The current form of the internet, known as 'Web 2.0', shifted the internet’s focus from static web pages designed for single sided narration and information consumption on the users’ end, to interactive experiences and user driven web creation, leading to the rise of modern media and information technology. At first, this new phase of the internet led to a never-ending network of webpages and online brands emerging regularly, but over time witnessed centralization of the internet over applications owned by a handful of corporations.
Web 2.0 has been characterized by the rise of apps and platforms that enabled self-publishing such as WordPress and Squarespace, and social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn and YouTube. These websites emphasize user-generated content, participation and user-friendly layouts, which are all distinct characteristics of Web 2.0. In simple terms, Web 2.0 transitioned to the idea of “the internet as a platform.”
According to Newsweek, this new form of the internet will see data being connected in a decentralized way, unlike generation 2.0 of the internet, in which data is primarily stored in centralized storage locations. In Web 3.0, users will also be able to interact with data through the use of AI and machine learning technology.
The use of AI will allow data to be provided to users faster, and the data that is provided will be more relevant to each user. We are beginning to see the use of this technology already through algorithms that are used to suggest products, videos, and so on to users based on their previous searches.
The idea of Web 3.0 aligns well with the growing support for data sovereignty. Current data practices underpin Big Tech’s business practices. Practices such as data extraction combined with network effects further consolidated these companies’ position as industry monopolies.
As well as facilitating an internet economy that thrives through data harvesting, Web 2.0 has failed to protect consumers’ privacy. This is because most data is stored on centralized platforms such as computer files and databases. This makes data extremely vulnerable to losses, alterations, and hacks. Last year saw more than 37 billion records exposed due to just under 4000 data breaches in the U.S.
According to Forbes, the rise of technologies such as distributed ledgers and storage on blockchain will allow for data decentralization and create a transparent and secure environment, overtaking Web 2.0’s centralization, surveillance and exploitative advertising. Decentralized infrastructure and application platforms will displace centralized tech giants, and individuals will be able to rightfully own their data.
There is, however, one major critique to the creation of Web 3.0. While decentralizing the internet sounds great in data ownership, this also entails significant legal and regulatory risks. The lack of central control and access to data could mean that many cybercrimes including online harassment and hate speech among other could go unchecked. A centralized web helps the government make large businesses adhere to rules and laws; with a decentralized web, it would not be clear which country’s laws apply to a particular website, given that its content is hosted worldwide.
Given the pros and cons to the creation of Web 3.0, it’s essential to acknowledge the fact that this new form of the internet is already on its way to public use. Over time, we will have the chance to witness the new internet ourselves, and gauge its merits and drawbacks, the effects of which will ultimately determine whether or not this new form of the internet is monumental enough to dethrone the centralized net.