed to create this vision already exist. For example, Experty is a decentralized platform that allows providers to advertise their knowledge services and set a rate-per-minute charge for their knowledge. The knowledge is then exchanged via video or audio call. Smart contracts are used to determine if the caller has enough funds to continue with the call, with charges paid in Experty Tokens, or EXY tokens using the Ethereum blockchain.
This Web 3.0 would also use platforms like InterPlanetary File System (IPFS), a protocol and peer-to-peer network that allows users to store and share data in a distributed file system. Instead of storing information in a centrally located server, IPFS is built around a decentralized system of user-operators who each hold a portion of the overall data, creating a sort of blockchain of secure data.
This decentralisation can even be extended to social media. For example, Akasha uses blockchain and IPFS to allow users to publish and share content over a decentralized network. Users can show their appreciation for quality content with Etherium-based micro-transactions.
Vision 2 – more centralisation
A contrasting view of Web 3.0 envisions it as more of the same, but with more targeted big data. This vision of the future sees AI and machine learning used to create a “semantic web”, where user data and behaviour is analysed to deliver a more personalized web experience. Computers will scan and interpret information on Web pages using software “agents”. These software agents will crawl through the Web, searching for information tailored to each user. Think of the ads that currently follow you around the Internet – but even more highly personalised.
This web experience could allow users to abandon written searches and instead interact with browsers and app using natural speech. Websites would automatically customise themselves to fit users’ requirements, tastes and habits.
As with the decentralised version of Web 3.0, this version is also already here. For example, in the way that Google maps can now combine giving you directions with recommendations on the best hotels and restaurants along your route, and live traffic updates.
Which vision will it be?
No matter your preference, both versions of Web 3.0 are already beginning to be felt. It is likely that they will both continue to be available well into the future. Just as Web 2.0 did not eliminate all of Web 1.0 (Yahoo! is still hanging in there), Web 3.0 will probably take many forms. It is likely to be up to individual users whether to use the platforms and apps that allow decentralisation or greater centralisation.
25th September 2019