If you’ve heard the buzz surrounding Web3, you may have wondered why it’s so important and what’s wrong with the current Internet.
The Internet is such an integral part of every day life that we don’t even stop to consider how we use it anymore. I mean, “googling it”, or searching for something using the Google search engine, was officially added to the dictionary in 2006. 16 years ago.
Whether we like it or not, the Internet touches some part of our lives every, single day.
But, is it really the Internet that we use regularly? Or, is it the tech giants that make the Internet accessible that we use on a daily basis?
These are the questions that are bringing on the third phase of the Internet. It’s safe to say the Internet as we know it is on the brink of a major overhaul.
But, how did we get here and where is the Internet going? And what the heck even is Web3?
The History of the Internet
Before we can take a look at the future of the Internet, we need to understand the evolution of the World Wide Web. Believe it or not, Facebook and Google have not been around since Day One of the Internet.
Just like the evolution of, well, anything, the Internet has three important phases.
If you’re part of the older crowd of Internet users, you may remember its early days. You know the dial-up connection sound, right? Who could forget it?
In the early days of dial-up, the Internet passed information directly on to the user. For example, a person could log on to the Internet, search for a specific store, find the store hours, and then drive to the store to check their inventory. Maybe while they’re physically present at the store, they might decide to make a purchase.
Brick-and-motor stores may have had an online presence (as in, they had a poorly written web page), but they were not using their web pages to sell their products.
Data was not collected on the consumer. Information passed directly to the consumer and the consumer then decided what to do with it.
Users of the Internet in Web1 did not interact with data and information — nor create it– like we do today. This kind of interaction and data creation came with the second phase of the Internet.
Eventually, the Internet became more of a place to interact and less of an information hub. This is the Internet we are most familiar with today, Web2.
The way people use the Internet now is driven by user content. Content is created for people and interaction with the content provides companies with data. In other words, there is a constant flow of information and data from one user to another.
Every click, every status update, and every purchased item online creates data of some sort.
But, the problem with Web2 is this: who owns the data and the content?
When a content creator posts a video online to a social media platform, the content creator does not own the content. The social media platform that the content is housed on owns it. This goes for photos, videos, and everything in between.
If a platform decides that the content violates its terms and agreements, it can disable accounts and delete content and data at will. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but it does pose a problem because content creators and Internet users no longer have access to their own data or content. An example of this is a certain politician banned from Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.
This brings us to the third phase of the Internet: Web3.
As of now, Web3 is mostly an idea. It is the push to decentralize the Internet and make it accessible and profitable to all users.
In the current phase of the Internet, tech giants, like Google and Facebook, dominate the scene. These tech giants, among others, basically own the Internet and control most things users do online. Every piece of data is likely owned by these companies, too.
Is this bad? Well, not necessarily. But, it’s not great either.
A decentralized Internet allows users to own their data and content. How they choose to store and what they choose to do with their content is completely up to the user. No single company is allowed to block access or erase data simply because they own it and can. Instead, important decisions are made by the shareholders of platforms.
How does Web3 work?
The technology behind Web3 is slightly different than the technology used to power Web2. Web3 runs on blockchain technology. Think about Legos for a second. To build a Lego tower, you have to stack one Lego on top of another. The Legos in the middle cannot be moved until the Legos on top of them are manipulated or removed in some sort of way.
This is how blockchain technology works, too.
User data is stored in blocks and it is linked to other blocks on a connection of servers. Data in a block is encrypted and timestamped and once the block is full, it is attached to another block. This is done in chronological order so that data cannot be erased or manipulated until the majority of the surrounding blocks are manipulated, too.
Manipulation of blocks only happens if all parties that own data in the block agree to the change. This cuts down on theft, hacking, and any other potential criminal activity.
The Future of Web3
Currently, the Internet is still very much in Web2. However, the beginning of Web3 is the here and now.
No one can tell for certain what Web3 will look and how it will affect the average Internet user. There are still quite a few unknowns out there. But, there is also a lot of excitement, too.
Think of it was the Wild, Wild West. There’s a ton of room for exploration and growth.
The world is changing and so is the way we use the ‘Net.
Cassie is a freelance writer in Southwest Virginia. If you’d like to work with her, click here.