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Web 3: What is it and why do we need it?
Get ready to explore the possibilities and bridge the digital divide.
Peace Web 3 Explorers~
I’m Q, your captain on this mission to explore the new frontier of the internet known as web3. In our last adventure, we covered the evolution of the internet, from the humble beginnings of Web1, through the social and interactive era of Web2, and finally, we set our sights to the emerging world of Web3 but I didn’t go into much detail because there is so much to cover.
I come from a family of educators and therefore, whenever I share information, I want people to know WHY they need to know something.
In this installment, we'll delve into the heart of Web3, navigating its complexities and spotlighting why we need this evolution of the internet.
So, what is Web3? Well, think of it as the next generation of the internet. Where my Trekkies at? While Web 1 was all about static web pages and information browsing, and Web 2 was about interactivity, social media, and user-generated content, Web 3 is a quantum leap into the future. If you want a primer on the evolution of the internet, check out my previous article to get up to speed.
Web 3 is the dream of a free and open digital world, a decentralized universe powered by the principles of blockchain technology, where you have full control and ownership of your data and digital assets. This might seem like an abstract concept, so to really understand why we need Web 3, we have to think about what control and ownership really mean in the current context of the internet.
Despite our ability to utilize numerous online platforms and resources, we must recognize that we don't truly possess ownership over them. You might argue, "But Q, I have my own website and social media accounts." While you have access to these platforms, it's crucial to understand that ownership eludes us in the realm of Web 2. We rely on third parties to hold custody of the things we value, and these valuables extend far and wide:
Instagram, Twitter, Google, TikTok—all these platforms maintain control over our social accounts, including the content we create, the followers we accumulate, and the audiences we engage with.
CashApp, Venmo, Stripe, PayPal, ApplePay—these payment platforms serve as intermediaries for our financial transactions, necessitating trust in their custody of our funds.
Banks play a pivotal role in holding custody of our money within accounts operated by the bank. While we have access to these accounts, our control over them remains limited. I mean who would ever sign up for an overdraft fee?
LinkedIn, Upwork, Fiverr—these platforms house our professional profiles, encompassing resumes, references, trusted work histories, and client reviews.
Websites hosted on platforms like Wix, Squarespace, or GoDaddy offer us access, but we merely register domains and rent space on their servers. Renting falls short of true ownership.
Entrepreneurs with online products, whether it's an online course on Kajabi or products listed on Etsy or Shopify, rely on platforms they do not own, paying for access rather than complete ownership.
Our reputations as professionals and business owners are intertwined with platforms like Yelp, Google, Amazon, Facebook, Airbnb, and Uber. Both customers and vendors have reputations that exist within these domains.
Understanding the scope of what we truly value online is essential. It's not about vilifying these platforms; instead, it's about recognizing the dependency we have developed on them.
On these platforms, we just lack ownership and control over our digital presence. We find ourselves at the mercy of platform policies and decisions, unable to influence or shape the way these platforms operate. Social media algorithms constantly change, and we rarely have a say in when or how those changes occur. It's essential to clarify that I'm not here to criticize these platforms or pass judgment on their business practices.
While I may hold strong opinions about a few platforms, those opinions are beyond the scope of this discussion. Rather, my aim is to highlight the concept of having custody of something you value online and to shed light on all of the many things we value online.
Throughout the pandemic, I dedicated much of my time to assisting small businesses in adapting to the virtual landscape, enhancing their online presence, and embracing digital tools, many of which were reliant on the platforms mentioned earlier. It's important to note that it is not my aim to demonize these platforms; they have played a significant role in shaping our digital experiences and livelihoods.
Just as the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 reshaped our physical world, 2023 is reshaping our digital one. Amid a global AI boom, understanding the direction of this online evolution is crucial.
Web 1 from around 1990-2005 was the Read-only era. This was like the cute little baby pictures of the internet, from around 1990 to 2005. In this time, the internet was like a big library - you could read lots of stuff, but you couldn't really interact or make changes.
Web1 was built with open protocols. Think of these like the rules of a game that everyone agreed to play by. This era was characterized by the principle of decentralization and community governance. These open protocols, or the fundamental rules and standards guiding the internet, were not under the control of a single entity. Instead, they were developed, maintained, and advanced by a broad community of users and developers.
A distinctive feature of Web1 was that the bulk of the value—be it in terms of innovation, opportunities, or economic gains—wasn't captured by a few big tech firms. Instead, it went to the users and developers at the edges of the network, those who were actively participating in and contributing to the growth and evolution of the internet. This DECENTRALIZATION of value creation and capture set the foundation for the internet as we know it today.
Then, around 2005 to 2020, we entered the Web2 phase. This was like being able to not just read your favorite comic book, but also being able to write your own stories. However, imagine if all the comic books were controlled by only a few people, like the most popular kids in school. That's what happened with Web2. Most of the cool stuff, or "value", ended up with a few big companies like Apple, Google, Amazon, and Facebook.
The read-write era of Web2, roughly from 2005 to 2020, transformed the internet into a two-way street. Users could now read AND write content. However, this period saw a concentration of power into the hands of major corporate entities. Just like in a game of chess where a few pieces like the queen and rooks hold most of power, companies the big four: Apple, Google, Amazon, and Facebook captured the majority of value generated during the Web2 era.
Web2, the read-write era, spanning around 2005 to 2020, marked a significant shift in the way we interacted with the internet. It transformed the internet into a read-write platform, enabling users to consume and create content. This was like being able to not just read your favorite book, but also being able to write your own stories.
However, this era was characterized by the rise of centralized services. Tech giants like Apple, Google, Amazon, and Facebook built big applications on these open protocols that were very easy to learn and use. This resulted in a network effect leading all of us to signup and integrate these platforms into our daily lives.
We gave these companies our data and this handful of corporations created siloed spaces on the internet, where they controlled and dictated the user experience within their domains.
Have you ever questioned why it used to be free to use all these platforms? Remember when iTunes was free, and many services like Amazon, Google, and Facebook still claim to be "free" today. But the truth is, we've paid a significant price – with our data.
Our user data is stored in their databases, and when we agree to the terms of service, we grant them permission to control and utilize that data. They have the authority to block, restrict, or manipulate our data at their discretion.
Now, I won't delve into the specifics of how they wield that power or the ethical implications of these practices, as there are numerous sources where you can explore various opinions and breakdowns. I simply want to emphasize that during the Web2 era, a handful of entities captured the majority of value, leading to a substantial CENTRALIZATION of wealth and power.
You following me now? Web 1 was characterized by a decentralized structure, where control and ownership were distributed among a broader community. In contrast, Web 2 led to fewer people having control over the internet, resulting in a more centralized landscape. This shift highlights the importance of recognizing that today, our valued assets are owned and controlled by large corporations.
Venturing into our current era, we arrive at Web3. Originating around 2020, this phase represents a profound evolution of the internet. It's not just about reading and writing anymore; it's about genuine ownership. Picture this: you're not merely a user or creator on the internet; you're also a stakeholder, with real ownership and governance rights.
Web3 amalgamates the best of both worlds—it retains the decentralized, community-governed spirit of Web1 while incorporating the advanced functionalities we've grown accustomed to in Web2. It's a perfect blend of the democratic ethos and technological sophistication.
In the realm of Web3, it is the builders and users who take center stage, utilizing powerful tools such as 'smart contracts' on blockchains and 'digital assets' like NFTs to navigate the vast digital landscape.
Web3 introduces a new paradigm of digital ownership, interoperability, and permissionless access, enabling users to reclaim control over the things they value in the online realm. In a future article, I will delve deeper into these concepts and provide a comprehensive explanation.
However, the key takeaway is that Web3 addresses the very issue of our inability to truly own and hold custody of our valued digital assets. We are still at the early stages of Web3. Although the term "Web3" was coined in 2014, it only gained significant traction in 2021, primarily among cryptocurrency enthusiasts, large tech companies, and venture capital firms.
Even now, in 2023, Web3 remains outside the realm of mainstream knowledge. So, if you are reading this, you are on the cutting edge of Web3 exploration.
It's completely understandable if much of this information seems overwhelming or unfamiliar. Remember, if someone had tried to explain smartphones to the average person in 1970, they would have likely been met with confusion and raised eyebrows, unless that person happened to be a computer engineer or rocket scientist. That's how rapidly technology is advancing today. It feels like a new iPhone is released every other month, and AI technology is progressing by leaps and bounds, with groundbreaking developments occurring almost weekly.
When it comes to grasping these concepts, exposure is key. It takes time and repeated encounters for them to truly sink in. For now, there's no rush to take immediate action unless you're a Web3 developer or have significant resources to invest in this realm.
My suggestion is to focus on learning and understanding as much as you can about Web3. In the near future, I'll be here to assist you in navigating the world of Web3 and taking those initial steps if you choose to join me on this adventure. Just like you, I've spent a considerable amount of time studying and revisiting this material because it's all so new and ever-evolving. Exploring is a continuous process of learning and growth.
Feel free to re-read this article, share it with others, and engage in discussions to further solidify your understanding. Together, we can uncover the mysteries of Web3 and embrace the possibilities it holds.
I may have missed the dot com boom, but it's clear that we're on the brink of the next boom, and my goal is to bring as many people along with me as possible. The pandemic highlighted the consequences of leaving creatives and entrepreneurs behind in the digital world.
In 2020, those who couldn't pivot to the digital realm experienced severe setbacks. Disproportionately, people of color, women, elders, members of the queer community, and those who were less tech-savvy faced the brunt of the impact because their digital knowledge and skills weren't up to date.
While I can't change the past, I am fully committed to embracing the future. Remember, this journey is a marathon, not a sprint. So stick with me as we explore and explain what lies ahead in this future that has already arrived at our doorstep.
Together, we can become early adopters, bridge the digital divide, and ensure that in the coming years, we aren't simply following new online trends, but rather, creating them.
This installment may have been lengthy and dense, but the importance of what I’ver shared cannot be overstated. In future articles, I will revisit and expand upon these concepts, delving deeper into the exploration of the new frontier of the internet and the vast digital galaxy that awaits us. Stay tuned for more exciting insights and discoveries.
Live long and prosper~
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