Web3 — a commonly misunderstood buzzword in the blockchain space. In my experience, many blockchain enthusiasts tend to use web3 as a convenient substitute for blockchain technology (sometimes, myself included).
However, web3 isn’t really about the blockchain… or is it? As we take a deeper dive into web3 and especially the ideas behind it, web3 really starts to look like the dominating force of the future.
So, what is web3 all about? More importantly, what are the concepts that set web3 apart from its ancestors: web2? Stick around to find out!
Today’s Web2 World
We currently live in a web2 world. Yes, that means we have moved past web1.
Living in what is known as the Information Age (21st century), we know that progress is everything. With an extremely efficient market, ever-striving to increase productivity, or even finding new ways to shorten commute times — these are all prime examples of our faster, better, improved world.
This too applies to the internet!
Our beloved World Wide Web started a few decades ago in the 1990s, but of course, it did not start with web2. Instead, WWW started with web1: dinosaur technology in today’s lingo.
Web1 was a very rudimental form of the internet, largely comprising static pages of the fortunate few who were able to create and post content on the web. In essence, patrons of web1 were mostly users looking at the same few content creators, simply appreciating the internet.
As we approach the turn of the century, web2 was born. As you’re probably experiencing today, this means more usability for us, the “readers”. Little features such as Likes and Following on Social Media, Comments on a Post, or even Podcast episodes are really what enhances the user-interactive aspect of today’s internet.
With the seemingly perfect internet we use today, what calls for an improvement to web3?
The Hidden Agenda Behind Web2
Every great solution stems from identifying a huge problem. We transitioned from web1 to web2 because of the limitations web1 put on users. Now, we’re looking to move beyond web2 due to the organizations currently “in charge” of the internet
Censorship & Centralization of Web2
While it seems that web2 has enabled users to speak their minds, interact with creators, and make their voices heard, we can say that this is just “perceived freedom”.
Perceived freedom in a sense that users may have the freedom to say whatever they want, but could be censored at the whim and fancy of an organization. While censorship is useful when targeting malicious individuals with the intent to hurt the community, it is especially handy for profit-driving campaigns.
Let’s explore a scenario.
Social media is an integral part of our web2 internet. With over 4.5 billion people using social media, it’s no wonder social media platforms have such a large influence on our society. Users of social media can comment, like, share, and do much more to content found on the web.
But these users can also be censored. Not really when they’re being destructive to others. More like when a user says something against the social media platform. Or perhaps one of the founder’s friends. Let’s just say that anything offending the upper echelons of society can get banned.
Likewise, payment gateway solutions can stop you from using their services, social media sites can ban you totally from using the platform, and you could theoretically get your assets “held permanently” by one of these organizations.
Ultimately, the problem with web2 is much more fundamental, it is the centralization of the system. If companies can manipulate the things we see online to promote an agenda or be bribed with under-the-table deals, how is this a truly fair and free World Wide Web?
With this centralized web2, all I can see is a massive opportunity for organizations, the wealthy, and even governments, to create a fake reality for us, the people.
Introducing Web3, A Decentralized Solution
After discussing web2 and our internet environment for quite a while, we have finally reached the stage where web3 must come in! With the help of technological advancements over the past decade, web3 could take over web2 for good.
So, let’s get into the question you’ve been waiting for: What is Web3?
What Is Web3?
Web3 is the collective term for decentralized platforms and applications, all built and based on the blockchain. These applications are also known as Dapps, and they exist on blockchains like Ethereum and Stellar.
If you have no clue what blockchain technology is about, do read more about it here!
Coming back to web3, one of the key traits of this new evolution of the internet is decentralization. Decentralization in blockchain refers to passing down the decision-making processes from the management of an entity, to the distributed network of users.
With everyone (or majority) of the people needing to agree on a transaction or operation before it’s passed, this reduces the level of trust between users, and especially on a singular organization. Neither can one company hold all the power, nor can a random person decide the outcome — decentralization calls for collective execution.
Just by building Dapps on the blockchain, web3 de-centralizes web2 into a more trusted, uncensored, and fair internet.
Web2 vs Web3: Both Aren’t Perfect
While we have been criticizing web2 and blowing our web3 horn so far, I must admit that both have their pros and cons. After all, web3 is a solution in its infancy with ample runway to improve, and web2 is still the dominating technology after 2 decades, which web1 can’t boast.
In case you still haven’t fully understood the difference between web2 and web3, here are some key differentiating factors between the two.
When it comes to freedom of speech and universal access to the internet, web3 clearly triumphs over web2.
As we mentioned earlier, web2 is dominated by a few apps, which are in turn controlled by centralized companies. Any expressions against these companies (or their friends) will probably reward you with a permanent ban from using the platform.
So if you posted a meme about Mark Zuckerberg and he didn’t take to it kindly, you could be banned from Facebook. And since its parent company Meta controls other social media platforms like Instagram and Whatsapp, there is a chance you’ll get banned there too.
However, you cannot be blocked or stopped from using web3. With no central governance over what gets uploaded onto the blockchain, there is effectively no censorship across the board.
Decentralization takes things a step further, allowing people to create their own decentralized social networks, where they can create their own rules. Nobody can dictate or change these rules unless they are the creator, so people have more autonomy to express their ideas.
We are effectively moving from creator-only content (in web1) to allowed-only content (in web2), and now user-approved content in web3. User-generated content finally becomes possible, with little censorship and the freedom to express!
In terms of performance, web2 beats web3 for now. There are multiple reasons for this, such as the advancement of web2 technology, central authority, and greater efficiency.
Firstly, web2 has been around for more than 20 years, while web3 hasn’t even turned 10 yet. Web2 has gotten heaps of attention from governments, the media, and the people, so businesses have poured in resources to develop their apps on web2 infrastructure. As a result, there are way more apps configured to work with web2 than web3.
Next, central authority makes communication seamless. Unlike web3 where most networks are still using the Proof-of-Work (PoW) model which requires miners, all things go through a central server in web2. This means information travels quicker, the central authority handles all computing power, and coordination between users is all handled by the central authority.
Finally, efficiency is key in web2. Web3 has more checks and balances between different users of the internet where everyone has an equal say, but web2 has a clear hierarchy: The central authority’s say is final. This makes operational processes more simple, like when conflicting information is detected, the “true” result will always be the one from a central authority.
Trust & Reliability
Last but certainly not least, it’s important to know what you should trust in, web2 or web3. I would say this is a 50-50 because all platforms have a certain degree of centralization or decentralization.
In the web2 camp, some people may trust it more because the platform is handled by a noteworthy organization. Information is typically displayed more clearly for the layman to see on web2. Since the cost of developing dApps are high, some of them could have bad UX, making it difficult for users to comprehend information, making it look “scammy” or poor-quality.
On the other hand, web3 “servers” are supported by thousands of decentralized computers, GPUs, etc., making it a network with 100% uptime. Web2 servers crash more often, largely due to technical difficulties faced on the centralized organization’s side.
Ultimately, trust and reliability all come down to the user. Would you trust a centralized company, or the majority of users and blockchain technology? Weigh the risks, take your pick.
Classic Web3 Examples
Wow, we sure have covered a lot on web2 vs web3! Let’s wind down on the rivalry for a bit, and appreciate some of the developments in the web3 arena.
Here are some innovative web3 solutions, which may just take over conventional web2 apps.
Brave Browser: Successor of Google?
Google has built up its name and reputation over the years, gradually pushing past competitors like Yahoo, Bing, Firefox, and all other browsers. Capturing over 86% of the search engine market share in the last 10 years, Google is the undisputed king of internet browsers.
While Google is comfortably sitting atop, Brave Browser is one of many web3-based search engines trying to make their way to the top. So far, it’s been pretty successful in the crypto community.
When we talk about search engines, the question about privacy and personal data always comes into play. And as we know, current browsers on web2 don’t have exactly have top-notch security features, and neither do they just “keep your search data safe”.
Brave Browser offers an alternative to conventional search engines, having a pre-installed adblocker, which means no mandatory ads. They also have top-notch security features, not storing any data on the blockchain or in their servers. Finally, you can earn extra crypto (BAT, their native token), by allowing ads on their browser.
While Brave Browser may still have a bit of centralization to it, perhaps this is the step forward before transitioning to full access to the internet, maybe without the use of browsers?
Storj: No Need For Cloud Storage
Next on our web3 agenda is storage. We have come a long way: From cassette tapes, to floppy disks, to thumb drives, then online storage, and now web3 storage! Truly, storing information has gone through numerous evolution cycles.
Currently, we store most of our data online. Be it iCloud, Google Drive, or just on some random website, these are all “secure, trustworthy, safe” spaces.
However, the issue comes back to centralization. Hackers can and have hacked even the most secure of databases before, stealing the sensitive information of millions of people. It’s always some security oversight or a glitch in the system, but have we paused and wondered how vulnerable a centralized vault is?
If you’re a Potterhead, that’s like having all of Voldermort’s Horcruxes in one place! No way, all eggs in that one basket, no matter how secure, will never be enough.
This is why a decentralized storage solution like Storj is a step-up in security technology. By breaking down file contents in a decentralized peer-to-peer connection, sharing files whilst they are broken up and encrypted is way more secure.
Hosting a piece of information is manageable as well. This is done by keeping a locked copy of the file and requiring the private key input to access it. Storj uses its native token Storj to fuel the platform, and is a pay-per-use solution.
Ethlance: Simply Better For Remote Jobs
If the pandemic has taught us one thing, it’s got to be that working from home is very possible, and may become our new way of life (or work). As more people take on remote jobs, dependence on job-posting websites is undoubtedly rising.
With platforms like Fiverr and Upwork gaining popularity for the tons of job opportunities there, it is almost as if they have jumped on the chance to charge hefty fees to users. Both Upwork and Fiverr take up to 20% of your paycheck, a shocker indeed!
Meanwhile, Ethlance is providing the same remote job transactional service, at no percentage cut! Run completely on the Ethereum blockchain, employers can pay in Ether to their remote employees, just like how they would do on traditional job boards!
The decentralized platform really paves the way for a fairer, and user-friendly transactional mode for people to appreciate.
In a nutshell, web3 is certainly more mainstream than ever before. As more and more users start realizing the immense benefits web3 has over its predecessors, perhaps more people will move over to this camp, driving businesses to start focusing on developing web3-related solutions.
No matter which internet you believe in, I hope this article made the confusing concept of web3 just a little bit clearer. Thanks for reading, and have a wonderful time sharing your newfound knowledge of web3!