What the heck is Web3 anyway?


If you have been keeping tabs on the crypto/blockchain world, you must have heard this term "Web3" thousands times by now. It keeps popping up everywhere. And you probably have already read about it in some articles but today I'll try to unearth some really exciting stuff that you probably haven't already known. But this piece of article is really meant for beginners and intermediates. So if you have already dug deep into this rabbithole feel free to skip this article.

First, if you don’t want to stick with me for this whole post, here’s the oversimplified definition:

Web3 is a new evolution of the internet during which power will be sucked away from big institutions like Facebook and Google, and handed back in the hands of everyday users like you and me.

You can see we’ve got some work to do unpacking Web3 because even the oversimplified definition is abstract. So let’s start unpacking.

How we got here

The only reason there’s a web 3.0 is because there was first a web 1.0 and web 2.0.

Web 1.0 was the very early, pioneer days of the internet. This was when the internet was what they call “read-only” meaning exactly that: reading was the only thing you could do.

During the Web 1.0 days, the internet was more like a big kiosk full of brochures. The brochures were new and exciting, but if you wanted to take action based on what you saw in the brochure, you were still picking up a phone to call, sending snail mail, or going someplace in person. When the second phase of the internet came along, which we call web 2.0, we could interact with what we saw online for the first time. We could watch videos, add comments, share articles, and even start to do things like write blogs and post on Twitter and Facebook.

Web 2.0 is when the internet became social, and as a result, it’s when you could confess your feelings to your crush online. It’s also during this time that big internet companies like Facebook and Google realized they could track what we’re doing online, and then sell that information to advertisers to line their pockets.

Put a little differently, the web 2.0 era is when you and I (and especially our browsing habits) turned into products that advertisers could target. Now, there are pros and cons to targeted advertising, but there are plenty of people these days who believe that Google and Facebook know too much about us, and what they know about us makes us susceptible to manipulation, deception, and fraud.

Anyway, the internet we’ve known for the last 15 years or so is the web 2.0 internet.

Say hello to Web 3.0

The allure of what people are calling web 3.0 is that this newest version of the internet may undo some of the naughtiness that’s happened during web 2.0.

Instead of having our browsing habits, our identities, and the content we produce tracked and sold for the enrichment of Facebook and Google, in the web 3.0 era, nearly everything will be decentralized.

We’re not going to tackle decentralization in this post, but for the sake of our discussion today think of decentralization like this:

Instead of existing on Facebook’s servers and Google’s servers, your content will live on thousands (or millions) of servers spread throughout the world, and those servers won’t be controlled by a creepy billionaire. You’ll own your content, your identity, and your money…and it will all exist outside of the big tech companies who own us today.

Why is Web3 important?

Although Web3's killer features aren't isolated and don't fit into neat categories, for simplicity we've tried to separate them to make them easier to understand.

Web3 gives you ownership of your digital assets in an unprecedented way

For example, say you're playing a web2 game. If you purchase an in-game item, it is tied directly to your account. If the game creators delete your account, you will lose these items. Or, if you stop playing the game, you lose the value you invested into your in-game items.

Web3 allows for direct ownership through non-fungible tokens (NFTs). No one, not even the game's creators, has the power to take away your ownership. And, if you stop playing, you can sell or trade your in-game items on open markets and recoup their value.

Web3 lets you create a global single identity & lets you port your digital reputation across multiple platforms

Traditionally, you would create an account for every platform you use. For example, you might have a Twitter account, a YouTube account, and a Reddit account. Want to change your display name or profile picture? You have to do it across every account. You can use social sign-ins in some cases, but this presents a familiar problem—censorship. In a single click, these platforms can lock you out of your entire online life. Even worse, many platforms require you to trust them with personally identifiable information to create an account.

Web3 solves these problems by allowing you to control your digital identity with an Ethereum address and ENS profile. Using an Ethereum address provides a single login across platforms that is secure, censorship-resistant, and anonymous.

Web3 has built-in native payments infrastructure that unlocks new economic potential

Web2's payment infrastructure relies on banks and payment processors, excluding people without bank accounts or those who happen to live within the borders of the wrong country. Web3 uses tokens like ETH to send money directly in the browser and requires no trusted third party. Web3 solves these problems by allowing you to control your digital identity with an Ethereum address and ENS profile. Using an Ethereum address provides a single login across platforms that is secure, censorship-resistant, and anonymous.

Web3 fixes the core problem of centralized networks, where the value is accumulated by one company, and the company ends up fighting its own users and partners. Before web3, users and builders had to choose between the limited functionality of web1 or the corporate, centralized model of web2. Now web3 offers a new way that combines the best aspects of the previous eras. It’s very early in this movement and a great time to get involved.

© 2020 Sourav Kumar Nanda