Welcoming the Third Generation of the World Wide Web
The internet has come a long way since its inception in the '60s, when it was used only as a communication tool for the US military. It has evolved from a simple network of computers (or Web1.0, the static, ‘Read only’ web) to a global platform that connects people, businesses, and governments around the world (Web2.0, aka the dynamic, or the ‘Read-Write’ web). Today, as we stand on the brink of a global interweb renaissance, contemporary applications of the Web have become barely recognizable from the early days. So, how is the Web evolving? And, more importantly, what's next? And why is any of this important? In this article, we’ll examine the evolution of the web, the potential of Web3, and why it is crucial to integrate this new technology into our lives.
The origin of the Web can be traced back to 1989, when British Scientist Tim Berners-Lee, wrote his proposal for the world’s first internet browser — the World Wide Web (WWW) — while working at Conseil Européen pour la Recherche Nucléaire (CERN), or the European Council for Nuclear Research. His vision was to create open, decentralized protocols that allowed for the exchange of information from any location on Earth. In 1993, the project was released into the public domain, which meant that nobody owned the World Wide Web. Or, to put it differently, the web belonged to everybody. And while it was a raging success back then, there was limited interaction between users, and individual content production was rare, leading to its reputation as the "read-only" Web.
So, what was Web1.0 like, exactly?
People use the term “Web1.0” to describe the earliest iteration of the Internet. This version of the Web supplied static content rather than dynamic HTML, and the ecosystem was driven by a few people creating web pages for a large group of readers, thus making the majority of its participants consumers. Now, because it was dedicated to users searching for data but lacked the necessary forms, visuals, controls and interactivity that we enjoy on today’s internet, this web version came to be known as the “Read-only” web. Web1.0 existed approximately between 1991 and 2004.
Web2.0: The “Read-Write” Web
Unlike Web1.0, which was made up of a small number of people producing content for a larger audience, Web2.0 comprises many people creating even more content for a growing audience. Web1.0 focused on reading; Web2.0 focused on participating and contributing. Simply put, Web2.0 is the present form of the Web, which most of us have seen and used.
The exponential growth of Web2.0 is a result of key innovations of the new millennium like mobile internet access, social networks, and access to powerful mobile devices like iPhones and Android-powered devices. These developments have empowered the dominance of applications that fuel the online interactivity and utility privileges that we enjoy today — for example, Instagram, Twitter, Airbnb, Uber, WhatsApp, and YouTube, to name a few.
The unprecedented revenue growth from these platforms has propelled several companies that prioritize Web2.0 business models, including Meta (formerly Facebook), Apple, Amazon, Netflix and Google — also known by the acronym FAANG — for they are now among the world’s biggest companies by market capitalization.
Further, these applications have also driven the growth of the gig economy by creating job opportunities for millions of individuals worldwide to earn income by driving, renting their homes, delivering food and groceries, or selling goods and services online on a part-time or full-time basis.
Now, while technology does play a pivotal role in business, it is important to note that its impact depends largely on how it is availed. When properly deployed and maintained, technology can enable businesses to cost-effectively scale their systems, thus lending them a serious competitive advantage over their rivals. However, if not availed aptly…well, Web2.0 nearly obliterated industries that failed to adapt to the new web-centric business model (or were slow in doing so.) Industries like retail and advertising took the hardest hit, but they were left with no choice but to evolve; and so, they did.
Web2.0 in a nutshell
Free online information sorting — Allows users to retrieve and classify data collectively
Dynamic content that responds to user input
Application Programming Interfaces (API)
Self-usage and interaction through services like podcasting, social media, social networking, blogging and web content voting, among others
Near-ubiquity — Used by society at large and not limited to specific communities
Web3: The “Read-Write-Own” Web
While Web2.0 is dominated by centralized applications like Facebook, Twitter and Google (among many others), Web3 is envisioned as a decentralized and open Web with even greater utility for its users and, from the looks of it, could prove just as disruptive (perhaps more) and represent a paradigm shift as big as (perhaps bigger than) Web2.0 did.
In a 2001 paper, World Wide Web inventor Tim Berners-Lee referred to Web3.0 as the “Semantic Web” and envisioned an intelligent and open Internet that would act as a "global brain," processing information conceptually and contextually with the help of Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning.
And while the original concept of the Semantic Web (Web3.0) focused on creating a machine-readable web that could understand content in a human-like manner, Web3 aims to create a decentralized, trustless, and transparent Internet that empowers individuals and communities.
Web3.0 v/s Web3: We Are Not The Same
Although most discussions surrounding the third generation of the Web might imply that Web3.0 and Web3 are essentially the same, they happen to be fundamentally different from each other. While Web3.0 is built upon Tim Berners-Lee’s concept of the Semantic Web, Web3 is a decentralized, blockchain-based version of the Web.
Articulated by Ethereum co-founder Gavin Wood shortly after Ethereum’s launch in 2014, Web3 was born primarily to solve a problem faced by the early adopters of cryptocurrency, who did not feel safe about relying on a handful of private companies to act in the public's best interests.
Defining Features of Web3
As the core tenet upon which Web3.0 is built, decentralization stands in contrast to the centralized structure of Web2.0. In Web2.0, computers rely on unique web addresses to locate information stored on a single server. Web3.0, however, allows for information to be stored across multiple locations simultaneously, in a decentralized manner. This approach hands more control to users over the data generated by modern computing resources such as smartphones, desktops, appliances and sensors, thereby reducing the power of centralized applications like Amazon, Meta and Google over such data. Thus, enabling people to sell their data through decentralized networks, ensuring that users retain control and ownership of their data.
Trustless and Permissionless
In addition to being decentralized and driven by open-source software, Web3.0 is also trustless (that is, the network allows participants to interact directly, without going through a “trusted” intermediary) and permissionless (which means that anyone can participate without permission from a central acting authority). This is made possible by blockchain tech and decentralized peer-to-peer networks, or a combination thereof — known as dApps, which facilitate online financial transactions using cryptocurrency, instead of relying on the outdated infrastructure of centralized financial institutions like banks.
Artificial intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML)
Circling back to the original concept of the Semantic Web, Web3.0 enables computers to process information like humans do, through technologies based on Natural Language Processing (NLP). Web3.0 also uses machine learning — a branch of artificial intelligence (AI) that uses data and algorithms to mimic how humans learn, and continues to improve in accuracy by processing new data. This enables computers to deliver more relevant results faster, thus facilitating a host of advanced applications including drug development and new materials, as opposed to merely targeted advertising that forms the bulk of current efforts.
Connected and Ubiquitous
Web3.0 facilitates a higher degree of connectivity and ubiquity of information by making it more accessible through multiple applications and the rapidly growing number of everyday devices that are connected to the internet. One such example of this is the Internet of Things (IoT).
“Internet of Things” (IoT) is a term used to refer to the growing range of electronics that may not be traditional computing devices but are connected to the internet to send data, receive instructions or both.
This includes internet-connected ‘smart’ versions of traditional home appliances like light bulbs or refrigerators, digital assistants like Amazon’s Alexa, and internet-enabled sensors used in factories, healthcare, transportation, distribution centers and farms.
Fair enough, but what’s the hype?
Well, for starters, Web3 gives you unparalleled ownership over digital assets.
For example, if you purchase an in-game item in a Web2.0 game, it is tied solely to your account. Accordingly, if the game creator deletes your account — or if you decide to stop playing — the item and its value are lost forever.
In contrast, Web3 provides direct ownership through non-fungible tokens (NFTs). With this technology, nobody - not even the game's creators - can deprive you of your ownership. Even if you stop playing, you can trade or sell your in-game items on open markets and recoup their value.
It is also censorship-resistant.
Web2.0 content creators often become victims to the imbalanced power dynamic they share with the platforms they use.
OnlyFans, for example, is a user-generated adult content site with millions of content creators for whom it is their primary source of income. In August 2021, OnlyFans announced a ban on sexually explicit content — a decision that would deprive millions of creators of an income from a platform that they helped build. Thankfully, however, the creators ultimately prevailed, but the situation brought to notice a persistent issue for Web2.0 creators: if you leave a platform, you risk losing the reputation and following you might have built up.
Web3 solves this problem by storing data on the blockchain, so if one should decide to leave a platform, they can take their reputation with them and plug it into another interface that better aligns with their values.
But more importantly, you, the people, own it.
In addition to owning your data, Web3 allows for collective ownership of a platform using tokens that function like shares in a company. Decentralized Autonomous Organizations (DAOs), a defining feature of the third generation of the Web, let you coordinate the decentralized ownership of a platform and make decisions about its future.
DAOs are essentially Web3 communities governed by agreed-upon smart contracts that automate decentralized decision-making using a pool of resources (tokens), with its members (token-holders) voting on how these resources should be allocated.
And it gives you full control over financial transactions.
Web2.0's payment infrastructure relies on central banks and third-party payment processors. Accordingly, people without bank accounts (for example) — or those who happen to live within the borders of the wrong country — cannot make payments using its ecosystem.
Web3 uses tokens to send money directly through the web browser, without the need for verification by a trusted third party. This is made possible by open-source, non-custodial cryptocurrency wallets like MetaMask, Venly, or TrustWallet, which allow people to make payments directly through web browsers and/or decentralized applications.
And that’s what we call…
DeFi!Decentralized finance, or DeFi, is one of the most remarkable applications of Web3. By leveraging blockchain tech and smart contracts, DeFi facilitates secure and transparent transactions without the need for central intermediaries like banks. And with its full spectrum of financial services like decentralized lending and borrowing, staking and yield farm, DeFi makes the financial system accessible for everybody — irrespective of their location or socioeconomic position — even those without bank accounts!
Borrowing on MakerDAO
MakerDAO is a decentralized autonomous organization (DAO) built on the Ethereum blockchain. The platform provides blockchain-based loans to people in its native algorithmic stablecoin DAI, whose value is soft-pegged 1:1 to the US Dollar.
DAI: A Multi-Collateral Stablecoin
While most other stablecoins are collateralized against a single fiat or cryptocurrency, DAI can be borrowed against Ethereum (ETH), Basic attention token (BAT), USD Coin (USDC), Wrapped Bitcoin (wBTC), Compound (COMP), AAVE — and other tokens.
But that’s not all. Web3 = Decentralized EVERYTHING
Decentralized Identity Management
Identity on Web2.0, like username, avatar, number of followers, content that you share online — or anything that separates you from others — is essentially entries stored in the databases of (for example) Meta, Google and Twitter. And as we’ve established earlier in this article, your identity on these platforms does not belong to you. It belongs to the platforms on which it is stored. This comes with a variety of risks, like being banned from accessing their services (or worse, the platform shutting down!) and security risks such as data leaks. Decentralized identity management is the solution to exactly this problem.
The key difference between identity on Web2 and identity on Web3 is centered around two things: identity ownership and portability (or interoperability).
Identity ownership is the core outcome of decentralized identity. The word decentralized implies that the ownership is dispersed from the centralized identities and returned to users. And “portability” means you can use a single identity to access different platforms seamlessly.
A Decentralized Social Network
Founded in December 2022, Lens Protocol is a blockchain-based (decentralized social network built on the Polygon Proof-of-Stake Blockchain. At its core, Lens Protocol has two components:
Lens Protocol’s profile NFT is a portable profile that allows users to post content (posts, comments, publications) on it and gives users complete ownership of this content, so they can bring it to newer platforms as needed.
Projects build on top of Lens
Lens allows developers to create platforms on top of it, thus enabling a rich, vibrant ecosystem. On Lens, users can upload their videos on Lenstube (like YouTube, but for Web3), update what is happening on Lenster (like Twitter, but for Web3), and more!
Data Storage and Sharing
Because of its accessibility and ease of use, cloud storage has become the most popular type of storage in recent years. And while incumbent giants like Google and Amazon have come a long way in developing and democratizing the technology, cloud storage on Web2.0 stores data on central servers, which has its vulnerabilities.
For starters, when one uploads their data on a centralized server, they grant the server permission to “use the data to deliver a more personalized experience” to the user, thus giving the business access to edit, view, analyze and remove the content.
In addition to this, centralized servers come with a higher risk of data loss from system failure — and once lost, this data cannot be recovered. Further, many personalized cloud storage services do not provide insurance against data loss or take accountability for catastrophic failures.
More importantly, however, your data is more vulnerable to cyber-attacks on a centralized server. For once an attacker gains access to the main server, all the data on it is under breach — including yours.
In contrast, storage systems on Web3.0 allow users to store data securely on the blockchain, which is a decentralized, distributed peer-to-peer system. Every file stored on a decentralized cloud is broken up into many shards, and each of these shards is encrypted and distributed to numerous client computers for storage, thus maximizing privacy and reducing the likelihood of data loss and vulnerability to cyber-attacks.
‘Peer-to-peer’ also implies that anybody with a processing node connected to the internet can join and build peer networks, thus maximising resource usage while earning through providing storage. To maximize security, malicious nodes are punished by seizing their stake from the system.
Supply Chain Management
The power of Web3 and blockchain tech is also being leveraged rather effectively to create transparent, efficient and secure supply chains. This is particularly important for industries such as food and pharmaceuticals, where supply chain transparency is critical for consumer safety.
IBM Food Trust™, for example, is a blockchain-based modular solution that was built to help food companies track their products from farm to table through a secure and transparent record of every transaction that occurs along the supply chain. Through this, the platform enables its clients to:
Monitor the quality of food products in the supply chain and measure the remaining shelf life of their inventory
Track sources of contamination and take action to remove contaminated products before they reach consumers
Make supply chains less susceptible to fraud and errors through end-to-end traceability
Reduce waste by tracking food wasted and food rescued while minimizing waste hotspots
Among the many popular companies using this service include major players like Walmart, which uses the platform to trace the origin of its leafy greens, and Nestle, which uses it to keep tabs on the origin of its milk supplies. In addition to this, the platform is also being used extensively to trace the origin of coffee and salmon, among other products.
Fuelling Mass Business Adoption
VeChain’s public blockchain VeChainThor is a smart-contract-compatible blockchain designed to improve transparency and efficiency in supply chain management through a trust-free and distributed business ecosystem.
Powered by its unique consensus mechanism called Proof of Authority (PoA), VeChain deploys technologies like Near Field Communication (NFC), Radio Frequency Identifier (RFID) and IoT (Internet of Things) to track product parameters through their journey in the supply chain while automating inventory management, logistics and quality control without compromising on speed or scalability.
How It Works
During the manufacturing process, an RFID/NFC tag is affixed to every product. VeChain uses this to assign unique digital identifiers (DID) to every product, which is then stored on its public blockchain as the product’s identity.
Then, VeChain’s Internet of Things integration (i.e., devices and sensors installed throughout the supply chain) records product data at every stage of the supply chain and transmits it in real time to its blockchain, where the data is linked to the product’s DID and stored as events (transactions).
Because this data is recorded on the blockchain, it cannot be tampered with. This allows for a transparent record of every product’s journey through its lifecycle. This data can be accessed easily by everybody in the supply chain from the manufacturer to the end consumer, simply by scanning the RFID/NFC tag on devices like smartphones.
VeChain’s public blockchain “VeChainThor” has two tokens — VET and VTHO.
The VET token serves as the main cryptocurrency of the VechainThor network. It facilitates the transfer of value between parties. The token is designed to fluctuate with market speculation and can be sent globally in a peer-to-peer manner, thus making it a popular option among traders.
VTHO, or the VeChainThor Energy token, powers the backend of the VechainThor blockchain, as gas does for the Ethereum network. Developers use VTHO to execute smart contracts and transactions. It also enables smart contracts to send data back and forth within the ecosystem.
Like VET, VTHO is also available on exchanges for purchase, but it might be worth noting that VTHO can also be earned by staking VET in a VeChainThor wallet. Through this structure, the ecosystem incentivizes long-term saving and adds one more layer of interconnectivity between the two tokens.
VeChain has established partnerships with a number of major companies across various industries, including Walmart China, BMW, AND H&M. These partnerships are aimed at using the VeChainThor blockchain to improve supply chain management, increase transparency, combat counterfeiting and even reduce waste.
Too good to be true?
While Web3 offers significant potential, several challenges need to be addressed for the technology to be adopted more widely.
To begin with, Web3 is still in its early stages of development, so the technology is not particularly user-friendly YET (but it’s getting there). This makes it difficult for non-technical users to interact with Web3 applications.
Further, many governments worldwide are struggling to understand the implications of the new technology. This has led to a patchwork of regulations and restrictions that can make it difficult for Web3 businesses to operate in a global market.
As far as cultural challenges are concerned, Web3 is built on the principle of trustlessness, which can be difficult for many people to understand. Most people are accustomed to trusting centralized authorities, such as banks and governments, and may be reluctant to embrace a technology that is based on a trustless model.
And lastly, because the technology is still in its early stages, it can be hard to predict which projects and applications will succeed. This makes it difficult for investors to evaluate the potential of Web3 projects, which in turn makes it harder for businesses to secure funding.
Having said that, it is important to remember that in a world monopolized by a handful of central entities, Web3 dares to promote decentralization and is being built, operated, and owned by its users, thus putting the power in the hands of the people.
And that is how Dyor was born.
Dyor is building an investor-friendly decentralized platform to help you navigate and invest in Web3 and DeFi easily. With its unique Swipe-to-Invest interface, access to real user-generated data, and an active community of investors & contributors, Dyor is driven to simplify access to DeFi for all. Learn more on dyor.exchange