Web3 presents a new vision of the internet that gives power back to users instead of centralized authorities and corporations.
Web3 revolutionizes how users interact on the internet by creating a trustless, permissionless, and decentralized experience. Web3 is driven by blockchain technology, cryptocurrency, and a strong emphasis on user sovereignty.
What are Web1 and Web2?
Before we get to Web3, it’s important to trace the path we took to get here. That means defining Web1 and Web2.
In the 1990s the internet as we know it launched, naturally, as Web1. The earliest web pages were read-only, meaning that pages were static places that displayed text and maybe an image or two, but little else. Users could read that text and admire those images, but beyond that they couldn’t interact with web pages or contribute their own content to them. At this point the internet was mostly message boards and blog posts.
Starting in the mid-2000s, the internet started to become more interactive. Web pages went from read-only to read-write. Users could now upload their own content to pages and use the web to communicate with other people. This was Web2. Your Facebooks, Twitters, Googles, and Apples emerged and, over the next decade, went stratospheric.
Now, the past few years have brought the emergence of Web3.
What is Web3?
Web3 is the next evolution of the internet. It’s largely powered by advancements in blockchain technology, and it’s a direct response to the problems with Web2.
What are those problems?
Well, as a result of their monumental growth, Web2 is today largely controlled by large corporations. They can ban, censor, change the rules however they see fit––they have complete, unilateral control over their platforms.
Web3 gives that control back to users. Web3 is built to be immersive, interconnected, and give users the power to govern their own communities and collectively decide what direction to take the platform.
Blockchains (and thus Web3) are powered by smart contracts, chunks of code that fulfill certain actions, like executing an exchange between two wallets, minting an NFT, or sending a transfer of cryptocurrency. Since blockchains are open-source, everyone can see what’s happening, unlike the code hidden away on a company’s servers. And since code added to a blockchain is permanent and can’t be changed, nobody can switch up the rules.
If Web1 was read-only, and Web2 was read-write, you could describe Web3 as read-write-own.
Web3 is already here
Web3 isn’t simply theoretical. Users can already interact with a range of fully-functional and increasingly interconnected Web3 projects. While it hasn’t replaced Web2 just yet, Web3 is gaining momentum.
While there are competing definitions, many people describe Web3’s core values as these:
· Trustless – Anyone can make an exchange without relying on centralized parties.
· Permissionless – No one can block users from accessing online services.
· Decentralized – Information is shared, transparent, and not owned by any single authority.
These values empower individuals and allow users to control their own data and identity.
But what might those principles look like in action?
Well, for instance, a Web3 alternative to Vimeo wouldn’t be able to demonetize content creators or change their terms of service to restrict certain types of users from participating. Instead, the rules that govern the platform would be open-source and unchangeable. If the community decided to take the platform in a different direction, they would make platform decisions through fair and open token-based voting mechanisms.
Not only does this encourage governance structures that are fair and inclusive, it also promotes novel business models that prioritize user needs over a company’s profits.
This is just one possible example. Dapps can be made for an almost unlimited range of use cases, from gaming to art to decentralized finance.
What Makes up the Web3 Stack?
The Web3 technical stack includes four layers.
This layer is the foundation that provides the base structure for everything that gets built on top. Major blockchains like Ethereum, Flow, Cardano are protocol layers, also often called Layer-1 blockchains or platforms.
The platforms on this layer set the basic framework and operational standards for other complementary technologies, like dapps, that get built on top of them.
This layer encompasses a broad ecosystem of projects that perform specific functions. These may include applications (or, in blockchains case, dapps) for data storage, security, analytics, governance, finance, and many other traditional or innovative use cases.
Most of these applications are not meant to be used on their own. Instead, they’re meant to be building blocks that developers can combine to form a fully-functional platform for users to interact with.
Use Case Layer
This is the layer where most users interact with Web3. After developers have combined various infrastructure layer projects to create an dapp, regular users can use it. Each of these dapps will have a specific purpose, like exchanging tokens, minting NFTs, or playing a decentralized game.
The top of the stack is the access layer. It’s the entry point through which users access all of the different applications and platforms that make up the vast world of Web3.
For example, digital crypto wallets that hold users’ cryptocurrencies are an access layer technology. Other examples include privacy-focused browsers, such as Brave, which exists as an alternative to centralized browsers like Chrome or Safari that monitor user data.
How is Web3 Different From Blockchain, Crypto, and NFTs?
Blockchain, cryptocurrency, and NFTs are all individual components that fall under the larger umbrella of the term “Web3.” It’s the same way you could say that games, social media, and communication can all be described as part of the internet.
- Blockchain is the protocol that allows for immutable (that is, permanent and unchanging), transparent transactions. These transactions often involve cryptocurrency but can include any kind of data. Blockchain provides a shared, trustless base layer for Web3 platforms to build on.
- Cryptocurrency is an innovative digital asset that makes it easier for people to transfer value between others. Crypto is designed to be a decentralized, censorship-resistant alternative to fiat currency.
- Non-fungible Tokens (NFTs) are unique digital tokens that represent ownership of any type of asset, from virtual real estate to physical art. NFTs cannot be replicated, but they can be sold or traded.
Web3 is still evolving, but it’s clear that these emerging technologies will shape the internet of the future. The rapid growth of blockchain apps and the meteoric rise in cryptocurrency adoption are proof that there are plenty of real-world use cases for Web3 platforms, and plenty of interest to go with them.
As time goes on and the technology develops, Web3 will continue to make the internet safer, more equitable, and more useful for everyone.