Understanding the Concept of Web3.0—Decentralized Internet
In 1990, Tim Berners-Lee introduced the world to the Internet (Web 1.0), envisioning “a collaborative medium, a place where we [could] all meet and read and write.” The “original” idea behind this ground-breaking technology was essentially opposed to the centralization of control in the hands of a few organizations. That is, ‘no permission is needed from a central authority to post anything’ on the Web, as there is no central controlling node’.
Berners-Lee’s vision did not materialize at the time. And thereafter, the internet evolved in a direction opposite to that of its founder’s idea, bringing it to its present state where the web is controlled by giants such as Google and Facebook, among others.
Recently, however, at the Decentralized Web Summit 2018, around 800 minds, including Tim Berners-Lee, discussed the concept of a decentralized web or DWeb. Propelled by emerging technologies such as distributed ledger and blockchain, it promises to restore control over data with the user.
Centralization and Control in Web 2.0
Almost every website that a user visits, installs trackers on their system, monitors their activity over the web and monetizes this data for targeted advertising and other purposes. This is the norm of Web 2.0 or ‘Web as a Platform’, as defined by Tim O’Reilly and John Battelle.
Recent events involving or Cambridge Analytica have revealed how the internet giants, big corporations and governments are exploiting the huge amounts of users’ data for financial and political gains and for stricter surveillance. That too, without the user’s meaningful consent.
Within the centralized ecosystem of Web 2.0, users aren’t sovereign as they are unable to control the profit derived from their “time and information”.
Decentralized Internet (Web 3.0)—Restoring Control with the User
Suppose, User A wants to share a document with User B. Unlike Web 2.0, a decentralized web would enable User A to directly interact with User B, over a peer-to-peer network, without relying upon any centralized server such as Google for G-Mail.
According to columnist Zoë Corbyn, “The DWeb is about re-decentralizing things–so we aren’t reliant on these intermediaries to connect us. Instead, users keep control of their data and connect and interact and exchange messages directly with others in their network”
Using blockchain technology, cryptographically encrypted data can be stored on a shared ledger and transferred over a P2P network without any central governing authority. Decentralized Applications or DApps are deployed on top of this layer and offer similar functionalities as traditional web applications, such as Gmail or Facebook. That is, while the user experience remains the same or is enhanced, the internet’s functioning is structurally transformed.
The Present State of Web 3.0
Now, in early 2020, the promise of Web 3.0 is not merely theoretical. Blockchain technology, along with AI, ML, and Big Data, is evolving much faster than expected. We already have functional decentralized internet platforms such as Blockcstack. Furthermore, we have several DApps such as OpenBazaar, Graphite Docs, and so on.
Although low-scalability, among other factors, is a major challenge that hinders the mainstreaming of blockchain technology, and thus, of Web 3.0, big names such as IBM and Ethereum are already on track to developing “solutions” for the same. And, as pilot projects are increasingly rolling out and tasking success, investments are also flowing into the DWeb market.
In all, the advent of a decentralized internet controlled by sovereign users appears to be more imminent than not.