If you have come across terms like Web 1.0, Web 2.0, or Web 3.0 and have been confused about what the hell they are, you are not alone. Luckily, you have come to the right place to get your doubts cleared. At this point these words have been thrown around so much that we all have heard them, but no one really knows what they mean. I will guide you through this web series and hopefully you will come out a tad bit more knowledgeable.
For decades now, there has been a parallel evolution of technology and human relationships. However, the steps of this evolution are slow and marked with small breakthroughs. Such small steps lead to tipping points which can be defined as — “A tipping point is the moment when everything changes — when a cultural change or a technology or an idea moves from fad to trend, from interesting side note to landscape-altering tsunami.”
Web generally refers to the world wide web. The ‘www’ you see in the addresses of different web pages. Web 1.0, Web 2.0 and Web 3.0 can be thought of as three seasons in a series. Before we embark on that journey let’s remember that the internet was ‘born’ on the 1st of January, 1983. Yes, there was once a time when there was no internet at all. The horror! Right? Okay, now let’s begin with our web series.
In December 1990 Tim Berners-Lee developed an app using the coding language Objective-C Web and coined the term world wide web. Web 1.0 was the first step in the evolution of the World Wide Web. The content on Web 1.0 was mainly curated by companies. Back then one required technical training to navigate the internet which is why companies hired trained professionals for the task. Web 1.0 consisted of a tiny percentage of content creators and a huge population of content consumers. It’s hard to believe but advertisements were banned on websites. HyperText Markup Language (HTML) was used to develop webpages and it was not possible to code anything apart from information.
Unlike in the next season, websites were developed using Server Side Includes or Common Gateway Interface. The web pages were static in nature, which basically means it was a one way street (read only). There was no way for the user to interact with the content or the content creator. Users of the internet had to pay in terms of the number of pages viewed and therefore it was quite rare to have PCs and internet at home. The content of the webpages were saved in the server’s file system. Curious to check out what Web 1.0 looked like? Click here. Season 1 of the web ran from 1990 to 2000 (approximately).
What better way to segway to the second season than by the words of the creator of the world wide web himself — “…I think Web 2.0 is of course a piece of jargon, nobody even knows what it means. If Web 2.0 for you is blogs and wikis, then that is people to people. But that was what the Web was supposed to be all along.”. Web 2.0 is the internet as we know it today. The words “people to people” define it perfectly.
However, a huge flaw in the Web 2.0 system is data privacy and the fact that data is stored on a centralised server. In Web 2.0 if you have not paid for a service with money, you are paying with your data and hence its ‘adieu privacy!’. Websites like Facebook steal your private information and sell them off to third parties. You must have noticed how sometimes when you search for let’s say for a shoe on your browser, suddenly shoe advertisements start popping up on your social media. Coincidence? Of course not. Social media platforms use machine learning to cook up advertisements tailored for you and you end up spending more time on the platform. In Web 2.0 you, the user, is the product being sold.
What will be.
The third season of this series, Web 3.0 tries to address this major drawback of Web 2.0. It is important to understand that while the shift from Web 1.0 to Web 2.0 was primarily a change in the front end, the change from Web 2.0 to Web 3.0 will be a backend change. Nothing much will change for a regular user. The main difference between Web 2.0 and Web 3.0 will be how data is saved. Instead of a centralised server having access to your data, it will be saved securely in several decentralised nodes.
In 1996, Microsoft Cofounder Bill Gates had said that “Internet will improve democracy” and that free flow of information “will put the citizen in a fundamentally more powerful position than ever before”. Web 2.0 not only didn’t manage to achieve that, one can argue social media played a role in the rise of fascism around the globe. Web 3.0, (also known as “read — write — execute” web) however will make amends for the mistakes in prior seasons. World wide web founder Mr.Lee had envisioned the web as a place where “no permission is needed from a central authority to post anything … there is no central controlling node, and so no single point of failure … and no kill switch”. Web 3.0 can make that successful.
One of the important features of the Web 3.0 is semantic web (and hence is also often referred to as the semantic web). This means that a search engine in Web 3.0 will be able to browse the net based on the meaning of the word searched as opposed to just a keyword or a number. Instead of being the product (like in Web 2.0), according to some predictions, we will be the owners of our own contents. Web 3.0 browsers will also use artificial intelligence to segregate information like humans do thereby delivering faster results. Web 3.0 websites and services are also using three-dimensional designing on a much larger scale. Guided museum tours and computer games are some examples where this is being used.
Due to semantic metadata, information in Web 3.0 is more connected which makes the user experience completely different. Unlike Web 2.0 where a certain content is available on one platform, in Web 3.0 any content will be available in several applications. It will be unfair here to not mention Web 2.5. It is basically a wanna-be Web 3.0 where a lot of the focus is on mobile computing and improving mobile technologies. Organisations running on the concept of Web 3.0 can completely get rid of the concept of Chief Executive Officers (CEO). Instead these companies will be run as a decentralised organisation known as Decentralised Autonomous Organisation (DAO). Additionally in Web 3.0 our digital and real life identities will be completely separate allowing us to be completely anonymous on the internet.
Just like in Web 2.0 we exchange data and information, in Web 3.0 we can exchange value. Web 3.0 removes the third wheel from the relationship between you and your money — the bank. Banks are not only not transparent with money, but by leveraging borrowed money they create an illusion of wealth. When this bubble breaks, we get financial depressions like we saw in 2008. Web 3.0 will use Decentralised Finances (DeFi). Essentially your money is managed by a code and there is no central agency that manages it. I would definitely trust a code over a bank with my money, wouldn’t you? Codes are inherently fair. They won’t be like “Oh, I don’t like your clothes and so I won’t approve this house loan that you desperately need”.
Will there be a season 4?
Someone wise had once said that the only constant in the world is change. It will be naive to say that Web 3.0 is where the evolution of the world wide web ends. Web 4.0 might be referred to as the “active web”. One possible aspect of Web 4.0 might be that with extremely high tech virtual assistants there might be no requirement for a search browser. Since Web 4.0 could muddy the line between a computer and the brain, it can also be referred to as the “symbiotic web”.
Very exciting times lie ahead of us. However, Web 3.0 comes with its own baggage. It is not only very challenging to scale the blockchain, but mining has serious consequences on the internet. While advances in technology will take care of the scaling aspect, crypto climate activists are already coming up with ideas to address the effect on the environment. At the end of the day we all share the hope of the founder of it all, Mr. Lee, who had said, “I hope we will use the Net to cross barriers and connect cultures”