What is Web 3.0? A beginner's guide
If you find yourself wondering, "What is Web 3.0?" Here's a straightforward guide to this new frontier for the World Wide Web.
From search engines like Google to social networks like Facebook, today's interconnected internet can be easy to take for granted. Even if you're old enough to remember a time before search engines, this quick, easy access to a worldwide web of information has become integral to our day-to-day lives.
Our current internet landscape, known as Web 2.0, enjoys this interconnectedness thanks to a handful of the world's biggest tech brands. But proponents of a new model, known as Web 3.0, are reimagining the Internet's design through decentralized online experiences and even greater interconnection.
But what is Web 3.0, and why should you as an everyday web user care? Read on to learn more about this promising new model for the future of the Internet.
What is Web 3.0?
Web 3.0, also known as Web3, is a theoretical model for the next big evolution of the World Wide Web built on blockchain technology and/or decentralized peer-to-peer networks.
Blockchain technology is a digital public ledger that manages, stores and protects data held within the chain's "blocks." While both businesses and programmers can develop a blockchain, these ledgers can't be privately owned, and the long history of transactions and other data are added to the chain over time. This information also can't be erased or edited, providing powerful protection against data theft and fraud. Both blockchain and peer-to-peer networks could make information and applications completely accessible to everyone without relying on search engines or other web platforms.
If you aren't familiar with these technologies, don't worry. What's most important is how this supporting structure will change your experience as an internet user. Web3's ultimate goals are to make your online experiences less reliant on massive companies and internet gatekeepers, and to make the Internet faster, more powerful and more productive for everyone.
How does Web 3.0 compare to Web 2.0?
If you don't see any problems with your current internet experience, you may be wary of supporting any proposal to upend how that internet experience is enabled—and rightly so. From social media to peer-to-peer payments to countless applications used daily on your mobile devices, Web 2.0 has changed our lives for the better.
Take a closer look, though, and you may notice some problems and limitations created by Web 2.0's design. Consider your own user data, which major tech brands are eager to collect, package and sell for their own profit: Although your own activity and information is the product being sold, the profits of that product are only enjoyed by a handful of companies.
Meanwhile, the current makeup of the Internet is designed to make users do much of the labor when they use these online tools. If you're searching for new furniture for your home, for example, you might visit dozens of retail websites, as well as reseller marketplaces such as eBay, Craigslist or Facebook Marketplace. This can be time-intensive, inefficient work, and that work is made even harder by the unwillingness of those businesses to share information and help you quickly find what you're looking for.
Web 3.0 aims to make that process easier. Decentralized websites and information will make it easier to find information without searching through these branded platforms and databases one by one. Information will be more easily stored in multiple places online, improving access. Additional tools such as artificial intelligence can also assist you in your search for information, resulting in more thorough searches that take less time.
What are the potential benefits of Web3?
A Web 3.0 built on blockchain technology could improve your user experience with the following capabilities and features:
- Decentralized information. Information will be stored in multiple online locations and accessible via blockchain. This information (including your own personal data) will no longer be the property of online giants like Google and Facebook. This means you won't be as reliant on those platforms to find the information you're seeking, and you'll also maintain ownership of your data rather than giving it away.
- Improved security. Blockchain protects usernames and passwords through powerful cryptographic security layers that require a private key to access that information. Even though the blockchain itself is accessible to all, the data contained within those blocks is better protected than what Web 2.0 security can offer.
- Trustless and permissionless data management. Since blockchains are open-access, these decentralized ledgers can't be owned by another business or entity. If you have the private key to access your data, you can use this blockchain without being reliant on another business to access information. This should lead to more open and transparent online interactions, and it also saves you from being at the mercy of online gatekeepers.
- Improved connectivity between applications. Trustless and permissionless data means that many different applications can access and use the same sets of data at once. This improves the connections between applications, making them more powerful and more useful to you, the consumer.
- Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning tools. These innovative technologies can be leveraged as collaborative tools to improve your internet experience over time. From assisting with research and online queries to understanding your user profile and anticipating what you're looking for online, these tools will only grow in accuracy and value over time.
Are there any risks or drawbacks to Web3?
While a decentralized internet would improve the online experience for most consumers, there are also certain risks that need to be monitored and addressed. A fully democratized, accessible internet could also make it tougher to regulate unlawful activities online, such as hate speech or spreading misinformation. With that content decentralized through the blockchain, it could be difficult—if not impossible—to determine where the perpetrators of a crime are located, or which country should attempt to prosecute and punish those criminals for their crimes.
These issues will need to be confronted as support for Web3 grows over time. For the average consumer, though, the benefits of Web3 dramatically outweigh the limited risks posed by this new frontier.
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