What Is Web3 and Why Should You Care?

Technicians love to talk about the future, and if you’ve been paying attention to the latest headlines in the industry, you’ve probably seen the phrase “Web3” in question. It’s not a new term, but as the hype around cryptocurrency, NFT and the metaverse gathers steam, Web3 is gaining more attention. And while Web3 is inextricably linked to these buzzwords, there is more to a proposed new web standard than just JP monkey and crypt mining — it could also make the Internet more open, more anonymous, and more reliable.

At least that’s hope. There has been a lot of hype around Web3 and related technologies that will supposedly enable this best version of the world wide web to function. No doubt some of this hype is legitimate. Some of them also fall directly into the “too good to be true” category.

What is Web3 and why do we need it?

Just as Web2.0 was a collection of technological and regulatory changes that radically changed the Internet as it was in the early 2000s to what we know today, Web3 aims to make important changes in the way we connect and communicate. in the Internet.

The original version of the Internet, which we now call “Web 1.0”, was pretty simple. There were no monolithic social media websites and search engines, and almost no one could hope to make money or earn notoriety simply by posting online. It was difficult to just connect to the internet, let alone design, host and manage the website. For the most part, the Internet was a collection of tiny websites and blogs, and users gathered on disparate message boards and chat rooms based on specific interests.

Then came Web 2.0, which made it easier to go online, connect with others, and create content that could reach a wide audience. Most of this content has been centralized on certain platforms like Facebook, YouTube or Patreon, even though hosting your own website has become cheaper thanks to companies like WordPress and GoDaddy. The downside to this openness is its dependence on large companies and their servers: if these platforms go down, you won’t be able to access content or connect to other users. This also means that these companies can collect user data to sell ads and “control” the content on their platforms as they see fit. This goes beyond “censorship” or “deplatforming”; Meta (née Facebook) has been criticized by the US government for putting ad revenue ahead of safety and truth – even after the platform has been shown to be a great incubator for widespread election conspiracies and misinformation about COVID-19, and for traffickers and domestic terrorists .

Web3 seeks to remedy the problems inherent in both Web 1.0 and 2.0 by creating a decentralized Internet that is easily accessible to everyone, respecting their privacy and anonymity. Decentralization and online anonymity are generally good things that most people want. This is why some are already doing their best to ditch Google, Facebook and Apple and find alternatives to the open source products these giant companies own. But how will Web3 lead us to a more open and egalitarian Internet?

How Web3 Technology Works

Like most computing trends these days, much of the vision for Web3 is based on blockchain technology . Blockchain is essentially a decentralized network built on peer-to-peer connections. Each device on the network handles a tiny fraction of the computation and communication taking place on the network, creating an online network without servers.

Peer-to-peer networks like blockchain allow communication between users without a server. We’ve already seen this in action with so-called mesh peer-to-peer messaging applications that kept activists connected during the Hong Kong protests without jeopardizing their anonymity as there is no centralized server to make it easy for them to connect to one. Another.

You can also use peer-to-peer connections to decentralize online content. Instead of connecting to a server that hosts websites, each user’s computer stores a piece of data on their device. This is similar to how torrent downloads work , and some browsers are already experimenting with this technology . When implemented on a global scale, it is theoretically possible to completely eliminate the need for centralized servers altogether.

While the peer-to-peer capabilities are impressive, blockchain is by far best known for supporting cryptocurrency and NFTs , which are important Web3 technologies in their own right. Many people (rightly) view NFTs and cryptocurrencies as temporary distractions at best and outright scams at worst. However, there are examples of the use of NFT and cryptocurrencies that are beneficial to artists and ordinary users. For example, NFTs may allow you to sell or trade digital goods you purchase as you can prove it to be a genuine purchase – for example, sell a digital copy of a PC game you bought on Steam to a friend. It can also free artists from their dependence on centralized platforms to sell their work: musicians can use NFT to sell access to their music, for example, instead of uploading it to Spotify. Other suggested use cases for NFT include more secure and more anonymous login authentication and even a near-instant hiring process.

The most ambitious Web3 project is the metaverse concept. The metaverse is seen as a virtual space where users will supposedly interact with online content and with each other in real time , often in VR and / or AR environments. This idea has been in speculative science fiction for decades and is now receiving a massive boost from Mark Zuckerberg (hence the company’s name change ), but many companies are trying to make the metaverse a reality.

Real hype?

The potential of Web3 technology on paper is easy to inspire, but it’s important to remember that these plans are still ambitious and hardly guaranteed. Many Web3 evangelists are investing in its success, not impartial observers witnessing a revolutionary new standard.

The problem is that the Web3 hype is driven by promissory notes – what blockchain computations “can” allow, how NFTs “can” be used. Most of the promised technologies simply do not exist yet, and if they do, they have not yet been implemented properly.

This does not mean that Web3 is snake fat, but in the end reality may be very different from how it is currently presented. We have already seen how the promises of Web3 fall short of expectations and lead to more attainable goals: blockchain technology was originally conceived as a way to create a decentralized “world computer” that would connect everyone to a massive serverless network, but now it has turned into mainly used for cryptocurrency transactions and NFT. These transactions are incredibly expensive and require enormous amounts of energy to process, which has a devastating impact on the environment .

The peak of NFT / crypto is also possibly playing a major role in the current chip shortage that is plaguing the consumer equipment industry . Proponents argue that once properly scaled, the blockchain will no longer consume resources, but this is another blue sky promise to add to the list.

Currently, the public remains skeptical or ignorant of NFTs and cryptocurrencies. Platform owners like Google and Apple have taken tough action against cryptocurrency mining apps, and the industry has raised suspicions from government agencies in the US and around the world. The backlash is so strong that many companies are phasing out NFT and related technologies altogether.

However, despite these setbacks, Web3 is still gaining traction.

Chances are, at some point, blockchain, NFT, cryptography, and even contiguous metaverse features will gradually be rolled out into the browsers, apps and devices we use every day. When that happens, we will firmly enter the “Web3” era and hopefully have more freedom, anonymity, and free agency in our online lives than we do today – but how much remains to be seen.

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