eli5 what is web3
So, the original form of the world wide web (the part of the Internet you use a web browser to see) was just a bunch of basic files. Not terribly unlike MS Word documents or PDFs or something, just in a different format. Whenever you clicked on a link, your web browser would download that file, and show it to you, and that was it. The file was static, didn’t have many if any interactable elements. If you wanted to do something on the page and send data to the website, by stuff like filling out a form, you would have to send that data the next time you refreshed the page, and your success message would come back with the next page you loaded. It was a very simplistic way to use the web.
When we look back at history, we have a habit at seeing patterns in how things were done, and retroactively giving labels to those time periods. Like, think “stone age”, “bronze age”, “iron age”. Absolutely no one in the bronze age used that term (or whatever their spoken language’s equivalent to it was) to describe where they were in history. Absolutely no one. We invented that term later with the power of retrospect. That’s kind of how we came up with the terms “Web 1.0 and Web 2.0” as well, to describe these two somewhat distinctive eras of how the web was built. Key point being, the names came AFTER the fact. No one (well, probably not a lot of people, anyway) saw AJAX on the horizon and said, “This is it, this is Web 2.0”.
Of course, once you start numbering things in that way, the inevitable question comes, “What will Web 3.0 be?” And it’s a valid question. We probably won’t have a world wide web that looks the way it has looked in the past decade forever. It will continue to evolve with time. And if we let it cook and then look back, we might notice another shift in how the web was used and feel compelled to give it its own name. But the tricky thing is that it’s really difficult to tell in the moment when things are shifting. It’s clear as day looking back, but not when you’re living it. That hasn’t stopped a lot of early-adopter types from looking at new web technologies, christening them as the future of the web, and declaring them “Web 3.0”. *Maybe* they’ll be right, but *probably* they’ll be completely wrong.
People thought crypto and blockchain were going to be Web 3.0, for example. And I mean, saying crypto and blockchain didn’t take off would be objectively false, as billions of dollars have gone into both of those to some level of success, but would you say either one of those has fundamentally *changed* the way we use the world wide web? No. I mean, *maybe* they still can, in some way shape or form, but obviously not yet. There are other candidate technologies too, like web monetization, which promises to allow websites to set up systems where users can stream tiny payments on the order of fractions of pennies to use websites as a way to monetize the web without invasive ads or predatory subscription bundles. Maybe services like OpenAI and its competing products will really take off and become key players in how we use the web. Any of these *might* end up being what we call Web 3.0 someday. But until it’s already here and we’ve already been living in it for some time, it’s hard to say.
The tl;dr of this being: anyone who calls anything “Web 3.0” at this point in time is synonymous with someone gambling on something being “the next big thing”. It’s all puffery and hype. *Maybe* these things will actually take off as promised, but until then that’s all they are. Promises. From marketing execs. Take them with all the grains of salt in the world.
Web 1.0 was built using static HTML pages to display information.
Web 2.0 was built using AJAX and other technologies to allow for a much greater level of interactivity.
Web 3.0 is the idea that using blockchain based technologies will make the web better. It’s mostly a marketing campaign to get more people to invest in cryptocurrency so there is enough money in that ecosystem to allow for the early investors & whales to cash out. NFTs serve basically the same function. It’s worth examining the practical and conceptual problems with Web 3.0 in a little more detail.
Practically, blockchains and smart contracts are not really a useful technology. Blockchains as data storage technology didn’t really become popular until they became a media for illegal transactions. At their heart, they are a write-once database where new transactions are validated by some fairly computationally expensive cryptography. This means that processing transactions is extremely slow compared to traditionally banking methods. It also means that all of the transactions on the blockchain are functionally public. The systems that allow you to read one transaction will allow to read inspect all of the transactions on the blockchain, with the only privacy protection being the fact that personal data isn’t attached to wallet identifiers. Transactions are also expensive, as you have to play rather significant processing fees that vary due to competition between users to get their transactions processed first. The blockchain also lacks numerous systems present in the traditional financial system to process users against fraud. There is no way to unwind the system and undo fraudulent transactions and once someone gets into your wallet, they can basically do whatever they want with it. Since wallet ids are public information and there isn’t a accept/refuse step in transactions, people can just send things into your wallet without your permission, which is a problem because smart contracts can contain malicious code.
Lets talk about smart contracts. At it’s heart a smart contract is a small chunk of data stored on the blockchain. In most cases, a smart contract is just a link, usually to an image stored externally for an NFT. This is because the amount of data that a smart contract can actually store is really small, smaller than a photo you can take with your phone. This means that actually using the blockchains to store data is massive inefficient and nobody actually does it. This creates another set of problems with link rot, but that’s wider problem with the web in general. Smart contracts can be used to store programs and that is a problem. Given their small size, programs that would do significant and useful things need to get split into multiple smart contracts. In practice, programs that do useful things are typically stored externally and just use smart contracts as access passes. Functionally, they are being used as cookies, a technology with massive privacy issues in Web 2.0 . They still can be used a programs though, which means that when you interact with them in basically any way, you can trigger those programs, allowing them to act as trojan horses that contain viruses or programs that transfer the contents of your wallet to someone else. Even if they contain non-malicious code that do what the users thinks they are suppose to, the write-once nature of the blockchain means that the code inside smart contracts can’t be patch. New features can’t be added to programs and more importantly, bugs can’t be patched. The actual functionally of smart contracts doesn’t match what the advocates say, and even if they did, the Web 3.0 future is extremely problematic.
Core to the idea of Web 3.0 is that everything is part of it’s ecosystem and that it’s decentralized. This is a basic confusion about how the underlying systems work. Even if the blockchain stores data in a decentralized way, there are still centralize points of failure. First, the operators of the blockchain are a centralized group who make choices about how it works and what the current state of the blockchain are. The idea that blockchains are decentralized is a myth. Secondly, the need to use a wallet manager to manage all of your interactions with the blockchain creates a single point of failure that if comprised would give the attacker control of your entire digital life. This gets worse once you consider that advocates want to personally identifying data such as medical records, professional certifications and deeds onto the blockchain. Once they are on the blockchain, they are public information and connect your wallets with actual identity. Your entire digital life can be tracked by anyone and since you can’t refused to receive something on the blockchain, it opens up new routes for harassment and stalking. This is even before consider the financial aspects of using a blockchain for everything. Ignoring the problem of processing fees drawing money from everyone and transferring to the blockchain operators, there is the issue of blockchain being deflationary. As currently designed there are a fixed amount of currency a blockchain will produce and this isn’t likely to change since it benefits operators and early adopters. Since the demand for the currency will also increase as new people are forced to enter the market to interact with Web 3.0 and there is a fixed supply of the currency, the relative value of it is always increasing. This means that late adopters are basically at the mercy of the early adopters who are amazing rich without producing anything of value. This is intentional, as the blockchains were design to mimic how things worked under the gold standard, and this is one of the reasons that people moved away from the gold standard.
Overall, Web 3.0 is a con designed to get fools to invest in cryptocurrency, and even if it wasn’t, it is an extremely bad idea that would make make the problem of wealth inequality worse.
web3 is a whole new level of the internet game. You know how the web we use today, web 2.0, is all about user-generated content and social media? Well, web3 is all about decentralization and using blockchain technology to create a whole new kind of internet.
With web3, the idea is that you can create decentralized applications that are hosted on a network of computers, rather than on a centralized server. This means that there’s no single point of failure, and no one company or entity has control over everything. Instead, users can interact with these apps and each other directly, without any intermediaries.
But it’s not just about decentralization – web3 also brings a whole new level of trust and transparency to the internet. Thanks to blockchain tech, you can have a completely transparent, immutable record of transactions and interactions. This opens up all sorts of possibilities for new kinds of apps and services, from decentralized finance to peer-to-peer marketplaces to social networks that actually respect your privacy.
Honestly, web3 is super exciting. It’s like a whole new world of possibilities, and I can’t wait to see where it takes us.
Web 1.0 was about someone making a website and serving it to me.
Web 2.0 was about someone making a website that I could contribute my own content to.
Web 3.0 is about someone making websites that I can participate in while still owning my own data.
That’s one, simplistic, theory, anyway. In practice Web 2.0 and Web 3.0 were/are both buzzwords that covered a whole range of things, and were adopted by all sorts of people to serve their own purposes. No one owns the expression, and if I want to claim that my boring new advertising algorithm is ‘like, so web 3.0’ then who’s to stop me?