What is Web3 and How Will It Change the Internet?

Web3 on binary numbers background.
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If you feel like you’re just now starting to wrap your head around the concept of cryptocurrency, get ready to expand your syllabus. There’s a whole new internet coming your way, and it’s based on blockchain technology — just like Bitcoin and Ethereum.

If you read up on web3, also called Web 3.0, you’ll notice that people use words and phrases like “decentralization,” “digital self-sovereignty” and “user-specific” to describe it — but what does all that mean? 

The third iteration of the internet is slowly but surely becoming a reality, so GOBankingRates asked the experts to help make sense of web3 — and predict what the future holds.

Own a Little Slice of the Internet, Instead of Leasing It From Big Tech

Today, a tiny collection of giant tech companies own virtually every inch of the internet, and they let the public use it in exchange for their money, their data, or both. The architects of web3 envision an internet where Mark Zuckerberg rules over his own little sliver of the web — and his little sliver only — just the same as you.

“The ownership element is the key difference between Web 2.0, the current iteration of the internet, and web3,” said Shaun Heng, vice president and chief of staff at CoinMarketCap. “Today we are limited to reading and writing within centralized networks, i.e., Google, Facebook, Twitter, and so forth. Those companies own their part of the internet, and we use their websites in order to read and write on the internet.

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He continued, “With web3, we will be able to build and govern our own decentralized networks on the internet. This allows for the possibility of autonomous, self-governed networks that will be completely democratized, without leaders. In fact, we’re already seeing the first iteration of such networks in DAOs, or decentralized autonomous organizations.”

Blockchain Tech That Built Bitcoin, Repurposed

The concept of web3 will be familiar to anyone who understands the ABCs of cryptocurrency. “It is based on the idea of a completely decentralized interconnected system of networks that allow us to read, write, and own parts of those networks,” said Heng. 

Most people associate those concepts with digital tokens, but the power of blockchain goes beyond Bitcoin.

“Most references place blockchain squarely in the realm of currencies or finances, but the applicability is far greater,” said Adam Perella, manager of the global security and privacy compliance assessor Schellman. “When the World Wide Web came about, most websites were maintained by individuals or groups hosting their own systems and data. This format would eventually become known as Web 1.0. As community services, social networking, and hosting services — Google Cloud, Azure, AWS — become the primary backdrop to the internet, we moved into Web 2.0.”

Perella added, “This conceptually moved the web from a series of discrete endpoints to a large amount of aggregated data held by fewer organizations. The idea behind Web 3.0 is the evolution of the web to where the largest contributors are individual users on mobile phones or other IoT devices.” 

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Patrick Parker, founder and CEO of SaaS Partners, summed it up with a neat analogy that will be familiar to anyone who works out of Drive. 

“Think of the evolving World Wide Web like permissions on a Google doc,” said Parker. “Web 1.0 was read-only — users can see information and content that providers publish. Web 2.0 is read-write, an interoperable and social space that takes user input into account. Web3 will allow users to go beyond ‘writing’ — beyond the kinds of interactions for which our platforms are programmed. Actually, users can create their own platforms, profit from them, and reclaim their data.” 

How Your Online Experience Will Change

Several experts GOBankingRates interviewed envision a web3 where AI and machine learning blur the lines between the online and physical worlds. Early on, however, the most visible change will be the removal of the internet’s powerful middlemen. 

“With Web 3.0, websites will be able to interact directly with each other, without the need for intermediaries like Google or Facebook,” said Sam Campbell, who runs the digital marketing blog Reddiquette. “This will create a more decentralized internet where users have more control over their data and can interact directly with each other.”

So, how do you have social media without social networks?

“It may be easier to think about how this would look in practice using a new social network based on Web 3.0,” said Perella. “A user takes some photos and wants to share them with friends, followers, and the public. This data is shared, added to the blockchain, and distributed. Even the application used is not centralized, it is written and distributed amongst the nodes in the same way.”

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That’s a far cry from today’s social media, 100% of which takes place on space leased from big tech. 

“Right now when we use Instagram or Facebook, our personal data technically doesn’t belong to us and is actually hosted in a data center somewhere in Arizona,” said Stefan Ateljevic, “cryptopreneur” and founder of BitcoinPlay. “The characters, items, and earnings from video games we play online and offline are entirely the property of Electronic Arts, Ubisoft, or whichever company owns the game.”

He explained, “In Web 3.0, metaverses will replace traditional gaming in that every coin or item you collect, or time spent in the game is measurable in real life money through the use of a cryptocurrency. The same will happen to social media, where now you will have full ownership of your content, including photos and posts.”

Open Door to the Global Economy

In terms of worldwide human connectivity, web3 has the potential to corral far-flung populations with the promise of something much more enticing than likes or shares — entry into the global economy.

“As the world moves towards a fluid, borderless internet and economy, it fosters greater participation from those who have traditionally been excluded from global commerce,” said Filip Victor, CEO and founder of the digital trust and identity company MetaMap. “However, there are 1 billion people with no form of digital identification — such as FICO credit scores or Social Security numbers — and another 3.4 billion who have some form of ID, but struggle to share it digitally. That’s half the world’s population that is excluded from the digital economy.”

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Victor continued, “This leaves billions of people out of countless apps and services — think gig work, short- and long-term rentals, crypto exchanges — because those companies can’t verify the individual. Participation in high-trust services like crypto has the potential to add billions of dollars to regional economic growth, getting us one step closer to the true potential of Web 3.0.”

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