The Internet we use today is very different from what it was at the dawn of its existence. The World Wide Web has evolved considerably over the decades, from Web1, consisting of static, limited-interactivity HTML-based web pages, to Web2, where content creation flourished thanks to centralized hubs like Google, Facebook, YouTube and Twitter.
Now the Internet is once again undergoing an evolution as it moves to Web3 - blockchain technology and the ability to make cryptocurrency transactions and exchange information without intermediaries, exercising more control over one's data is coming to the fore.
In recent years, the term "Web3" has been on everyone's lips, but many people still don't understand what it means. So what is Web3 and, for that matter, Web2 and Web1? What does it have to do with cryptocurrency? We will answer these and other questions in this article.
What is Web3?
Web3 (or Web 3.0) is a new stage in the development of the Internet, replacing Web2.
The current World Wide Web is rather highly centralized and largely controlled by giant corporations. Web3, on the other hand, offers an alternative, decentralized concept of the Internet based on user-driven governance and blockchain technology.
Web3 is also a general term used to refer to various projects and technologies that support the structure of the decentralized Internet. Examples of Web3 are:
- non-interchangeable tokens (NFT);
- decentralized finance (DeFi);
- decentralized applications (dApps);
- Initial coin offerings (ICOs).
To understand the concept of Web3, it is important to get a clear picture of the evolution of the Internet over time. Let's turn to a brief history of the World Wide Web.
Web3 vs. Web2 and Web1
1. Web1: The “Read-Only” Internet.
The first public version of the Internet appeared in mid-1991. It was a watershed moment in the history of technology, marking the beginning of Web1.
At the time of Web1, the Internet was a dizzying novelty, hard to use and not easy to find. The first widely used search engines did not appear until 1994, and they were a far cry from Google or its counterparts.
Web1 was also comparable to a "one-way street" in terms of communication: users had virtually no ability to create their own content, which is unthinkable today. In those days, adding new content to the Internet required programming knowledge and/or familiarity by someone with access to a web server, and the web pages themselves were static, one-dimensional, and many of them looked rather boring.
2. Web2: The “Read-Write” Internet.
The second generation of the Internet now in use worldwide is Web2, launched in early 2004. Web2 has fostered a change in the way we interact with the Internet, as users have become more interested in sharing information, not just consuming it. Social networks, blogs, Wikipedia, and podcasts all came with Web2.
Web2 was also a period when the Internet became much more centralized, as big tech companies invented new platforms that made it easier and free for users to create and distribute content. But in return, companies got the right to own almost everything users created, not to mention their data.
3. Web3: The “Read-Write-Own” Internet.
The new generation of the Internet, Web3, is radically different from earlier forms. The specific starting point of Web3 is unclear, but it is often associated with the launch of bitcoin in 2009.
While Web2 is highly centralized, monopolized by governments and corporations, Web3 represents the future of the Internet that empowers its users. Web3 seeks to achieve this through decentralization, with blockchain technology at its core.
The Web3 appears to many as a freer and more open Internet, giving users full control over their data, including how and where it is used. Web3 has the potential to change entire industries, including banking and finance, whose services currently need intermediaries.
Comparing Web3 to Web1 and Web2
Web1 was at the origins of the Internet and was experimental in nature. It was an amazing and exciting new technology, but at the time no one really knew what to do with it.
Web2 emerged because people began to push the boundaries of what was possible. Web2 was a revolution in information sharing: platforms like Twitter, YouTube and many others turned every user into a potential content creator. What once required special knowledge and connections is now a few clicks away. Sensing the scale of opportunity in a fast-growing marketplace, corporations have taken their place in Web2, leading to a more centralized Internet.
In a sense, the shortcomings of Web1 and Web2 mirror each other: Web1 was great in terms of decentralization, but not very user-friendly, while Web2 gave a wide space for user-generated content, but by its nature became highly centralized.
Web3 aims to be better than its predecessors, giving users the freedom not only to create content, but also to develop applications or form entire communities that shape the future of projects. Web3 also aims to "wrest" control of user data from government and corporate interests.
Crypto and Web3
Cryptocurrency and Web3 are firmly connected and are often mentioned together. Both use blockchain technology as the basis.
For example, decentralized applications (dApps) require cryptocurrency to reward and motivate participants. And in the case of Decentralized Autonomous Organizations (DAOs), another use case for Web3, users must contribute project tokens to participate in community management voting.
Decentralized Finance (DeFi), another sector of the Web3 universe, includes an extensive ecosystem of blockchain-based protocols and solutions. In addition, Web3 is associated with blockchain-based innovations such as decentralized exchanges (DEX), non-degenerate tokens (NFT), and others.
How to get started with Web3
There are several ways into the world of Web3. Technically speaking, if you have a cryptocurrency, you are already participating in Web3. However, there are other ways to get started with Web3:
- Use a Web3 browser.
Web3 browsers provide all the features that any other Web browsers have, but they allow users to connect to Web3 services and protocols. Popular Web3 browsers include Brave, Osiris and Opera.
- Create a Web3 wallet.
Similar to conventional cryptocurrency wallets, Web3 wallets allow users to interact with their funds on the blockchain. They feature the ability to interact with Web3 features such as smart contracts and NFT. Most Web3 wallets are self-contained, which means you always have full control over your private keys. Notable Web3 wallet options include MetaMask, Phantom, and Trust Wallet.
- Explore dApps.
Decentralized applications (dApps) are publicly available, open-source blockchain-based applications that can function without human intervention and cover a wide range of categories, including games, finance, social networks, etc. They can be accessed through virtually any Web3 wallet.
- Join a community/DAO.
Decentralized Autonomous Organizations (DAOs) are self-governing communities formed to promote a project, protocol, or other common goal. All that is required for membership is ownership of some number of project tokens, but keep in mind that the weight of your vote will depend on the size of your share. Don't forget that you should study the project carefully before investing money in it.
In the era of Web2, where users do not own their own data, any published content is subject to third-party moderation, and transactions can be reversed if, for example, a limit is exceeded, the advent of Web3 seems like a breath of fresh air in the virtual space. As it evolves, Web3 becomes a kind of attempt to build a balance between the World Wide Web and people.