Web 3.0: The future of internet? – Explained, pointwise

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Introduction

Web 3.0 has emerged as a new tech buzzword. The term incorporates a bunch of next-gen ideas, all pointing towards elimination of the dominance of the big tech companies over the internet.

Some see Web 3.0 as the future of the internet, while some caution against being overtly optimistic about what it can potentially deliver.

Let’s take a deep dive into the topic.

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What is Web 3.0?

Web 3.0 is the next version of the internet, where services will run on blockchain. It is a decentralised internet that runs on a public blockchain, which is also used for cryptocurrency transactions.

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It will be permissionless and democratic. For instance: Twitter will not be able to censor posts and Facebook will not be able to maintain a database of billions of users that can be potentially used to influence elections.

In a Web 3.0 universe, people will control their own data and will be able to move around from social media to email to shopping using a single personalized account, creating a public record on the blockchain of all of that activity.

All data will be interconnected in a decentralized way, unlike the current generation of the internet (Web 2.0), where data is mostly stored in centralized repositories. 

Three key features of Web 3.0 are: Ubiquity, Semantic Web, Artificial Intelligence and 3D Graphics.

– Examples of Web 3.0: The most recent example of Web 3.0 are the NFTs or non-fungible tokens.

Evolution of the World Wide Web

Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the World Wide Web, intended that the internet would be a collaborative medium, a place where all meet and read and write.

But the current situation is entirely opposite, with big tech companies acting as gatekeepers to all that’s on the World Wide Web (W3).

Here’s how the W3 evolved to this point:

– Web 1.0 [1990 – 2000]: It is regarded as the first generation of the World Wide Web. Also known as the Syntactic web or Read only web. Mostly, Web 1.0 was limited to searching the info and reading what’s already there. There was very little in the way of user interaction or content contribution. It was pretty disorganized and overwhelming, and soon it came to be dominated by AOL, Compuserve, early Yahoo and other portals. These online service providers were the gateway to Web 1.0.

– Web 2.0 [from mid-2000s]: This phase was characterised by enhanced user experience and made the W3 interactive. Also known as Social Web or read-write web. It enabled users to participate in content creation on social networks, blogs, sharing sites and more. Search engines (Google) and social media platforms (Facebook, Twitter) driven by user-generated content disrupted the media, advertising and retail industries. Web 2.0’s business model relies on user participation to create fresh content and the resultant data being sold to third parties for marketing purposes.

– Web 3.0 [yet to arrive]: It is the next stage of the web evolution. It would make the internet more intelligent, or process information with near-human-like intelligence through the power of AI systems.

Three-stages-of-internet-consumption
Source: moneycontrol
Why we need Web 3.0?

Loss of privacy: Presently, a huge amount of data is generated when consumers search, shop or upload videos and pictures. All this data is stored in the servers of the companies that the people interact with. This means that intermediaries become custodians of user data and profit from it via advertising. For such companies, the more time consumers spend creating content, the more data the company can collect, helping it to improve its AI algorithm and its advertising engine, a key revenue model for the company.

This gives rise to issues of privacy, wherein user data is shared for profit without their consent.

Data ownership: Presently, only centralized repositories are the ones that own user data and profit from it. In Web 3.0, users can own and be properly compensated for their time and data.

Plagiarism: Plagiarism is widespread online. It’s very easy to copy original content and build a following around it on social media. Those who copy content get compensated way more than the original content creator. Plagiarism makes it harder for creators to get adequately compensated. Web3 might help address that issue. The transparent nature of blockchain makes it easy for anyone to track the originator of content.

What are the key differences between Web 2.0 and Web 3.0?

Any information that users share on Web 2.0 is stored with a cloud service provider used by an online service, whether it is food delivery or e-commerce, whereas in Web3, all services are built on top of a blockchain.

Cloud is controlled by giants such as Amazon, Google and Microsoft, and is centralised. In the case of blockchain, data is distributed across networks and no single entity owns the information.

Are Metaverse and Web 3.0 interrelated?

No. Both are not correlated. The metaverse is about creating digital avatars and interacting with others in virtual spaces, be it offices or arcades. It does not have to be on a blockchain.

The whole point of Web 3.0 is decentralisation.

What are the implications of Web 3.0?

Choice over personal data: In Web 3.0, instead of data residing in the centralised databases of big companies, it is going to reside on the blockchain technology which is not controlled by one organisation. And with that, a person’s data becomes their choice, and which advertiser they want to give it to.

Impact on big tech companies: Web 3.0 adoption will force the big tech companies to rethink their core business models and become more community-owned and driven. The big tech firms are already experimenting with different aspects of this new technology.

New regulatory environment: Regulation of Web 3.0 requires a new regulatory thinking. Authoritarian govts might seek to capture the new technology while eliminating private competition. For instance, China began researching digital money in 2014. It plans to force its exclusive use at the cost of privacy, freedom, and political dissent.

While some countries may seek to force Web 3.0 innovations into compliance with familiar legal structures. For instance: India is also looking at regulating cryptocurrencies under SEBI.

Where is India in Web 3.0?

The idea is fairly new to India and will take time to develop.

– Indian TikTok rival Chingari recently shifted from a Web 2.0 model of incentives for content creators to a Web 3.0 model. The start-up raised over $19 million in October 2021, that will help it build its token called ‘$GARI’ on the Solana blockchain.

A range of Indian start-ups like Biconomy, Polygon, EPNS, Persistence, and Vauld are working to put together the technological building blocks to make Web 3.0’s mass adoption a reality. Polygon, crossed a market capitalisation of $10 billion recently.

By one estimate, Web 3.0 can help India contribute an additional $1.1 trillion of economic growth to its GDP over the next 11 years.

What is the way forward for India?

Web 3.0 will not be perfect. Risks such as capture of communities by specific groups, inadequate grievance redressal, misuse for illegal activities, and entry of fraudulent actors may emerge. It is, therefore, necessary for the governments to act.

This means that Govt must acknowledge the potential of web 3.0 in empowering startups, small digital businesses, and consumers, and creating an enabling environment to help realize such potential.

It also means reaching out, listening, and genuinely engaging with stakeholders to understand the potential, risks and challenges of web 3.0.

Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) can lay down overarching principles for governing 3.0, with a focus on self and co-regulation. Knee-jerk reactions such as outright bans should be avoided, and nuanced risk-based regulations will be essential.

Through such principle-based governance, the Govt can transform India into a hub for development of web 3.0 ecosystem and grab the first mover advantage.

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