There’s been a buzz around tech, cryptocurrency and VC lately, and today’s conversations are so full of it that you don’t even care about the future if you don’t add it to your Twitter bio, The word is Web3.
It is an umbrella term for those who wish to eliminate middlemen on the Internet. In this new world, browsing the web no longer means logging on to Facebook, Google or Twitter.
You can think of it this way: Web1 was the prototype of the Internet in the 1990s, when the web was considered a way for the public to access information, but you could only find information better through your friends’ GeoCities navigation pages, and overall , Web page information is quite confusing and complex.
Then, Web2 started appearing in the mid-2000s. The emergence of platforms like Google, Amazon, Facebook and Twitter has brought order to the internet by making it easier to connect and transact online. But critics say the companies have also accumulated too much power over time.
Web3 is all about taking back some of that power.
“All these platforms are in the hands of a small group of companies, and while we use them and we contribute to the success of these platforms, we don’t own it,” says Mat Dryhurst, currently a Berlin-based executive artist and researcher who teaches courses on the future of the internet at NYU.
So, according to Dryhurst and other Web3 fans, Web3 is a new iteration of the Internet, along with new social networks, search engines, and marketplaces, replacing corporate monopolies.
They are decentralized and built on a system called the blockchain that underlies Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. You can think of it as a kind of ledger, a large number of computers synchronizing with data that can be searched by anyone.It is run collectively by users, not by companies. Participants are rewarded with tokens that can be used to vote on decisions and even appreciate in value.
In a Web3 world, people are in control of their data, using a personalized account to access social media, send emails, and shop, all while a record of these activities is created on the blockchain.
Olga Mack, an entrepreneur and blockchain lecturer at the University of California, Berkeley, said: “To the average person, it does sound like witchcraft, but when you push the button to turn on the lights, do you understand how electricity is generated? ? You don’t need to know how electricity works to see its benefits, and that’s what blockchain does.”
Now, the idea of reinventing the internet sounds like a distant digital utopia. But Web3 is driving new conversations and attracting a lot of money from crypto investors.
Web3 was confusing at first, but it’s becoming more mainstream, and tech companies are starting to take notice
The Web3 movement has grown thanks to the rise of NFTs, digital collectibles that can be bought and sold with cryptocurrencies. Recently, a group of crypto enthusiasts banded together to try to buy a copy of the U.S. Constitution with digital currency. They formed ConstitutionDAO (DAO stands for Decentralized Autonomous Organization, but also refers to a collective of online crypto enthusiasts who gather in a blockchain and token management organization, very web3.)
Dryhurst thinks trying to explain Web3 can be distressing because it’s a loosely defined term that’s defined slightly differently from person to person, but he says that’s a problem with all new technological frontiers.
“Every new discovery on the web is initially confusing,” he said.
For technologists and cryptographers alike, Web3 has had a theoretical grand vision for years. But in recent months, discussions about the future of blockchain have dominated tech conferences and social media in certain circles. It even forced big tech companies to form teams dedicated to Web3.
This brings a certain irony to the development of Web3: proponents hope that they will no longer have to share photos, communicate with friends and shop online through the products of these big techs, but instead choose the many competitive products on the blockchain. For example, every time you post a status, you can earn a token reward that gives you partial ownership of the platform and can one day cash out from it.
In theory, this means we no longer have to pay these tech platforms and are exempt from their rules and restrictions. But some big tech platforms are also trying to do it.
“This means that all the value created can be shared among more people than just company owners, investors and employees,” said Esther Crawford, senior program manager at Twitter.
Crawford said that Twitter is looking at how to incorporate Web3 concepts into the social network, such as the ability to log in and tweet from a cryptocurrency account instead of a Twitter account in the future. She sees the future differently: Introducing Web3 functionality on top of standard Twitter, rather than developing an encrypted version of Twitter.
“For a long time, Web3 was very theoretical,” she said. “But now a new momentum is building.”
Will Web3 be the new norm?
The best-case scenario for Web3 enthusiasts, experts say, is that the technology will coexist with Web2, not replace it entirely.
In other words, blockchain-based social networks, transactions and businesses will flourish in the years to come. However, according to technologists, the complete elimination of Facebook, Twitter or Goggle is unlikely.
“I can’t tell who’s going to win,” Dryhurst said. “But Web2 companies will integrate Web3 concepts into their services to stay relevant.”
He argues that many people want to be able to keep their data and interaction history anywhere on the internet, rather than on a single web platform, what some call the “walled gardens” of big tech companies.
“It’s a completely different experience than what we’re used to today,” Dryhurst said.
But he conceded that unlimited freedom could lead to some disturbing consequences. “It’s exciting that there’s nothing stopping people from building the community they want, but equally, I can’t stop people from building some bad stuff.”
But overall, a collective vote on the rules of engagement will be better than the user experience on today’s mainstream social media platforms.
“If we stay in the current paradigm, it’s going to go further and further in a few companies run by a few people, in a world where the big tech problems are worse,” he said.
Another issue, of course, is government regulation. Blockchain-based tokens are now in a regulatory gray area, but that could soon change as a Biden administration begins to set new rules for the industry.
How does Web3 fit into the Metaverse, another vision of the future of the internet?
Facebook, which recently changed its name to Meta, said its priority is to build the “ Metaverse,” a digital future where everyone lives, interacts and works in virtual reality.
One of its features is “robust interoperability” whereby users can seamlessly transfer their accounts or avatars from one website to another website or service without having to log in each time they visit a new website by a different website. Company-controlled accounts.
This is also one of the ideas of Web3.
But true believers say that in a Web3 world, no matter how hard Facebook tries to be part of the next generation of the Internet, it has no place.
“Facebook will only grow bigger and stronger from what it is, and that’s not how cyberspace should be governed,” Williams said.
Is it possible that Web3 is just an overhyped fantasy?
Web3 skeptics are everywhere, too.
Cornell University professor James Grimmelmann, who studies law and technology, has publicly expressed his doubts.”Web3 is a fogware.” Fogware refers to products that are advertised but never come out.
“It’s a promising future internet that can address all the problems people criticize about the current internet, even if some are contradictory.”
If part of the motivation is simply to resist handing over personal data to big tech companies, blockchain is not the solution, he said, because it would make more data public.
“It doesn’t make sense, the idea that the problem with the internet is that there are too many centralized intermediaries. So if we stop using different apps and websites and put them all on the blockchain, the same It’s also putting them in one place.”
For Grimmelmann, Web3 represents the idealistic spirit that technologists pursued in the early days of the Internet, that is, everyone can freely use the high-speed Internet of information! But that spirit was replaced by tech companies long ago.
The development of the Internet has been a tug-of-war between fragmentation and centralization, he said. When it swings too far in one direction, its reaction force pulls it in the opposite direction.
“Blockchains are interesting and solve some difficult problems in a new way,” he said. “They may end up being the toolkit for the next generation of the internet, but that doesn’t mean the internet will be built around blockchain.”
But many of those who got rich by investing in cryptocurrencies during the Covid-19 pandemic are looking around for new investment opportunities other than The Boring Ape, the cartoon “yacht club” of the NFT world.
The main problem now, he said, is that Web3 is largely theoretical.
“There are a lot of people who have money to invest,” he said. “But they want to see the real vision of the project before they invest.”
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