What Is Web3 and Why Is Everyone Suddenly Talking About It?
Technological improvements have tended to follow a predictable pattern of initial excitement, subsequent disappointment, and eventual resurgence called a hype cycle.
First, a new technology is dreamed or introduced, and suddenly everyone can’t stop talking about how it is going to change everything forever. These buzzy pronouncements inevitably fall far short of the imagined renaissance, making many write it off as a waste of time. But a core set of believers continues to build and eventually produces a solid, if not exactly miraculous, standard that does genuinely improve life somewhat. Then the new hot thing catches the eyes of the VC class and the cycle kicks off again.
Most innovations in the past decade or so—smartphones, the sharing economy, big data, machine learning, the Internet of Things, virtual reality, “blockchain technology”—has traveled more-or-less neatly along this cubic function of technology expectations.
If you’ve heard a lot about “web3” recently, you’ve been drawn into the creeping peak of a new hype cycle, this time concerning tools for online decentralization. Most of the technologies mentioned above fit into web3 in some ways. And like those now-settling past darlings of the tech boom, web3 will eventually fit into an unremarkable part of daily life.
Web3 evokes the idea of a “web 3.0” in contrast to the internet that we have today and the largely hobbyist and institutional web 1.0 (a retronym) before that. Web3 is supposed to be a truly decentralized and accessible online environment.
The first web wave was simultaneously “open” in ethos yet cloistered in practice. Although naturally limited by infrastructure access and ability—you basically had to be in academia or just a huge nerd to actively participate online—today’s concerns about censorship and content controls were virtually unheard of. There were small communities of forums and bloggers and a larger mass of lurkers, but very few people actually “created content” or made a living online like we do today. Content controversies remained at a scale where communities could capably address them on their own.
Then came “web 2.0,” the Facebookification of the internet, where big technology companies built tools that at the same time made the internet more accessible but also much more “legible” or controllable. Although “Big Tech” is a punching bag today, it was the rise of the humble browser that kicked off the concept of the internet as a platform on which anyone could build and extend functions into existing domains of life.
The problem was the platforms. While the foundations of the internet itself were decentralized—upheld by community consensus-driven standards like TCP/IP—the platforms that flourished upon it were not. This irony at the heart of the old new internet is by now a cliché. The 2006 Time Magazine person of the year—“you” and me—might best signify the ethos of that age. But today we are well aware that Alphabet gets to decide which of “you’s” gets to stay and has to go on “You”Tube.
Enter web3. This suite of tools for enhanced online sovereignty aims to marry the openness of the early internet with the scale of big tech platforms. In general, web3 technologies employ peer-to-peer computing methods to place the individual in more control.
The “web3” meme is new, but the by now decade-old Bitcoin is a good example of this spirit. The first blockchain technology removed the need for a centralized platform—like a bank—to move money around. With Bitcoin, individuals can send money directly to anyone without relying on a third party, just like a cash transaction.
Web3 technologies aim to extend this functionality to all kinds of data, not just simple monetary transfer. So far, “all kinds” seems to mostly mean DeFi and NFTs.
Article from Latest – Reason.com