Web 3.0: A Beginners Guide
Web 3.0 heralds a new era for our interconnected, digital world, but what is it? Is it just a buzzword, or indeed a big shift towards empowering users across the worldwide web? By the end of our simple beginner's guide, you will know what it is, how it is changing the world, and the vast opportunities it can offer!
What is Web 3.0? A Brief History
Web 3.0 is a vision for a decentralized, open access internet that is not controlled by particular organisations or individuals.
It is premised on a decentralized internet with more anonymity, permissionless access, and new technologies that enable these; such as blockchain, machine learning and smart contracts. Web 3.0 is possible thanks to this new tech, and builds on and changes some of the features from the web 2.0 and web 1.0 internets that came before it.
The creation of the internet heralded web 1.0; which featured a fairly small number of static web pages from a small number of developers and organisations, as web development skills were a rarity.
Because of these initial limitations, web 1.0 was largely used to find digitised information online. Web 1.0 spanned the 1990s through to the 2000s.
Web 2.0 began in the 2010s and expanded what could be created online by enhancing the responsiveness and personalisation of websites.
Web 2.0 enabled users to create their own content or tailor their experiences on interactive platforms. The current web is dominated by large corporations such as Amazon, Facebook, and Netflix.
Web 2.0 enabled new features such as drag and drop website building, interactive websites and dynamic social media features, like polling and commenting.
Web 3.0 is emerging due to new technologies that can enhance user privacy, data security, and trust across the web.
These technologies range from near-infallible verification of digital assets (such as non fungible tokens), to cloud-computing that allows a permissionless network of unaffiliated devices to store and host online communities and platforms together. What are the current limitations to web 2.0? And in what ways does Web 3.0 give solutions to these challenges?
An example is centralised platforms, operated by tech giants such as Amazon and Netflix which feed recommendations and targeted ads to users based on their profiles and activity.
On social media, ads are targeted to users who can give feedback after the fact, but they do not get to truly choose if they would like to share their data or preferences, and if so, how. Another challenge is search engines and platforms can filter the content that a user can find.
These examples alongside global events is fuelling a growing trust issue between consumers, governments and corporations, that is driving an appetite for change. So what are the current and upcoming technologies that enable web 3.0's solutions?
Web 3.0 Technology
Bitcoin is a pioneering example of blockchain technology, which could not work without it; neither could NFTs or web 3.0!
A blockchain is an open-ledger of assets and transactions, which are made up of 'blocks', that are in a sequential order.
A decentralized network of nodes (computers) each store and process these records and transactions, so they each have a copy. Each block in the blockchain includes the collectively verified records of the blocks that came before it, so that everything always tallies up. Typically, network participants remain anonymous.
In most blockchains, the majority of the network of nodes will need to agree on the latest block of records, via solving an encrypted mathematical puzzle to find a hash (an encoding of data), that is correctly linked to the block's records and reconciles with prior blocks too.
This method verifies the data is truthful without revealing the content of these blocks to the whole network. In this way, anonymity, trust and verification is enabled by the blockchain network's participants and can be applied to websites and platforms in web 3.0 for transactions, digital content, assets and more.
Machine learning (ML)
Web 3.0 also relies on cloud based algorithms that draw upon storage and computing power from a decentralized web of computers, or nodes. ML algorithms find patterns and can predict solutions based on vast masses of data that are fed into them.
To power the intensive workings of blockchain, AI and ML enables ever-faster problem solving to verify virtual transactions across decentralized networks. The algorithms themselves are decentralized and not controlled by a particular party.
Not only is unprecedented computing power making mass privacy and verification possible on blockchain networks, but it also enables anonymous personalisation online too.
Users can choose if and how they share their data to enable decentralized applications to tailor their experience just for them, whilst protecting their identity from 3rd parties.
Currently it is still normal for transactions to be done on centrally controlled platforms that capture personal data, which raises concerns about data theft, scamming, and privacy.
Blockchain-enabled smart contracts are a way around this, as they can verify a set of conditions have been fulfilled that also tally up with the rest of the blockchain.
Verifying these conditions before exchanges are made, such as payments, creates reliability and trust across these networks. It's envisioned that more global opportunities for business and exchange will be opened up thanks to the smart contract.
Cryptocurrencies are virtual currencies that enable transactions across a peer to peer network, typically without relying on centralized control.
Because of this, cryptocurrency is often seen as a threat to government and financial institutions as they can bypass these structures. Famous examples of crypto include Bitcoin and Ethereum.
Cryptocurrencies are often based on blockchains that enable trustworthy global transactions without reliance on central authorities. Cryptocurrency is likely to be integral to enabling transactions on web 3.0.
Where is Web 3.0 Headed?
The current web has its challenges such as data breaches, but how web 3.0 will materialise is also unclear. In general it is set to enrich the social web, security and transparency.
It is likely to co-exist with web 2.0 platforms, that will gradually adopt web 3.0 features to stay competitive; allowing users greater control of their data and ability to personalise online services.
Reddit for example is looking at featuring cryptocurrency tokens so that users can earn them based on sub-reddit activity, and use these tokens to influence their communities.
Web 3.0 also compliments other emerging web technologies such as virtual reality as well as IoT devices, that could learn and coordinate with each other securely.
In any case, the development of web 3.0 is guaranteed to be interesting! It is well worth keeping an eye on this space to take advantage of the opportunities it can offer.