- From Google’s search engine to social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram, the shift to Web 2.0 was one premised on expanding interactivity and connectedness
- However, during this journey, something absolutely fundamental to Tim Berners-Lee’s vision of the internet was lost – the concept of decentralisation
- There’s good reason we haven’t already witnessed the emergence of Web 3.0 and much of that had to do with the fact that the technologies required to turn it into a reality did not exist. That is quickly changing
With 4.66 billion people across the world actively using the World Wide Web, the internet, as a network of users, has become one of, if not, the most valuable creation in history. It’s a good thing then that it isn’t just a single entity or a small cartel of them who have control over it, right? Wrong.
When renowned computer scientist Tim Berners-Lee published his seminal document, ‘Information Management: A Proposal” describing the basic skeleton of the World Wide Web, he envisioned it as a network of nodes interconnected in a decentralized manner without the need for a singular authority to control or coordinate it.
It was a pursuit of great ambition and imagination and, ultimately, led to the first iteration of the internet that we now call Web 1.0. Web 1.0 was, largely, characterized by an interconnected network of static resources made accessible through physical servers. Information was organized into directories and communication was essentially one-way.
But the early 2000s brought with it an explosion of new technologies that paved the way for the creation of richer, scalable platforms that harnessed the power of user engagement and collective intelligence. From Google’s search engine to social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram, the shift to Web 2.0 was one premised on expanding interactivity and connectedness.
However, during this journey, something absolutely fundamental to Berners-Lee’s vision of the internet was lost – the concept of decentralization. The English scientist envisioned the internet as something for everyone. But the interconnected experience that Web 2.0 affords us has, ultimately, required us to relinquish the freedom we have over the content and data we share or create.
It’s this freedom that Web 3.0 promises to return to users. The development and proliferation of new technologies like blockchain and generative AI now mean that we’re edging ever closer to realizing Berners-Lee’s vision – what many have branded Web 3.0.
Web 3.0 has escaped definition to date and, in truth, is likely to even in the coming year. But in platforms, technologies, and assets like the Cloud, Wolfram Alpha, Apple’s Siri, and Bitcoin, we can already see the characteristics that will, inevitably, come to define it.
The reality is that, as it stands, there are now just a handful of gatekeepers on the internet, most notably Meta (originally Facebook), Google, and Microsoft. But the decentralized nature of Web 3.0 will mean that users will be able to control the content they make, interact with and share entirely, with data no longer stored in centralized servers governed and operated by one or few authorities.
But there’s a great deal more to this. Web 3.0 is also premised on the Semantic Web, a notion where artificial intelligence grows well beyond just copying and performing repetitive tasks, but understands context and conceptual nuances such that it can store, organize and present data in entirely custom ways that suit each unique user. Algorithms will be able to understand combinations of images, video, text, and audio to curate information and web experiences for specific users. And all this is facilitated via encryption and blockchain technology that doesn’t compromise one’s privacy.
There’s a good reason we haven’t already witnessed the emergence of Web 3.0 and much of that had to do with the fact that the technologies required to turn it into reality did not exist. While that may quickly be changing, the assemblage required for widespread adoption like new mobile devices with higher functionality, sophisticated privacy regulation, and low-cost web infrastructure is still absent. Nevertheless, with the speed at which innovation is taking place, 2022 is bound to bring exciting, new developments.