The web (internet) has transformed people’s lives in ways we once thought were impossible. The journey started with Web 1.0 in the early 1990s, where companies published most content. With Web 2.0, users can publish self-generated content and interact with others on platforms owned by centralized companies, such as Facebook.
Today, only a handful of powerful companies governs the most popular web platforms and applications, gathering a massive pile of user-generated data. Web 3.0 attempts to regain and retain control of the platform in the hands of the users.
Web 1.0 and 2.0 are not two distinctive technologies or infrastructures; they work simultaneously together. Web 2.0 has different practices and features than Web 1.0, and the same principle applies to Web 3.0 and what comes next, such as Web 4.0. In the words of Ramona Nelson and her colleagues:
“One version [of the web] does not replace the other, but rather each version creates a whole new range of uses for the previous version and at the same time creates a whole new range of functions that are unique to the newly emerging version.”
Ramona Nelson, et al. 2012, Social Media for Nurses: Educating Practitioners and Patients in a Networked World, page 237
Table of Contents
Web 1.0 (1990-2000)
To understand what Web 3 is, we first need to contextualize previous versions of the Internet. The first phase of the internet can be characterized by how users initially interact with it.
Web 1.0 is the simplest form of the internet with one-way communication or ready-only mode static content produced by companies mainly and hosted on centralized servers. Web 1.0 is an information portal with a large repository of data where
users could only download books, read articles, watch the news and download their favorite music and films without feedback or input.
Web 1.0 was marked by a slow internet connection and used in commerce to display products that users could buy online. Amazon and eBay were among the first online companies to display and sell their products on Web 1.0 infrastructure.
Web 2.0 (2000-2010)
With technological advancements in computing, artificial intelligence, hardware, and software, Web 1.0 shifted to a more progressive version, Web 2.0. It incorporates new features, including RSS or feed subscription, data filters through tags, and peer-to-peer sharing networks. However, Web 2.0 infrastructure services and applications remain largely centralized.
Web 2.0 is a community portal, revolved around community engagement and commentary, enabling dynamically interactive two-way communications between content creators and users.
It was an era of blogs, wikis, social media, and video sharing on platforms such as Facebook and Youtube. Users of such platforms can become publishers and self-generate content, and the content consumers can interact by commenting on the creator’s blog post or video content.
The big disadvantage of this model is the transmission of confidential user data to service or platform providers. Users must trust these platforms to secure their data from hackers and not share it with undesired parties such as governments and advertising agencies.
Web 3.0 (2010-20020)
Web 3 is the next step on the Internet. It is still under constant development and will expand as time progresses. Web 3.0 focuses on data learning and decentralization.
The advancement in AI enables data learning through intelligent agents or software to process data. Siri and Alexa on Web 2.0 are data learning programs but with limitations. Web 3.0 is set to advance these features to contextualize and conceptualize data to users.
Moreover, in Web 3, developers can build decentralized applications powered by peer-to-peer or decentralized networks and smart contacts introduced by cryptocurrency projects such as Ethereum. Decentralized applications are built, operated, shared, owned, and governed by the community on secure decentralized networks and public databases (blockchains).
Decentralization of Web 3.0 means that no party can control the data or restrict access. Anyone can create and connect to various decentralized applications without the permission of the centralized company.
Web 3.0, simply put, is such an Internet that will “live” not on central servers belonging to specific individuals or companies, but will be owned and governed by the community. Thus, Web 3.0, as opposed to centralized Web 2.0, in theory, will allow people to use services hosted anywhere and nowhere at the same time.
The web has come a long way since its inception in 1990. Web 3.0 is a promising concept, but it has yet to evolve. Most likely, it will not appear overnight, showing the world a bright future, protection of privacy, and absolute freedom of speech and ownership. Web 3.0 will not replace Web 2.0, just like Web 2.0 did not replace Web 1.0. Instead, they are improved versions with new features and application models that broaden consumer choices and preferences, especially when it comes to ownership, censorship, privacy, and storage practices.