Web 3.0 is the upcoming third generation of the internet where websites and apps will be able to process information in a smart human-like way through technologies like machine learning (ML), Big Data, decentralized ledger technology (DLT), etc. Web 3.0 was originally called the Semantic Web by World Wide Web inventor Tim Berners-Lee, and was aimed at being a more autonomous, intelligent, and open internet.
Furthermore, users and machines will be able to interact with data. But for this to happen, programs need to understand information both conceptually and contextually. With this in mind, the two cornerstones of Web 3.0 are semantic web and artificial intelligence (AI).
Web 3.0, Cryptocurrency and Blockchain
As Web 3.0 networks will operate through decentralized protocols — the founding blocks of blockchain and cryptocurrency technology — we can expect to see a strong convergence and symbiotic relationship between these three technologies and other fields. They will be interoperable, seamlessly integrated, automated through smart contracts and used to power anything from microtransactions in Africa, censorship-resistant P2P data file storage and sharing with applications like Filecoin, to completely changing every company’s conduct and operate their business. The current slew of DeFi protocols are just the tip of the iceberg.
What can you do on Web 3?
A great example of the paradigm shift is in the gaming industry. Gamers grumble endlessly about the bugs that developers leave in their favorite video game, or how the latest patch has upset the balance of their favorite weapon. With Web 3, gamers can invest in the game itself and vote on how things should be run. Large Web 2 companies, like Meta and Ubisoft, are creating virtual worlds powered in part by Web 3. Non-fungible tokens (NFT) will also play a huge role in reshaping the gaming industry by allowing players to become the immutable owners of the items they accrue.
Criticisms of Web 3
The main criticism of Web 3 technology is that it falls short of its ideals. Ownership over blockchain networks is not equally distributed but concentrated in the hands of early adopters and venture capitalists. A public spat recently erupted on Twitter between Block Inc. CEO Jack Dorsey’ and various venture capitalists over Web 3, bringing this debate to the forefront.
At the heart of the critiques is the idea of “decentralization theater,” where blockchain projects are decentralized in name but not in substance. Private blockchains, VC-backed investments, or decentralized finance (DeFi) protocols where just a few people hold the keys to hundreds of millions of dollars are all examples of decentralization theater.
And despite the supposedly leaderless community of protocols, there are clear figureheads. Izabella Kaminska, the outgoing editor of the FT blog Alphaville, pointed to the huge amount of power that Vitalik Buterin, the co-founder of Ethereum, continues to have over the network, even though he’s no longer involved in its development:
Things aren’t much better within decentralized finance protocols. They’re rife with voter absenteeism, often rely on centralized infrastructure and the barrier to entry in creating them is still high, given that creating blockchains seems to be arcane magic reserved for only the most highly specialized engineers.
But despite its problems, Web 3 has a lot of potentials. Whether it’s too idealistic to put into practice will be something that everyday users will discover over the next decade.