Web3 is already a buzzword, yet the concept is far from concrete. It’s an idea for a new iteration of the World Wide Web that incorporates decentralization based on blockchain technology. At present, Web3 (also known as the Semantic Web) is an umbrella term containing blockchain-based projects that are mostly related to cryptocurrency.
However, the expansion plan is global. Web3 strives to decentralize the power and profits of centralized authorities by allowing them to instead trickle down to users with the creation of more open, transparent and permissionless systems.
According to the inventor of the World Wide Web, Tim Berners-Lee, Web3 will enable computers to analyze all data and content. That’s quite a step forward from our current Web 2.0, which focuses more on humans and the way in which we understand and interact with content. Web3 corresponds to a system in which machines and computers can understand and interpret human messages. It is a more ‘intelligent’ Internet that incorporates big data and artificial intelligence (AI).
The uprising of Web3
With rising concerns over tech giants’ data dominance and the ever-increasing influence of Bitcoin and blockchain, the idea of decentralization has gradually taken root in the new generation of Internet users. In 2014, Gavin Wood, the co-founder of Ethereum, renewed the idea of Web3. He believes there should be a low-threshold, censorship-free, non-monopolistic delivery protocol to replace traditional technologies such as HTTP, AJAX, and MySQL — a protocol that is powerful and verifiable, that can protect the information flow of network users whilst remaining independent of any centralized entity.
It is believed that Web3 will develop in accordance to these values:
- Self-governing (high degree of autonomy)
- Permissionless (no centralized permission)
- Distributed (distributed computing)
Although it wasn’t the Semantic Web that was originally envisioned by Berners-Lee, in many ways, the renewed Web3 concept takes us back to his original World Wide Web creation — a place where you can post anything without the need for permission from a central authority. In the ideal Web3, there will be no central controlling node, no single point of failure, and no kill switch.
Is blockchain the solution?
Web 3.0, promoted by blockchain technology, provides a potential solution to regaining the privacy and reliability of the Internet, and rebuilding the infrastructure around storage, data exchange, and financial transactions. Such upgrades will provide secure peer-to-peer (P2P) interaction, and reintroduce true ownership and verifiability.
The idea is that all data on the Internet will be stored and shared in a decentralized manner so that no one person or group can approve or deny data transmission — for the Internet to be smarter and more transparent, and to exist with freedom and fairness.
In essence, decentralization lies at the very core of blockchains, making it the most promising solution to Berners-Lee’s vision at this moment in time. In theory, there could be a more centralized way to achieve this, perhaps even one enforced by law, but for now, blockchain is certainly leading the way.
There are many reasons why Web3 is likely to be built on blockchains:
1. Blockchains don’t have a unique point of failure because they manage data collectively through unique connected sets of data, also called a ‘universal state layer’. This makes them less prone to attacks.
2. Blockchains usually have built-in management rules that are coded in the protocol, automatically eliminating censorship.
3. Blockchains allow users who don’t know / trust each other to settle agreements without an intermediary.
Which blockchain projects already use Web3?
A decentralized, blockchain-based Web3 system records its data in distributed ledgers, whereby identities are verifiable and the data is censorship-resistant. Users can protect and track their own data without having to hand it over to companies — they need no longer rely on centralized giants who have data and censorship rights on user information.
To a certain extent, most open-source projects can be regarded as a part of Web3. Yet, there are several crypto projects that fully embrace the concept and seem to be paving the way for others to follow in their footsteps. The following list of projects is in no particular order, and is in no way exhaustive:
Polkadot was founded in 2016 by Ethereum co-founder Gavin Wood, one of the most important builders in the blockchain space. It is the flagship project of the Web3 Foundation, a Swiss foundation established to promote a fully functional and user-friendly decentralized network. Polkadot aims to make a revolutionary impact on the blockchain, creating true interoperability, greater transaction scalability, easier innovation, and a safer environment to protect every user.
Filecoin is dubbed the Airbnb of the data storage world. It is a cryptocurrency-driven storage network designed to provide a decentralized alternative to popular web services such as Cloudflare and Amazon Web Services. The project founder claims that if more people use it, it may be the fastest and cheapest way to store data on the Internet. In addition, because the Filecoin system has no central authority, governments or other participants have no right to review or censor the documents uploaded. Miners earn Filecoin by providing their hard disk space, while users spend Filecoin to encrypt and store files in a decentralized manner.
BitTorrent is a popular P2P file-sharing platform that predates even the birth of Bitcoin and Web3. The platform was launched in 2001, and has since developed into one of the most commonly used decentralized applications. After being launched on the Tron blockchain in 2021, it evolved into a tokenized blockchain project and issued its native cryptocurrency, BTT. It has now become one of the 50 most popular cryptocurrencies.