Web 3: What does the future of the World Wide Web await us?
In this article we go over the evolution of the world wide web. We describe the current era, the web 2.0, and point out the problems it causes for users: losing content ownership and data privacy. As a consequence, some propose the web 3, the future of the world wide web, based on blockchain technology.
Technology grows fast and is increasingly transforming the different areas of our lives. It has changed the way we access information, the way we interact with each other, the way we buy products and services, the way we work and even our conception of what we consider work. What is the future of the Internet? Answering this question partly depends on other questions: How is the Web nowadays? What is expected to change from it? Should it change? Why? Is anything on it affecting us?
The new upcoming stage of the World Wide Web that uses blockchain technology is called web 3. In an article from the New York Times it is defined as a new type of internet service built using decentralized blockchains, which is the shared register systems that cryptocurrencies such as Ethereum or Bitcoin use (Roose, 2022). This new phase arises with the purpose of giving users back their content’s ownership, by way of decentralized blockchains. Why? If users publish videos, pictures, texts, etc. from their accounts, aren’t they already owners of their content? (1) One may believe this, but this is not entirely true. Let’s review some history to answer this question and understand web 3 better.
Web 2.0 is much more interactive, it is usually called The social networks’ web because content generators -users- continuously interact with it adding or modifying its content. It started around 2005 and continues nowadays, it is characterized by big social media figures such as Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube. Instead of passively consuming content and information as in web 1.0, users started to create and publish their own content, actively participating in the Internet. However, the vast majority of that activity ended up being distributed and monetized by big companies (Roose, 2022). This takes us back to our question (1). Even though every user has their own account and publishes their own content in it, all accounts are property and part of the social network they belong to. Therefore, if the platform breaks down or gets closed, all accounts and their contents are lost. Additionally, this means the owner(s) of every platform can delete accounts and account’s content, collect users’ data from their accounts, receive part of the money users earn with the content they create, and so on. Ultimately, manage and own their content. This is one of the main aspects web 3 aims to change: “The main value of web 3 is internet decentralization: creating a more equitable network and taking power away from “Internet giants”” (Blasco, 2022).
An example of this happens in Amazon Web Services. If a user has a webpage that is established on a server’s instance from Amazon Web Services and gets it reported, Amazon can turn the server’s instance down, close the users’ account for good, and even block the user from using their services again, as it is contemplated in their policy.
In addition to users not being entirely the owners of their content, they are not entirely the owners of their data. At the beginning of web 2.0, users published content on social media to share with their friends and families. As time went by, companies saw the opportunity of advertising their products or services on these platforms, which started competing to make users spend more time on them. To achieve it, they gather users’ data about their behavior and preferences to offer them personalized content. With access to users’ microphones, locations, visited sites, among others, those platforms sell users’ information (where they live, where they go to, what they are worried about, what they are looking for, what they need, etc.) to companies that use it for advertising. This is why the ads one user sees on their social networks are different from the ads another one sees, since ads are personalized based on every users’ situation, or at least, on the information social media receives from their situation. This makes web 2.0 the web of targeted content and lack of data privacy.
As a consequence, Web 3 is about ownership, decentralization, and censorship resistance, which means every person is the owner of their own content. “In a blockchain technology model, only the user can alter their content, and its monitoring and judgment would depend on the rules of the community instead of being dictated by the platform’s provider”, explains Yeni Taborda, Full Stack Developer in our team. In this line, Roose (2022) says that a blockchain-based social network could delegate decisions such as deleting accounts and their contents or changing the platform’s rules to users, who could vote on how to manage it.
Experts are still discussing which path could web 3 take us to. In theory, it proposes that users could transfer money or information over the Internet without the need of an intermediate, which would allow the user to control who has access to their data. The decision of selling their information would solely depend on the user, and not on the platforms they visit or use based on their Privacy Policies. What is more, web 3 would depend less on commercial models based on advertising than web 2.0. As a result of having less data tracking for targeted ads, people would gain privacy and ownership of their data.
Regarding how web 3 would technically and theoretically work, it is proposed that through a tokenized key (instead of through the typical login with user and password) the user could move from a social network to an e-commerce site, and create a blockchain register of this activity. (This already exists on the Internet, it is called GPG keys and it is frequently used in the deep web, but not in a blockchain model). When doing so, they would be able to indicate which portion of this data is public and which is private. This way, they would gain ownership and privacy of their data. Moreover, instead of saving this register in a centralized service, this information would be in multiple devices over the Internet, so any device could save this information, or rather, the blockchain register, sharing this information with other users. Every time this information is shared, a copy of that register would be created in another device. This is why it would be a decentralized web. In addition to this, to encourage users to use web 3 services, with every binding event (e.g. sharing other user’s content or having one’s content shared, depending on the blockchain’s rules) they would receive a prize such as a token or a virtual currency that could then be exchanged. The more a user’s content is shared, the more tokens can the user gain.
The fact that absolutely any transaction on the Internet could be tokenized means that a completely new economic model could be created through the Internet. Today, in web 2.0, Torrents work this way but without crypto currency. As time goes by and content stops being important for users, it disappears. If a more permanent content is wanted, the crypto currency model is needed for every content generator on the Internet. It should be borne in mind that every content has its preparation, script, production time, and creative ability that should be rewarded. Different from web 2.0, in web 3 this reward is generated by the community rather than by the ads of the platform where the content is displayed.
Besides these positive aspects of web 3, some figures such as Stephen Diehl and Elon Musk are against it since they say it would lack computing power, bandwidth, and storage. There are also insecurities towards other subjects. Some people are worried about the consequences of losing their virtual wallet such as losing access to their tokens. Others associate the fact that the more a user’s content is shared, the more tokens they can earn with pyramid schemes. Therefore, even though web 3 is a technology with a lot of potential, it is still in investigation. It may not get to the extent of a world in which a token would give people access to their passport, their bank accounts, and their whole identity on the Internet (and maybe it should not, this has positive and negative consequences as well). However, it may be applicable to e-commerce sites and social media so that users gain privacy of their data and ownership of their content, which value would depend on the community. What do you think about the new sequel of the world wide web?
BBC News Mundo. (2022, 10 enero). Qué es la Web3 y cómo podría transformar internet. Recovered on May 24, 2022, from https://www.bbc.com/mundo/noticias-59746140
Roose, K. (2022, 29 marzo). Qué es la web3: lo que debes saber. The New York Times. Recovered on May 23, 2022, from https://www.nytimes.com/es/interactive/2022/03/29/espanol/web3-que-es.html