“Anyone who has lost track of time when using a computer knows the propensity to dream, the urge to make dreams come true, and the tendency to miss lunch.” No, we didn’t come up with that; Sir Timothy John Berners-Lee did. Who’s he? Oh, just the guy that invented the friggin’ World Wide Web!
The internet is probably one of those things that most people take for granted, not thinking of its complexities and the evolution through the decades that it has seen. But suppose we stop for a moment and consider its massive impact on our lives. In that case, we’d be amazed at how many technologies wouldn’t exist if it weren’t for the Web, including blockchain, metaverses, non-fungible tokens, or the play-to-earn games we love so much.
We are still living in the Web2 era, a phase where the internet is filled with companies that offer services in exchange for personal data, where social connectivity and social media platforms govern our world. We are on the brink of a new era ruled by Web3, also known as the third-generation internet. Web3 is all about the blockchain. Decentralization will be the key, as networks will operate through decentralized protocols, and users will fully control their data and content.
Let’s take a trip down memory lane, from Web 1.0 to Web3, and discover the differences between all these distinct phases, focusing on how Web3 will change the way we interact with the World Wide Web and with each other.
Web1 - the Static Web or the read-only Web
Tim Berners-Lee had a vision of a “hyperlinked information system” that we can’t live without nowadays. He invented the World Wide Web in the early 90s, writing three critical technologies that stand at the foundation of the Internet: HTML, HTTP, and URL. He published the first website ever and the first web page editor/ browser.
During this phase of the Web, which lasted from 1989 to the early 2000s, there was little to no user interaction. An internet user could only read the information provided by a content creator without a way to comment on it. They were simply consumers of content, while user-generated content didn’t exist yet. Websites were static, with no trace of interactive content and very few design elements. It might seem boring in this day and age, but it was truly revolutionary back then!
Web2 - the Social Web where things get interesting
The Web2 era started in the middle of the 2000s, and it’s still ongoing. This second iteration of the internet, also known as the read-write Web, brings interactivity, social connectivity, and user-generated content. Long gone are the days when the websites were read-only. Now you can interact, leave feedback, and everyone can produce content. It’s the era of social media, with all the major players disrupting the once-static Web. Users have instant access to information, no matter where they are located. The gig economy flourishes, with literally anyone able to earn extra income by renting their homes via the internet, selling goods online, delivering food, driving, etc. Most industries had to adapt to the new web-centric business model, or they ran the risk of extinction.
Some important features of Web 2.0 are:
- Dynamic content is sensitive to user input
- Site users can retrieve and classify the information collectively
- Users can evaluate the information and openly comment on it online
- User experience evolves, and with it, the traditional Internet user base expands
Web3 - the Semantic Web/ the future of the internet
Web3 is the next phase in the evolution of the internet, and it’s constructed around concepts like decentralization, openness, and more extensive user utility. Websites and apps will be able to process information in a way similar to humans with the help of technologies like machine learning ( ML), artificial intelligence, decentralized ledger technology, etc.
Tim Berners-Lee called it the Semantic Web and envisioned it as a way to bring structure to the meaningful content of different web pages, enabling software that would carry sophisticated tasks for the end-users.
Core features of Web3
Let’s check some of the defining features of this new iteration of the internet:
Decentralization: Information will no longer be stored at a fixed location or on a single server. Finding information based on its content means that it can be stored in several areas simultaneously, making it decentralized.
Blockchain: Blockchain technology is at the very heart of Web3. Within a blockchain network, user data is protected and encrypted. Big tech companies can no longer control a user’s personal data.
Artificial Intelligence & Machine Learning: Computers will be able to understand information similarly to humans through natural language processing tech and Semantic Web notions. Machine learning algorithms will be used to improve the accuracy of the information. Intelligent machines will be able to read and decipher the meaning of different data sets.
3D Graphics: Web3 relies heavily on three-dimensional design for websites and services. Think about computer games, eCommerce, museum guides, or geospatial contexts. They are all relevant examples of 3D graphics use.
Ubiquity & Connectivity: Information and content are everywhere, more connected, and ubiquitous. They can be accessed by multiple applications simultaneously, more and more everyday devices being connected to the internet.
Permissionless: Web3 will allow users to interact directly without going through a trusted intermediary and won’t require any authorization from a governing body. Internet applications will run on blockchain technology or decentralized peer-to-peer networks.
As you can see, blockchain will play a major role in the Web 3.0 era. Networks will run through decentralized protocols, similar to what blockchain and cryptocurrencies already use, creating a solid convergence between all these technologies. If Web2 was the next step in the internet’s evolution, then we can safely say that Web3 will be the internet’s revolution.
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