You may have seen the term “Web 3.0” if you’ve recently viewed video-game news or cryptocurrency forums, but is it just jargon? Is it a new shibboleth for those who trade Non-Fungible Tokens (NFTs) of cartoon apes and design their virtual homes in a metaverse? Or is Web 3.0—and the less concentrated version of the internet it symbolizes—something we, who think we’re still living in Web2, should take notice of? While both sentiments are likely true, here’s a more in-depth answer to your questions surrounding Web 3.0.
What Exactly Is Web 3.0?
Simply put, Web 3.0 is a new version of the internet that can run on public blockchains. This record-keeping technology is best known for its ability to facilitate cryptocurrency transactions. Web 3.0’s appeal is based on its decentralization. Instead of users accessing the internet via services such as Google, Apple, and Facebook, it’s the individuals who now control the internet.
Web 3.0 doesn’t require permission, meaning central authorities can’t decide who uses what service, and there’s no need for trust. The trust we mention is the idea of an intermediary not having to facilitate virtual transactions between parties. Therefore, Web 3.0 theoretically protects the privacy of its users better, as most of the data is collected by these intermediaries.
Currently, this is just an idealized Web 3.0 vision drawn up by blockchain developers and boosters. As a result, we may find the concept works poorly in practice. Regardless, one aspect of Web 3.0 called decentralized finance, also known as DeFi, is gaining popularity. DeFi allows in real life (IRL) financial transactions to be conducted on the blockchain without the assistance of banks or governments.
With these kinds of developments, it’s not hard to see why large corporations and venture capital firms would invest massive amounts to create Web 3.0.
What Was Before Web 3.0?
Earlier internet eras are referred to as Web 1.0 and Web 2.0. Web 1 is specific to the 1990s and early 2000s, which was more decentralized, and emphasized open-source protocols. This was a time when static pages were more common; sites you couldn’t interact with and weren’t regularly updated.
Web2.0 spans from the 2000s to the present day. It includes periods when Big Tech companies ran the most popular internet hubs. Additionally, the rise in user-generated content on large-scale platforms like YouTube videos and Facebook posts is typical of this internet era. This evolution of active participation in place of passive consumption has helped evolve social media into the form we’re familiar with today.
Is Web 3.0 All About Crypto?
One component of Web 3.0 will be its reliance on NFTs, digital currency, and other blockchain entities. Reddit, for instance, is attempting to make Web 3.0 a reality by allowing its users to use cryptocurrency tokens to own a portion of the communities they’re involved in. Users would earn “community points” by posting to a subreddit. Then, based on the number of upvotes and downvotes received, the user earns points. Essentially, it’s the Reddit Karma system but developed for the blockchain. The points can also be used as voting shares, allowing users who have made valuable contributions to have more say in making decisions that affect the community.
The points are more secure since they’re stored on the blockchain, and the owners can’t take them away easily. This is just one example of the corporate version of Web 3.0’s Decentralized Autonomous Organisations (or DAOs), which use tokens for ownership and decision-making power. Augur, a decentralized gambling platform, is an example of a DAO.
Web 3.0 is also a cornerstone, thanks to NFTs. They’re essentially unique cryptocurrency tokens and can be used to verify ownership of virtual objects such as artwork or clips. This is in strong contrast to Bitcoins, and Web 3.0 boosters claim that NFTs, and the digital scarcity that Web 3.0 promotes, will enable users of this internet to exchange everything from video game skins to medical information.
Why All the 3.0 Hype?
Most of the hype and excitement for Web 3.0 seems to come from cryptocurrency communities since they would benefit significantly from an internet that was more dependent on their technology. However, a few companies, such as Reddit, are developing Web 3.0 platforms and services. Additionally, CoinDesk reported in October that GameStop was looking to hire a Head of Web 3.0 Gaming and Software Engineer to work on an unannounced NFT platform.
It’s no secret that Web 3.0 is a hot topic, as it could allow players to buy and sell in-game objects or gain tokens to give them greater control over how the game runs. The Verge suggested that GameStop may be using terms like “Web 3.0”, and “blockchain” to attract the same viral support it received from other investors in January.
Perhaps the most important recent development was Andreessen Horowitz’s Web 3.0 lobbying campaign in Washington, D.C., in October. The company, which has made significant investments in cryptocurrency and other blockchain technologies, said it sent executives to Capitol Hill, Washington, D.C., to promote Web 3.0 as a solution for Silicon Valley consolidation and propose regulations to support the burgeoning virtual environment.
How Reasonable Is the Hype?
In October, one meme entitled “Love in the Time of Web 3.0” was posted by a 28-year old artist, featuring a cartoon couple in bed gazing ad Bitcoin and Ethereum prices. Billionaire Elon Musk shared the meme on Twitter, and it received hundreds of thousands of likes.
The artist was able to turn the meme into NFTs and sold it for nearly $20,000. Similarly, a group that attaches NFTs to cartoon apes is finding great success at making money from the venture. One such ape recently sold for $3.4 million.
So essentially, the hype isn’t reasonable nor measured, and upcoming news about Web 3.0 is worth watching with a critical eye.