You see, thanks to the magic of technology, about once every generation, something new emerges that promises to (and eventually does) change the world forever. We had mainframes, then the personal computer, followed by the internet, and most recently smartphones; every time resulting in not only massive impact on the way we live life, but also massive wealth creation for its early adopters. So the question is, what’s next? Well, that’s exactly what we’ll cover today. I present to you… the wondrous Web3.
Simply put, Web3 is said to be the next iteration of the internet… Ok, that’s a loaded statement, so let’s unpack it, starting with the nomenclature. Web3 implies a Web2 and a Web1. Web1 was where it all began; the first time a human booted up a computer, searched for, and was served a web page. But this was a one-way street. All one could do was view the information presented. No interactivity. You could view what was put up by the website owner, and that’s it. Thus, we say it was a “read-only” paradigm.
Then, somewhere around the early 2000s, Web1 grew up into Web2. Many consider the start of Web2 as the inception of Facebook. Which, in all honesty, is not that inaccurate a mental model. Because what made Web2, Web2, was the fact that individuals — you and I — could now post our own unique content online and engage with existing content, for the entire world to see. In other words, Social Media. Now, “websites” became “web applications”. Interactivity became the norm. And with advancements in hardware (smartphones), these applications shaped the way we live life; the way we communicate (WhatsApp), the way we shop (Amazon), the way we travel (Uber). If Web1 was “read-only”, Web2 was a “read-write” paradigm.
However, a key criticism of Web2 is that the value generated by the tech companies accrue only to its owners, even though the source of their value is derived by its users. Even though Spotify is valuable because artists upload their music for subscribers to listen to, the majority of artists earn pretty much zilch. And to make matters worse, if after many years of hard work you manage to cultivate a fan base (an asset), Spotify could simply kick you out… and there’s nothing you can do about it. As the value and control reside solely with the small group of owners, we say that Web2 is “centralised”.
Enter Web3. Commonly used to describe the next generation of applications that are “decentralised” and “permissionless”. Which is a fancy way of saying that no single entity owns the application, no permission is needed to join, and no one can arbitrarily kick you out. This is achieved by building applications on a “Blockchain” (we’ll get into the specifics later, for now just understand it as the underlying technology that enables Web3). More so, due to the features of Blockchain, one can literally own part of any platform/network built on top. Imagine owning a part of the Internet… now you can! That’s why we say Web3 is a “read-write-own” paradigm.
The implications of this are manyfold, but for now, I shall end here. I’m sure you have many questions simmering right now, and rightfully so. This stuff is complicated and novel. And for most, given the human tendency “to know”, this usually results in fear. Time it will take, but fear not. Take a breath, re-read, and ponder.
Also read on: New India Express Magazine