A closer look at Web 3 and the future of the internet

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You may have heard mention of Web 3 in recent weeks and months as seemingly everyone in the tech industry is talking about it, including well-known innovators like Jack Dorsey to Elon Musk. But what exactly is Web 3?

Here is a closer look at the next iteration of the internet and how it aims to shift power from massive tech companies to individual users.

How we got here: Web 1 and Web 2

To understand the concept and potential of Web 3, we first need to understand the versions of the internet that came before.

Web 1 is the first generation of the internet that sprung forth in the 1990s, primarily defined by a curated collection of links and homepages that were not very interactive and certainly not customizable. This was an era before user-centric algorithms and content sharing where you really could not do much other than read articles and publish basic content.

When Web 2 began, users could finally open and edit files instead of just viewing them, leading to many calling this iteration of the web the “read and write” version of the internet. Users could now not only consume content but could also create it via community platforms like blogs and forums.

When social media arrived and exploded, it accelerated the world of content sharing even further, enabling users to create and share original content via their own feeds while also curating what they saw based on who they followed.

One of the largest issues with Web 2, however, is that every time we interact on the internet, copies of our data are sent to the centralized server of a service provider. And every time that happens, we effectively lose control of our data.

Users have become increasingly aware and sensitive to how their data is being used by tech giants to create targeted marketing and ad campaigns and to otherwise profit off our activity. Companies like YouTube, Instagram, and Twitter host a huge proportion of current online content and also get to decide a wide range of things – such as who gets banned from their platforms.

The fundamental frustration with Web 2 is that users simply want more control over their data and their content. This is the foundational basis for the concept of Web 3.

Web 3: The next generation of the internet

Web 3 – also known as web3 or Web 3.0 – aims to usher in the “read and write and own” era of the internet, where rather than using free tech platforms in exchange for data, users can participate in the governance and operation of the protocols themselves.

This allows people to become participants and shareholders within the internet – rather than simply customers or products. The Web 3 Foundation itself describes the concept as, “a decentralized and fair internet where users control their own data, identity, and destiny.”

These “shares” being held and invested in by users take the form of cryptocurrencies and represent the ownership of decentralized networks (blockchains). What happens within the Web 3 structure is decided by investors – not companies – and the success of cryptocurrencies like bitcoin and Ethereum have given optimism to the eventual and long-term success of the concept.

What will Web 3 mean for the future of the internet?

Apart from Web 3 seeking to put the power firmly back into the hands of its users, it also means essentially everything on the web will be able to be tokenized, from memes and art pieces to social media content and event tickets.

Perhaps the earliest impact we have seen is in the gaming industry, where gamers can now invest in certain games and vote on how things should be run (i.e., downloadable content and patch updates). Some large Web 2 companies like Ubisoft are even getting a head start by creating virtual worlds powered in part by Web 3.

The specifics of what the future holds for Web 3 and the internet may not entirely be certain, but it is clear that a more user-controlled and decentralized option will at the very least be on the table – and further innovation is certainly on the horizon.

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