Web3 is the new version of the internet that everyone’s talking about. In 2021, the world turned upside down as the pandemic worsened, global travel came to a standstill, flexible working became fashionable, supply chain attacks soared, and the word ‘Web3’ went mainstream. While a somewhat abstract concept, Web3 has been heralded by blockchain enthusiasts as the future of the internet and the next chapter in history. Is this technology an engine of innovation or is Web3 resting on high-energy hype?
What is Web3?
Web3 is intended as a new configuration for the world wide web. The thinking goes that Web 1.0 appeared in the ‘90s. Web 2.0 emerged a decade as a series of high-profile companies began to dominate the internet space. Web 3.0 or Web3 is seen by some as a mechanism capable of redistributing internet ownership and power back into the hands of those unaffiliated with BigTech.
Web3 right now
At present, tech companies can use data generated by ordinary internet users to earn revenue through advertisements. The launch of Web3 would allow for the decentralization of computer networks, taking power away from advertising-based companies like Google and Facebook. In other words, people would retain some agency over the sites and apps that they use. Participation in Web3 communities would lead to partial ownership through digital tokens; which would accrue social value.
Although considered a reasonable perspective on the subject, not everyone agrees on this potential outcome of Web3 technology. Twitter founder Jack Dorsey has expressed concern over this interpretation of Web3’s potential.
Some experts contend that a decentralized internet would introduce new problems related to cyber crime, hate speech and misinformation. Others perceive Web3 as difficult to use in relation to managing data securely. Yet others state that Web3 is overly idealistic, will be difficult to deliver on, and that it will create a bubble that eventually pops.
Despite significant buzz among software developers, hedge fund managers, tech firms and venture capitalists, among others, one thing that’s not clear is how Web3 will alter the way in which regular individuals use the internet.
Silicon Valley scions maintain differing perspectives on the future of Web3. Elon Musk asserts that it’s more of a marketing buzzword than anything else, venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz describes it as transformational, while Twitter founder Jack Dorsey remains utterly unimpressed.
Is Web3 just marketing speak or will it be ‘the next big thing’ for the next few decades? At present, Web3 is largely an abstraction and many remain divided over its promise and potential.
The rebrand of Facebook as Meta and the tech giant’s renewed support of cryptocurrency likely contributed to the sudden interest in Web3, and in taking decentralized technologies mainstream. Web3 brings several popular trends together -the metaverse, blockchain, cryptocurrency- into a plausible, unified whole.