Another buzzword that got the internet excited, but what exactly is Web3? Here’s everything you need to know.
What is Web3?
At the most basic level, the idea behind Web3 is to take the World Wide Web as we know it and add blockchains – the technology behind cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin – to everything.
Why do you want to do that?
The web was once seen as a utopia where anyone could do anything, but Web3 proponents say it is now dominated by big companies and proprietary algorithms. Blockchain can give people fair ownership of their online presence. “Web3 is a way to deal with the trauma of losing a great future for the Internet that was previously possible,” says Nils Ten Oefer of the University of Amsterdam.
Wait, what about webs 1 and 2?
The first was the World Wide Web, launched by Tim Berners-Lee in 1989, that allowed people with technical knowledge to put information on the Internet in a decentralized manner. Web 2.0, first named in a 1999 magazine article, saw the development of easy-to-use tools that allow anyone to create online content, not just experts, but at a cost central to our technology giants today, like Facebook and Google.
Web3 sets its own typographical trend by eliminating “.0” and space, and will allow for the best of both worlds, say its proponents: easy-to-use decentralized tools.
So what does it actually include?
At the core of Web3 are distributed applications (or dapps) built with the Ethereum blockchain, which pay users who help keep its network online.
Dapps will play a role similar to Web 3 that the App Store did in unlocking the potential of the iPhone, says Zoe Scaman, founder of London-based strategy studio Bowditch and a supporter of Web3. “We need to remove friction and create large-scale use cases, which is what will happen when more third-party developers start releasing more dapps built on top of blockchains,” says Skaman.
What dapps are there at the moment?
Among the top five dapps at the moment, the most popular is the one that allows people to exchange cryptocurrencies, while the other is for trading Non-Foldable Tokens (NFTs). The other three are games, similar to the early successes of the App Store, but with a key difference: you get paid in cryptocurrency for playing them.
I’m still not clear how the way the Internet is used will change.
Proponents say it’s a bold new future designed to wrest control away from big tech platforms and put power in the hands of ordinary citizens: a decentralized internet, where people’s power trumps individual businesses. The same concept was behind a failed attempt to purchase a copy of the US Constitution last month.
Sounds like a headache.
Some people question the Web3 utopia. “Web3 introduces friction, without solving any real problem,” says Ten Oever. Skeptics believe that many of the claims behind Web3 – such as distributed and decentralized architecture – are better achieved without blockchain.
“If you build a distributed architecture on a centralized infrastructure, you will not suddenly decentralize the infrastructure,” says Ten Oever. While the web infrastructure is nominally decentralized, in reality much of the Internet runs on servers hosted by a handful of companies, like Amazon — and the same is happening with Web3, he says, where people run dapps hosted by a handful of service providers.
Are the skeptics right?
The kinks of Web3’s promise have yet to be worked out, and word has been picked up by those trying to make a quick buck. Even her boosters, like skaman, have Beware of scams and pumping and discharge schemes allied to the floor. “There will always be people trying to make money, but there are also incredibly talented people who build amazing things,” she says.
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