Web3 is, depending on who describes it, the next step towards a utopian internet, or a series of scams by people with more money than morale.
The central idea behind the âthird versionâ of the Internet, according to its proponents, is to weave the different blockchain technologies – cryptocurrency, NFT, etc. – to create a Web less dependent on the five big technology companies.
Critics, including former Twitter chief Jack Dorsey and Tesla chief Elon Musk, argue that this is simply an attempt by other tech companies to take the reins. “It’s ultimately a centralized entity with a different label,” Mr Dorsey tweeted this week.
Much like other internet buzzwords like “metaverse” and even “artificial intelligence”, Web3 has a lot of hype around it in some circles without yet existing properly; but, just like these technologies, billions of dollars are spent to make them a reality.
What happened to Web2 and Web1?
The Web1, or âthe old Internet,â began in 1991 and refers to the days when most online spaces were where people consumed content. Static web pages like the Space Jam website, poorly designed by today’s standards, provided information to users with little interactivity.
Web2 started around 2004 and is more like the Internet we know today: an interaction between the user and the platform. Social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter, as well as Google, have risen to organize information from the web and centralize it under their control. Apple has helped arbitrate our relationship with the web through the iPhone (and its later copiers) while Amazon Web Services owns everything but the web infrastructure – which is why much of it grows darker when ‘she hangs.
What is Web3?
Web3, a term originally coined in 2014 but only recently gained prominence, is based on blockchain technologies.
Blockchains are digital ledgers used to track the movement of digital objects, such as cryptocurrency.
Cryptocurrency, in theory, bypasses central authorities like banks. Web3 would, in theory, bypass central authorities as well. Twitter offered a decentralized version of its service where different parties would have different moderation policies than what we now consider to be Twitter’s “main” website.
Other people, with their own computers, might decide to become nodes in a network that facilitates instant messaging rather than using the closed-system platforms of Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp.
Right now, however, these ideas also resemble cryptocurrency in another way: Web3’s value is heavily based on those who exaggerate it.
Could Web3 really decentralize the Web?
Competing against big tech companies, or regulating them so they can be better held accountable for errors, has the potential to improve the internet. In this vein, a decentralized web is a tangible plus.
It’s also possible that a direct consumer relationship for artists, musicians and other creators is indeed better than, for example, Spotify, which has been criticized for not paying artists enough. Similar issues exist with Instagram and Reddit, both of which are hubs for works of art to be released without attribution or payment to the artist, or black creators on TikTok who are not awarded for their dances.
For some artists, NFTs are a way to make money from digital art. Royalties can be built directly into the artwork, so every time the artwork is sold, the creator receives a share.
âIt empowers the creator,â said Chris Torres, the creator of Nyan Cat who recently sold the image as NFT. âThe creator owns it originally, then they can sell it, monetize it directly, and be recognized for their work. “
Web3, however, falls far short of this goal – and its need is questionable as well. Musicians could be paid fairly through the sale of physical media and artists through commissions. Blockchain is not inherently necessary, except in a world where it has become the norm for digital services to be provided, or at least accessible, for free.
âWeb3 is, to some extent, a marketing meme or brand around a variety of blockchain and cryptocurrency activities, which was already happening,â said Kevin Werbach, professor at Wharton and blockchain expert. .
âLike the corporate blockchain wave of a few years ago, Web3 is much more advanced in adoption than it really is. A lot of people trade cryptos and buy NFTs, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re embracing distributed alternatives to major tech platforms.
NFTs – non-fungible tokens – are a good example of when the ideals of Web3 supporters come to fruition. These tokens are basically digital receipts for online artwork. Users do not own the artwork itself, only the receipt.
NFT buyers have had well-documented difficulties in keeping their purchases, such as the disappearance of pages from OpenSea, one of the largest NFT marketplaces. Rather than being decentralized, the ownership of the NFT is not managed by the user but by a new centralized authority.
It’s also why artists, discovering that their NFT has been ‘hit’ on the blockchain, have little recourse to reclaim their work – despite Web3 supporters claiming the technology gives more control to the average user.
The reviews of Web3 are harsh. âAt its core, Web3 is a tasteless marketing campaign that attempts to reframe negative public associations of crypto assets into a false narrative about the disruption of the hegemony of legacy tech companies,â writes engineer and blogger Stephen Diehl.
âIt’s a distraction from continuing to sell more coins and chasing the gravy train of evading securities regulations. We see this manifested in the circularity in which the crypto movement and Web3 speaks for itself. It is not about solving real consumer problems. The only problem for Web3 to solve is how to post-hoc rationalize its own existence.
What are the risks of Web3?
The future of Web3 is one that, depending on the level of technological development of companies, is linked to the increasing digitization of our lives or even to the metaverse – where a virtual world with its own economy and digital goods exists alongside the real world. . .
Blockchain, NFTs and other technologies could usher in digital land. Already, digital real estate is selling for millions in anticipation of a future that does not yet exist. This is also feared by many detractors of Web3: rather than a decentralized Internet, power is simply shifting into the hands of a new cabal of rulers.
Meta, while promoting the Metaverse, said that âjust like the internet, the metaverse exists whether or not Facebook is there. And it won’t be built overnight, ânor will it be built by a single company. But the billion-dollar tech giant, ousted from Web2 hardware by Apple and Google, clearly wants to place itself at the center of what it sees as the future of the internet.
âThe software that we build, for people to work or hang around and build these different worlds, that’s going to cut through anything. As other companies build VR or AR platforms, our software will be everywhere. Just like Facebook or Instagram today, âsaid Mark Zuckerberg.
âMuch like NFTs, the Web3 and Metaverse platforms are the next natural progression in the way we interact, relate and communicate with each other,â he also commented.
What Web3 and other speculative technologies like NFTs, Cryptocurrency, and Metaverse are currently doing is facilitating a great way for venture capitalists to get rich, in the same way that buying a stock that swells saves money for the buyer. Over $ 27 billion has already been invested in technology, but despite this, it remains difficult to predict exactly what the internet will look like in the decades that Web3 comes into being.