It’s been a number of years since “Web 2.0” was on everyone’s lips. Now “Web3” is the next big topic of the internet – even if the term is not quite as established. So what is Web3 or “Web 3.0”? We explain to you what the next version of our internet is all about and what will most likely change.
In order to be able to understand the term more easily, however, let us first look back at Web 1.0 and Web 2.0. The Internet follows the way in which we use it or will probably use it in the future. And yes, the metaverse and the blockchain play a big part in that, whether we’re excited about it or not.
The Web 1.0
The Internet as we know it began in 1990 when Tim Berners-Lee published a concept for a worldwide hypertext project at CERN. He subsequently also developed the markup language HTML, which is still used today to describe the structure of websites. Today, Berners-Lee still heads the World Wide Web Consortia (W3C), which still sets standards for the Internet, albeit officially in the form of recommendations.
That first release of Web 1.0 was pretty static compared to today. Internet pages served more as information or as business cards for companies. Once loaded, the content of a page didn’t change and there were rather few pages that were dynamically assembled from different content. In most cases, it was described very precisely which content should appear on which page. Still, it was a pretty wild time. Many discovered the Internet for themselves and created their first own pages using construction kits, which were plastered with so much blinking content that the slow lines were completely overwhelmed. More on that in our little nostalgia trip to the Beepworld website construction kit.
At that time, interaction was spread across three popular platforms. Guest books, forums and chats. Greetings were left in the guest books, discussions were mostly held in communities on specific topics in forums, and chats were the big new playing field in which the first online friendships were made.
The Web 2.0
With Web 2.0 we are at least getting closer to Web3. There is actually no groundbreaking change in technology. It is more the way we use the internet that is understood as Web 2.0. The rigid separation between websites and their consumers disappeared and everything became much more interactive. Due to the very smooth transition, Web 2.0 is difficult to date. With the first “Web 2.0 Conference” by O’Reilly Media in 2004, however, the topic gained momentum.
First, interactive communities formed around websites. Suddenly you could become a member of these sites, a user with your name and directly help shape or comment on the content of the website. Blogs made their appearance, as did comment functions. A prime example is also Wikipedia. Users could now actually write, correct and update entries in an online encyclopedia. Due to swarm intelligence, articles were often updated before news channels reported on current events. In addition to Wikipedia, content management systems such as WordPress or Typo3 were also created, which simplified the professional maintenance of a blog or a page for an entire team.
Starting with Myspace and StudiVZ, the final breakthrough of social networks came with Facebook. It is now completely normal for us to share our own thoughts, snapshots or videos with the whole world. A whole new market and new professions were formed around social media and their influencers.
What is Web3? Decentralization thanks to blockchain
The next version of the Internet is called Web3, or sometimes in the style of its predecessors, Web 3.0. The core of Web3 is to make the Internet decentralized. This means that there is no one who owns the Internet and where all the data converges. It’s independent.
In and of itself, the Internet has always been structured in a decentralized manner. It consists of many interconnected networks that are also connected to each other. If a node fails, it is usually sufficient if the route to an Internet site runs via other nodes. Problems are more likely to occur at the ends of a connection – if your own access or the server of the Internet service to be used has a problem.
The only problem is that most sites and Internet services now run on the servers of a few large corporations. Due to the dependence on their server infrastructure, the Internet has become significantly more central. In addition, these companies often collect data that is resold or used to serve advertisements. A good example of this are social networks such as Facebook or the search engine Google, which are financed through their advertising network.
Web3 must therefore become more decentralized again. The hope for this lies in blockchain technology. Blockchain is currently used for cryptocurrencies and NFTs, for example. It enables secure data traffic that is independent of an intermediary platform. By the way, you can find out how a blockchain works in this article.
In theory, decentralization through blockchain has one major advantage: the security of your own data. If these are secured by blockchain, nobody can gain unauthorized access to this data. In the implementation, of course, the question remains as to how far large companies are allowed to collect data about you, which will then continue to be used to display suitable advertising. However, the Web3 offers significantly higher protection against cyber attacks.
Due to the decentralization of the blockchain, an attacker would have to hack the majority of the computers involved in the network. This is also referred to as a 51% attack. Hacking this 51% of Web3 users to cause a change in the blockchain is nothing short of illusory.
At the moment, however, cryptocurrencies are not necessarily safe either. Attack points are, for example, viruses on the computer or websites of the crypto platforms. However, moving the Internet itself to the blockchain should massively increase security.
There are weaknesses of the internet that have existed for years and just haven’t gotten better. This is most evident in online games. World of Warcraft, released in 2004, wasn’t the first MMORPG, but it was the breakthrough for huge online worlds in which many players are on the move at the same time. The phenomenon was so intriguing that it endured long waits and stuttering gameplay in metropolitan areas.
Almost 20 years later, nothing has really changed. Whether the start of Amazon’s “New World” or the new addon for “Final Fantasy 14”. There are still long queues for the technically limited number of players server. EVE Online is one of the few games that uses a large mega server for all players. This is possible because the game’s universe is so large and there are rarely huge amounts in one heap. If there are battles with more than 1,000 players at the same time in a small space, the large megaservers also go down accordingly and turn the game into a lagorgy.
The Web3 is almost infinitely scalable due to its distributed load over the entire network, because each participant also brings new computing power. There is no need to create different server instances, unless too many players fill a game world that is far too small. The future could be gigantic game worlds with virtual game worlds.
With the scalability and huge online worlds, we would be at the Metaverse. By the way, we describe what the Metaverse is all about in more detail in a separate article. In essence, however, it is the next step from the Internet itself, in which the virtual and real worlds are connected. For many, it is the vision of how Web3 is used.
The metaverse adds virtual elements to our real world, but can also offer a huge online world as an interface in which apps and other online worlds are integrated almost seamlessly. Another principle is that everyone in the same virtual place has the same experience. So, scalability is important so that several thousand people can spread across multiple instances in the same place in the virtual world, but also see everyone else there. The blockchain as the basis for the Web3 also makes it easier for the metaverse to use cryptocurrencies as a means of payment or NFTs for virtual possessions in the metaverse.
The disadvantages of Web3
Missing Control – Back to the Wild West
For a long time, the internet stood for anonymity and freedom. You could write whatever you wanted and censorship was considered a big swear word. That has changed a bit in the last few years. Through social media, hate speech and fake news in particular have become an ever-increasing problem and require solutions.
The Web3 is a step backwards in these matters, since the procedure against discriminatory comments or wrong information could become more difficult again in the decentralized Internet. In addition, the judiciary will be even more difficult than it already is. Without physical servers, for example, it is more difficult to name a jurisdiction for a cyber crime. That this is also a big topic for the Metaverse, we have already covered in detail in our article “Will the Metaverse be the largest state?”. Among other things, it is about whether the Metaverse needs its own legal system of legislation, judiciary and executive power.
The illusion of platform independence
Decentralization sounds really great at first. Away from the big platforms – more control over your own data. In all likelihood, this will prove to be a great fallacy. Many large companies are already investing in Metaverse projects and certainly not because they want to do something good. They’re hoping for a big piece of the pie when the Metaverse comes, or best of all, helping shape the Metaverse’s rules themselves.
Billions of dollars are also pouring into the Web3 from venture capital firms. Twitter founder Jack Dorsey is one of the most prominent opponents of Web3 and tweeted in December 2021 that it is not the users but the venture capital companies and their limited partnerships that ultimately own Web3. It is also, in his opinion, again a centralized network with the label of venture capital funds.
Why the implementation of the decentralized Web3 will be difficult
Moving from Web 2.0 to Web3 is more difficult than moving from Web 1.0 to Web 2.0. Web 2.0 really only changed the way the Internet was used, while the protocols used remained the same. However, using Ajax programming made it possible to exchange data between server and user and to change/update parts of a page without having to reload the whole page. To a large extent, however, almost everything was still based on technologies that were already available anyway.
Web3, on the other hand, requires a much more radical step. With the current Internet reaching its technological limits, Web3 needs a whole new underpinning to break away from centralization and enable future visions like the Metaverse. The blockchain is currently the preferred solution, with each user contributing a small part of their computing power to the Internet.
Biggest problem: The blockchain is currently polarizing far too much. It is mainly crypto enthusiasts, tech startups, large companies and venture capitalists who want to help shape the metaverse and see the blockchain as the big game changer. There is an ever-growing group among normal users who demonize the blockchain and only hope that cryptocurrencies and NFTs will collapse so that the nightmare can finally end.
Where the transition to Web 2.0 was virtually imperceptible, blockchain as the basis for Web3 will face tremendous resistance. Currently, the gap threatens to widen, as opponents of NFT do not understand that NFT artworks are being sold for increasingly absurd sums of money.
Web3 as parallel internet?
Web3 is currently in a quandary. It actually needs to be implemented as soon as possible in order to be able to convince oneself. On the other hand, blockchain technology is facing increasing resistance, although at the same time the number of blockchain enthusiasts is increasing. Bringing parts of the Internet to the blockchain bit by bit is therefore becoming rather difficult and in any case has the problem that many of the advantages of the technology are not reaping as long as parts are still based on outdated protocols.
Web3 may need to be built alongside Web 2.0. If you are interested, you will have the opportunity to help shape the future as an early adopter. Others remain in the Web 2.0 world and can see whether Web3 still convinces them at some point. Nevertheless, attempts are currently being made to imperceptibly transfer the well-known Internet world to Web3 in small steps.
The ultimate success is likely to be largely related to whether the Metaverse establishes itself. While the blockchain forms the foundation of Web3, the metaverse will become the new user interface. It will be decisive as to whether the new infrastructure really exploits the new possibilities. However, the implementation of this must be so good that it even makes skeptics curious. It’s not enough just to be a haven for the crypto community. And that is precisely the danger if Web3 is initially a pure internet of the crypto bubble.