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What Is Web 3.0 & Why It Matters
What exactly is Web 3.0, what will it look like and how will it change our lives?
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Imagine a new type of internet that not only accurately interprets what you input, but actually understands everything you convey, whether through text, voice or other media, one where all content you consume is more tailored to you than ever before. We are at the tipping point of a new phase in the web’s evolution. Some early pioneers call it Web 3.0.
Web 1.0 (1989-2005)
Web 1.0, also called the Static Web, was the first and most reliable internet in the 1990s despite only offering access to limited information with little to no user interaction. Back in the day, creating user pages or even commenting on articles weren’t a thing.
Web 1.0 didn't have algorithms to sift internet pages, which made it extremely hard for users to find relevant information. Simply put, it was like a one-way highway with a narrow footpath where content creation was done by a select few and information came mostly from directories.
Web 2.0 (2005-present)
This paved the way for both social networks and user-generated content production to flourish since data can now be distributed and shared between various platforms and applications.
Web 3.0 (coming soon)
Web 3.0 is the next stage of the web evolution that would make the internet more intelligent or process information with near-human-like intelligence through the power of AI systems that could run smart programs to assist users.
Tim Berners-Lee had said that the Semantic Web is meant to "automatically" interface with systems, people and home devices. As such, content creation and decision-making processes will involve both humans and machines. This would enable the intelligent creation and distribution of highly-tailored content straight to every internet consumer.
What technology benefits more than 3 Billion people for 80% of their waking hours every single day? Web 2.0.
Web 2.0, coined as such by O’Reilly and others between 1999 and 2004, moved the world on from static desktop web pages designed for information consumption and served from expensive servers to interactive experiences and user-generated content that brought us Uber, AirBnB, Facebook and Instagram. The rise of Web 2.0 was largely driven by three core layers of innovation: mobile, social and cloud.
While the Web 2.0 wave is still bearing fruit, we are also seeing the first shoots of growth emerge from the next large paradigm shift in internet applications, logically entitled Web 3.0. As hard to believe as it might seem, Web 3.0 (originally coined the Semantic Web by Tim Berners-Lee, the Web’s original inventor), is an even more fundamental disruption, one that in time will leave everything hitherto in its shade. It is a leap forward to open, trustless and permissionless networks.
‘Open’ in that they are built from open-source software built by an open and accessible community of developers and executed in full view of the world.
‘Trustless’ in that the network itself allows participants to interact publicly or privately without a trusted third party.
‘Permissionless’ in that anyone, both users and suppliers, can participate without authorisation from a governing body.
The ultimate outcome of these new open, trustless and permissionless networks is the possibility to coordinate & incentivise the long tail of work, service, data and content providers that are the disenfranchised backdrop to many of the world’s most acute challenges such as health, food, finance and sustainability.
Where Web 2.0 was driven by the advent of mobile, social and cloud, Web 3.0 is built largely on three new layers of technological innovation: edge computing, decentralised data networks and artificial intelligence.
While in Web 2.0 recently commoditised personal computer hardware was repurposed in data centers, the shift to Web 3.0 is spreading the data center out to the edge, and often right into our hands. Large legacy data centres are being supplemented by a multitude of powerful computing resources spread across phones, computers, appliances, sensors and vehicles which are forecast to produce and consume 160 (!) times more data in 2025 as compared to 2010.
Decentralised data networks are making it possible for these data generators (from an individual’s personal health data, to a farmer’s crop data, or a car’s location & performance data) to sell or barter their data without losing ownership control, giving up privacy or reliance on third-party middlemen. As such, decentralised data networks can bring the entire long tail of data generators into the emerging ‘data economy’.
Artificial intelligence & Machine learning algorithms have become powerful enough to create useful, indeed sometimes life-saving, predictions and actions. When layered on top of new decentralised data structures giving access to a wealth of data that would be the envy of today’s tech giants, the potential applications go far beyond targeted advertising into areas like precision materials, drug design and climate modelling.
Web 3.0 enables a future where distributed users and machines are able to interact with data, value and other counterparties via a substrate of peer-to-peer networks without the need for third parties. The result: a composable human-centric & privacy-preserving computing fabric for the next wave of the web.
Web 1.0 & Web 2.0 radically shrunk the latency and cost at which people & businesses could trade value, information & work with geographically distributed counterparties they didn’t necessarily know, via trusted intermediaries. Truly global businesses started to form, as the reach of counterparties expanded by a few orders of magnitude. At its heart, today’s internet allows global coordination via a set of intermediaries, providing a digital social trust layer for strangers to interact: from Facebook, to eBay & AirBnB.
With Web 3.0, women, men, machines & businesses will be able to trade value, information & work with global counterparties they don’t know or yet explicitly trust, without an intermediary. The most important evolution enabled by Web3.0 is the minimisation of the trust required for coordination on a global scale.
Web 3.0 will fundamentally expand the scale & scope of both human and machine interactions far beyond what we can imagine today. These interactions, ranging from seamless payments to richer information flows to trusted data transfers, will become possible with a vastly increased range of potential counterparties.
Web 3.0 will enable us to interact with any individual or machine in the world, without having to pass through fee-charging middlemen. This shift will enable a whole new wave of previously unimaginable businesses and business models: from global co-operatives to decentralised autonomous organisations and self-sovereign data marketplaces.
The forthcoming wave of Web 3.0 goes far beyond the initial use case of cryptocurrencies. Through the richness of interactions now possible and the global scope of counterparties available, Web 3.0 will cryptographically connect data from individuals, corporations and machines, with efficient machine learning algorithms, leading to the rise of fundamentally new markets and associated business models.
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