There has been a renewed discussion this year in creating what’s being labeled as Web 3.0. – the next generation of how we use the web. First, a little history. Web 1.0 was from 1991 to 2004 when web users were consumers of content, and the web was a series of static websites. Web 2.0 emerged in 2004 as user-created content overtook static content. The big winners in this era have been the huge social media platforms that became some of the biggest companies on the planet.
The original idea behind Web 3.0 was similar to the concept of the semantic web, a concept described in 1999 by web pioneer Tim Berners-Lee. The semantic web was to incorporate software that could understand concepts and semantics and could easily navigate between multiple online platforms to create a personalized web experience for each person. Everybody could use the web in their own way and block out the web they don’t want to experience. Think of the semantic web as each person having an intelligent version of Siri that navigates the web uniquely for each user. The semantic web would simplify people’s lives – restaurant reservations would be made automatically, you’d never run out of pet food, you’d be automatically booked for your annual physical. These are things that web platforms have promised but never delivered.
However, the vision of Web 3.0 being discussed today is something new and different. The concept is now to create a decentralized web based on the following principles:
- Decentralized, meaning that personal data is not automatically stored in a data center under the control of a third party. Data would be stored at the edge to be shared or kept private by user choice.
- Open, meaning that web platforms would use software that is open to the world, meaning users would know exactly what is or isn’t being done with their date.
- Trustless, meaning that two parties don’t need to go through an intermediate trusted party such as a big web site to interact and exchange data. Think of the web as becoming a series of peer-to-peer interactions.
- Permissionless, meaning that users and suppliers can interact without needing authorization from a third party – think being allowed to use apps that are not pre-approved by Apple.
The concept would be a radical change from the current web. If fully implemented, Web 3.0 would gut the ability of companies like Meta and Google to monetize our personal information unless we choose to give them access to do so. This sort of web would stop many of the practices that make most of us uncomfortable. Apps would no longer be tracking everywhere we drive. Platforms would no longer be automatically mining our data and identifying our friends and family. There would no longer be marketing cookies put onto our devices from every website or app we use.
One needed key to make this work is at least a rudimentary artificial intelligence that automatically and anonymously perform a lot of web functions for people. That’s something that is still a pipedream, with no idea if and when that can ever be fully implemented.
Web 3.0 wouldn’t kill the things that people like about the web today. People would be free to choose to share all of their data and participate in social media platforms the same as today. But a person could also create a private social media group with family with the knowledge that outsiders couldn’t track or monitor what is said within the group. Shopping sites wouldn’t know who you are unless you give them permission or purchase something.
This concept takes us back to what we originally hoped the Web would become. In 2000, nobody imagined the immense power the large web companies have gained through tracking and compiling detailed personal information on each of us. The goal of web 3.0 is to give control of personal data to each person to share or not share as they see fit.