Web3 is the current developing stage of the future of the Internet, or at least the future of significant parts of the Internet. As its name implies, Web3 is the third unit of a sequence in the Internet’s history.
A quick overview of the Internet’s history
Web1 refers to the original Internet popularized in the mid-1990s. This new Internet brought mostly news content into the world, and was defined and controlled by corporations, presented mostly as a network of digital newspapers over which people had little or no creative control.
Web2, the version of the Internet we all now use, began developing in the early and mid 2000’s. Unlike Web1, the basic components of the Internet like sites and key software were and are still controlled by corporations, but people had and have significantly more control over creating content online. Social media, blogs, video sites, and more reflect the shift from the early Internet to a new and current Internet in which significant parts of its content are generated by everyday users, and not just corporations. However, in today’s Web2 environment, corporations still control, monitor, censor, and have ultimate authority over what content exists on their sites. Even though everyday web users can add content and contribute to the expansion of the Internet, they are still at the mercy of the corporations who design and host the sites they use.
Web3, the upcoming evolution of the Internet, is in a stage somewhere between being developed and already being used. It reflects a transfer of control wherein corporations will no longer hold authority over software and websites the way they have with Web1 and Web2. In Web3, both content and websites themselves will be decentralized, completely under the control of people across the world who build these websites collaboratively and create content on them. The guiding principle is that Web3 will be “decentralized”: rather than being gatekept by governments and corporations, it will be connected to the very new world of the independently-built “metaverse.”
What is the decentralized web?
Today, all of the Internet’s infrastructure for its biggest sites like Facebook and Google are owned by corporations and held to account by regulations set out by governments. Until now, these large websites were the only entities that could create servers to host these sites we love, and we had to play by their rules.
Today, we have what’s called “blockchain technology.” Instead of central servers run by a corporation and controlled by a government, blockchain networks are built around independent and distributed computers around the world that deal with encrypted data shared between each other beyond the auspices of a company or government (this is where “cryotocurrency” comes from).
Data, such as new web content or an entire website, stored on a decentralized blockchain, can only be seen by people who have permission to do so – even if the data happens to be stored on a computer belonging to someone else, like a government or a corporation.
In other words, web data in Web3 can be kept in a way that it’s only controlled by the individual who owns the data, even if it is being stored on a server licensed by a corporation or government body. The corporation/government can’t access or alter the data without proof particular to the encryption that shows they own it. Best of all, even if they choose to shut off or take their server offline, the data is still able to be accessed on one of the many, many other computers it’s stored on (this is what is meant by “decentralized”).
This technology will lead to more crypto-type programs, such as digital real estate, blockchain-based companies, supply chain networks, new social media networks unchained to regulations, and much more.