Newton’s third law dictates that every action has an equal opposite reaction
?—?complex systems both organic and inorganic exhibit a tendency toward equilibrium. Over the last decade, the vast, rapidly evolving network that is the internet has slowly but surely metamorphosed into a highly centralized system in which a small group of titanic corporations control the infrastructure and platforms that comprise the internet as it exists today.
The centralization of the internet is a direct result of the “Web 2.0” paradigm shift, which saw the internet transform from a non-interactive network of static content into a dynamic, interoperable, and collaborative medium. This transformation resulted in the creation of social networks and web apps, but also in the establishment of digital oligarchies that now threaten the democratic foundations of the web.
The emergence of the centralized web, however, has sparked a Newtonian response that aims to dismantle the vertical structures that compose the modern internet in the same way that the genesis of blockchain technology was driven by the restrictive centralization of finance and currency. The Web 3.0 paradigm shift is positioned to do for the internet what Bitcoin has done for money.
Why Web 3.0?
The primary purpose of the Web 3.0 movement isn’t focused on expanding the functionality of the internet. Instead, Web 3.0 is focused on restructuring the way in which the internet is accessed and interacted with. Leveraging the technology that drives the blockchain revolution, Web 3.0 aims to wrestle ownership away from the corporations that rule the internet as it exists today.
The centralization of the internet has reached an astonishing point?—?almost all online services are hosted on hardware owned by the “big three” cloud providers, which consist of Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure, and search juggernaut Google. Facebook boasts 2.23 billion users worldwide?—?more than two-thirds of the world’s 3.2 billion active internet users. While internet centralization may provide users with faster, more reliable, and feature-rich services, it also comes with significant drawbacks. Centralized platforms are highly susceptible to security breaches and data leaks?—?in early October 2018, Facebook suffered from a hack that exposed the personal details of over 50 million users.
Users of the modern internet rely on monolithic corporate service providers to access the services they use on a daily basis and have no guarantees that the platforms they use won’t leak their data or abscond with their capital. The Web 3.0 movement is comprised of a broad spectrum of projects working together to decentralize the platforms and infrastructure that the modern internet consists of, allowing peer-to-peer, trustless services to compete with the incumbent digital oligarchy that rules the current internet landscape.
What is Web 3.0, and Why Does it Matter?
Web 3.0 is a collection of values as opposed to a technology, it compromises any idea or technology that aims to perpetuate and restore individual sovereignty, by re-democratizing and decentralizing the internet. The Web 3.0 ecosystem consists of projects that aim to redistribute control over the internet. Web 3.0 not only shifts control over information back to the individuals who create it but includes value as a primitive. In the current paradigm, payment processors function as necessary middlemen that bridge the gap between the world of digital currency and fiat currency. The dangers of allowing centralized organizations to facilitate this bridge and to dictate monetary terms to users are obvious?—?Paypal, for example, has been fined millions of dollars multiple times for deceptive business practices and legislative violations.
The centralization of internet infrastructure also provides governments with the ability to interfere with or censor free speech. In September 2018, the European Parliament voted in favor of the Directive on Copyright in the Digital Single Market?—?dubbed the “anti-meme law”?—?which forces platforms such as Youtube, Facebook, and Twitter to censor the distribution of copyrighted materials. The directive also includes an article that forces news aggregator sites such as Google News to pay publishers for distributing excerpts of content.
While the EU Directive is focused on enforcing copyright law, its opponents highlight the impact of restrictive legislation enforced on a service provider level and how it can negatively impact free speech?—?a stance supported by major organizations in the current centralized internet power structure. YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki states that “Article 13 threatens hundreds of thousands of jobs, European creators, businesses, artists and everyone they employ,” while European Parliament Member Julia Reda argues that state-enforced content control is designed to benefit “big media companies, with their waning control over distribution channels” only. Web 3.0 aims to eliminate single, centralized points that can be targeted by payment providers, middlemen, or nation-states that seek to monopolize or restrict information and value flow by decentralizing the infrastructure that the internet operates on.
Web 3.0 Use Cases
The Web 3.0 ecosystem is already here and is growing rapidly. The technology that will power the web 3.0 revolution has evolved dramatically in the decade since the distribution of Satoshi Nakamoto’s Bitcoin white paper in 2008 and has catalyzed a Cambrian explosion of cryptocurrencies, trading platforms, utility tokens, decentralized applications, and enterprise alliances.
Cryptocurrency is the most obvious implementation of Web 3.0 methodology, with platforms such as Bitcoin and Ethereum now making it possible for users to store and transfer value outside of the traditional banking system. Malta-based “blockchain bank” Founder’s Bank represents one of the first Web 3.0 financial institutions, while platforms such as OmiseGo are providing banking services to the unbanked and underbanked by creating a decentralized, peer-to-peer payment system. The Web 3.0 revolution reaches beyond currency and finance, promising to decentralize venture capital, governance, supply chain, healthcare, lending, security, cloud computing and storage, education, insurance, digital advertising, and hundreds of other industries.
What Will the Web 3.0 Look like?
The Web 3.0 internet is anti-monopoly, interoperable, pro-privacy, and collaborative. The core goal of the Web 3.0 movement is to atomize the internet as it exists today and distribute it across all network participants. To achieve this, the Web 3.0 movement is built on the principles of data privacy and collaborative decentralization?—?users will have more options and cloud providers will be forced to compete with decentralized file storage platforms such as Storj or the IPFS hypermedia protocol, which split, encrypt, and distribute data across tens of thousands of separate, independent hosts.
Web 3.0 will also change the way identity is tracked online. User identity information is currently owned?—?and sold?—?by platforms such as Facebook and Google. Web 3.0 projects such as the blockchain-based ERC-725 self-sovereign identity protocol allow users to manage their own data, while platforms such as IBM-backed Hu-manity allows users to sell and profit from their data, should they choose to sell it.The future of the Web 3.0 based internet is a future in which users operating blockchain-based smartphones are able to access truly decentralized applications equivalent to Facebook, eBay, Uber, and Amazon, transacting in a peer-to-peer manner with full control over who can access their data.
Who is Building the Web 3.0?
The Web 3.0 revolution is in full swing and is under active development by a wide range of forward-leaning tech companies. The Web3 foundation works to nurture the growth of tech that brings the internet closer to its decentralized future, running frequent events such as the Web3 Summit that bring together developers and researchers that are working on the protocols, computational languages, blockchains, and storage mechanisms that will fuel the Web 3.0 movement. Web3 works with platforms such as Chainlink, an interoperability-focused blockchain network that aims to bridge the data gap between off-chain systems and distributed ledger systems in order to facilitate blockchain ubiquity.
A large-scale open-source collaborative project such as the Web3
Foundation and the Internet of Blockchain Foundation work toward creating alliances between blockchain projects and enterprise. The growing Web 3 landscape is also home to hundreds of promising blockchain-based decentralized applications, or dApps, that aim to create Web 3.0 alternatives to the centralized apps used today. Poland-based cloud computing platform Golem is creating the world’s first decentralized supercomputer, Ethlance is working on the world’s first decentralized Web 3.0 job market, while ConsenSys-backed project uPort is building the first open identity system.
The Future of Web 3.0
A future in which we can speak freely with our loved ones and have confidence that they’re the only ones listening won’t come overnight, but it is coming. There are many questions that must be answered and many obstacles that must be overcome before the internet transitions into a truly peer-to-peer decentralized network?—?how will current blockchain technology scale to a level that can support hundreds of thousands of transactions per second? How will decentralized governance work, and how does the decentralized internet and economy fit into existing legislative frameworks?
Organizations such as the Web3 Foundation are working to solve these problems today, fostering adoption and accelerating the development of technology that will overcome the obstacles that the Web 3 movement faces in order to establish a truly democratic, open, and free internet free from middlemen, censorship, and monopolization.
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