Web 3.0 has had an exciting life so far. It has shifted in view slightly over the years and now is slowly starting to converge those views into an interconnected metaverse. Let’s look at where Web 3.0 started and how it got to where it is today.
It is vital to distinguish between the internet and the web. The internet is the physical equipment that keeps the world connected, including the protocol utilized, which allows its hardware to communicate. The web is a service that runs on the Internet. The web is the way most users interact with the internet. However, there are other ways to interact on the net, like with torrents and FTPs.
The first use of the term “Web 3.0” was made in a 2006 New York Times article written by John Markoff. In 2007, several articles made use of the term, but the most well-known of these was a Computer Weekly blog article by Jefferey Zeldman that was titled, “Critical of Web 2.0 and associated technologies such as Ajax.” This debate about what was the definition of Web 3.0 continued at the Technet Summit in November 2006, where various internet tycoons made their feelings known.
Their discussion revolved around the improvement of the then newly defined Web 2.0. Web 1.0 started with the original early to mid-90s Web, which was stored on large servers or even home computers and not the data centers we know today. The content was mainly read-only and not interactive. Users could get information but usually not provide any feedback on the accessed website, nor could they easily create their own content.
With Web 2.0, there was the first bidirectional information flow, with social media platforms providing user-generated content. MySpace, Facebook, and LinkedIn were user-created content sources available for all to see, and hosting was centralized into data centers built by a few powerful companies.
At the time the pundits saw the future and Web 3.0 as largely “specific” or “broad.” On the specific end, Web 3.0 brought richer ways of interacting with the net, not only with hardware like game consoles and mobile devices but in the software layer, not requiring a software degree to program but only an interaction. The other more simplistic view was that of data speeds. Similar to the increases in phone data transfers moving from 2G to 3G (the standards of that time).
Web 1.0 had dial-up, with a 50K average bandwidth. In 2006, Web 2.0 had an average of 1 megabit (Mbps) of bandwidth, and the thought then was that Web 3.0 would be ten megabits of bandwidth all the time, making a full video Web possible. For reference, 5G has 100-plus megabits-per-second average data rates.
One of the problems seen with Web 2.0 was regarding the ownership and use of data. Data transfer speeds and browser capability has grown to provide video and even 3D graphic capabilities, but user data is the valuable commodity used by companies to boost their profits.
No one at that time could imagine the tech-based world shift that has come about and taken much of the world by storm. For example, distributed ledger technologies: we use this as an umbrella term for the cryptocurrency, blockchain, and the NFT world.
Starting in about 2014, after the advent of Bitcoin and the blockchain, a slightly different use of the term “Web3” was coined by Ethereum Co-founder Gavin Wood. At its foundation, Web3 is the same Web but not controlled by tech giants and central governments.
Web3 returns user data and web content to the users. The users own the data and the profits from it, and any money can move around the Web freely under the user’s control. Being decentralized, Web3 is a democratized Web. This view of the Web3 has no central authority. Applications are open source; all algorithms and software are transparent, without the possibility of creating back doors.
In order to settle any confusion, there is also the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) which outlines its own definition of “Web 3.0.” This usage of Web 3.0 was coined by Tim Burners-Lee, who outlined Web 3.0 as the “Semantic Web.”
The Semantic Web builds upon the current Web’s technology standards, creating formal metadata standards that allow for operations that happen between machines. To put that in a slightly easier-to-understand context. The goal of these machine-to-machine operations would be a semantic understanding of the Web’s content, where computers utilize metadata to make meaningful interpretations of that data, similar to the way a human processes inputs to achieve their goals combining not just the data coming in, but experiential ties it can make of the data to improve understanding.
This idea would include processing language but adding to it not just a vocabulary from speech-to-text but the nuance of pronunciation so that subtle ideas can be understood with metadata context. How something is said can have more meaning than just the words stated.
The decentralized version of “Web3” wishes to incorporate many of today’s advances, but it wishes to go one step further and take power away from institutional data holders and give it back to the users.
The goals of these two sides are diametrically opposed. Big tech derives much of its value from the data that it has collected and the information that it has gleaned from these vast sources. Looking at Google and Facebook, much of their revenue is from targeted ads that provide the best results for those willing to pay for them.
Those in the decentralized crowd believe that a user’s data is an extension of the person, and how it is used and monetized is the user’s choice and domain. The decentralized projects are building systems that are more democratic and open source.
Projects such as Wolfram Alpha are at the forefront of combining AI and a distributed Web3, generating knowledge from data. Wolfram is a taste of what a democratized web using public data can be.
Other projects wish to link everything together. Polkadot is a decentralized system that intends to build a digital web of bridges that can connect the various decentralized and centralized projects together.
With the world moving forward and the data able to be accessed more easily, the semantic version of Web 3.0 may make a turn and become more of a reality. The combining of data and the advances of quantum computing may be what is needed for a machine-readable web.
These different takes on Web 3.0 are all combined in the newly forming metaverse. The two sides (centralized and decentralized) have different visions for the metaverse, but eventually, those pieces should interconnect. The only Web 3.0 question that remains is how will we then utilize its potential? Will we attempt to further mankind, or will we continue to watch cat videos?
Disclaimer: The author of this text, Jean Chalopin, is a global business leader with a background encompassing banking, biotech, and entertainment. Mr. Chalopin is Chairman of Deltec International Group, www.deltecbank.com.
The co-author of this text, Robin Trehan, has a bachelor’s degree in economics, a master’s in international business and finance, and an MBA in electronic business. Mr. Trehan is a Senior VP at Deltec International Group, www.deltecbank.com.
The views, thoughts, and opinions expressed in this text are solely the views of the authors, and do not necessarily reflect those of Deltec International Group, its subsidiaries, and/or its employees.
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