Many Millennials and GenXers remember the days of Web1. If you can’t remember what that looked like (or weren’t yet alive) it was during the days of dial-up internet, when webpages were mainly text, devoid of most media and hyperlinks.
Users merely consumed data without being able to alter it without complex coding knowledge. This dark age of the internet lasted until just after the turn of the century when increased connectivity and usage demanded development accelerated. This was Web2 – pretty much where we are right now, but forecasters and analysts are saying we might not stay here much longer.
Web2 and the Current State of the Internet
If you want to gain a deeper understanding of how big tech has been able to change our understanding of the world, a good place to start is ownership law. If you go to a bookstore and buy a book, you own that book – a physical object. If someone were to take that book away from you, they’d be committing a crime. When you buy a book from Amazon, you’re not buying a physical object, you’re buying a series of ones and zeros. You don’t own the book; you own the right to ‘stream’ the book. They can revoke that license.
This might seem like a small distinction, but the fact that many people don’t consider this distinction shows us just how warped our ideas of ownership on the web have become. Tech giants have snapped up space and created ‘walled gardens’, web traffic flows through the same sites again and again and these companies make millions through the violation of our privacy. In this iteration of the web, we engage and peruse, but we don’t own anything. Even our Instagram images no longer belong to us. Is there a way forward?
Web3 and the Future
If Web2 saw the consolidation of power into the hands of a few companies, Web3 is about decentralization and personal possession. This is where users take the reins and become decision-makers in the policies and practices of the internet. What would motivate people to participate in running and managing this version of the internet? Money like you can win with a Black Lotus Casino bonus of course.
If you participate in the development of this new internet, you’ll be rewarded for your actions with an NFT or cryptocurrency that you can then use to purchase items and interact with other users through decentralized apps. Therefore, the returns for your actions on the web will; be directed to you and not to the host site (Facebook, Twitter, etc).
This phase of the web is still in its teething phase, and there’s always room for error. It’s easy to make systems seem open-source and decentralized, allowing unwary users to become once again participants in the Web2 model. But with the number of voices concerned about online privacy growing, it’s only a matter of time before things start to change.