What is ‘Web3?’ Many things, most of which don’t yet exist

The pandemic lockdowns, the emergence of the blockchain, the metaverse, and the unchecked energy of Large Tech have many individuals eager about what the net of the longer term will seem like, and whether or not it might probably evolve away from the worst tendencies of at the moment’s on-line world. And the time period Web3 has come to signify one imaginative and prescient for what it might all seem like.

When the World Huge Net first grew to become a phenomenon within the Nineteen Nineties, it was a reasonably static medium, and lots of web sites appeared like little greater than digital variations of print brochures. That started to alter in a giant method within the early 2000s. Net providers similar to Gmail have been way more interactive and app-like than those who preceded them. The online additionally grew to become extra participatory, which led to an explosion of user-created content material, first in person teams and blogs and afterward social networks similar to Friendster, MySpace, and Fb (now Meta).

This new wave of richer experiences was often called Net 2.0 on the time, and over the previous twenty years it’s created huge wealth, reshaped industries, and exerted profound affect on how we dwell within the twenty first century. However the internet as we now realize it has additionally seen all types of issues, from cybercrime to surveillance capitalism to widespread misinformation and a quickly worsening erosion of belief. Web3, by its design, might provide higher resistance to these issues.

Whereas there’s nobody official definition of the time period, when individuals say “Web3” they often imply a decentralized, blockchain-inspired internet structure that provides customers extra management over their digital content material and foreign money, and the place transactions rely far much less on trusting a government similar to a financial institution or a tech platform operator.

Folks have been talking about “Web 3.0” even again when Net 2.0 was an rising idea. However curiosity in Web3 seems to have gone up markedly in the course of the bizarre quasi-recovery from the pandemic. Google searches for “Web3” have elevated sixfold because the finish of July, and the quantity continues to rise. Not all of the curiosity is optimistic, although: On Twitter, Web3 boosters are joined by a lot of individuals calling it an exaggeration of what the blockchain can do, or only a rip-off.


You are taking issues into your personal fingers in case you refuse to acknowledge that the air combination within the room the place the entire web3/blockchain/NFT dialogue takes place is equal elements grift, rip-off, and FOMO.

— Jeremy Wagner (@malchata) November 15, 2021

It’s true that many of the individuals speaking about Web3 come from the cryptocurrency world. Cryptocurrency is the primary and largest use of the blockchain, and Web3 proponents assume that blockchain expertise—which creates a safe, shared repository of transactions that no single entity controls—can do way more. The blockchain might give customers a approach to carry their social content material (and, maybe, their popularity) with them between social websites as an alternative of having it locked to Meta, Twitter, or TikTok. It would type the muse of a brand new form of market for individuals promoting bodily or digital items, as NFTs (nonfungible tokens) are already doing.

It’s additionally true that solely items of Web3 exist at the moment. The remaining is aspirational. Constructing, then scaling, the applied sciences wanted to satisfy the Web3 imaginative and prescient would require tons of time, cash, and cooperation.

Open requirements

The magic of the unique internet was that everyone agreed to run their websites on a standard, open-source protocol—HTML. Everyone might use it and no one owned it. However there is no common internet protocol that lets anyone share social content material throughout social networks, or to switch cash to family and friends regardless of what money app or crypto pockets they use.


Within the absence of such public protocols, venture-backed tech firms have been in a position to provide such providers through their very own proprietary platforms. Meta owns the dominant social community platform, monetizing the non-public knowledge of its customers. Amazon affords the dominant e-commerce platform, monetizing customers and charging rents to third-party sellers. Apple and Google function and monetize the dominant cell app shops, promoting their very own cell providers and charging rents from third-party app builders. And so forth.

This kind of structure has in lots of instances favored the actually huge platforms, leaving the crumbs to smaller ones. It’s concentrated quite a bit of revenue and market energy within the fingers of only a few Large Tech firms.

Constructing a metaverse bottom-up on high of open requirements is like constructing a fantastic metropolis.”

Ari Yahya, Andreessen Horowitz“By advantage of their management of all knowledge, they management each interplay between customers on the platform, every person’s skill to seamlessly exit and swap to different platforms, content material creators’ potential for discovery and distribution, all flows of capital, and all relationships between third celebration builders and their customers,” wrote Andreessen Horowitz cryptocurrency lead Ari Yahya in a 2018 blog post.

A extra decentralized system, in concept, would possibly enable for direct relationships or transactions amongst customers, patrons, creators, and sellers.

“Web3 is in regards to the creator financial system, the place customers personal the info and the financial rewards related to the web worth they create,” says Matthew Gould, founder and CEO of Unstoppable Domains. “Moreover, Web3 is a dedication to builders who construct on blockchains that the foundations of the sport won’t ever be modified, as has occurred a number of instances with the Apple App Retailer, Fb, and Twitter previously.”

It’s essential to recollect, nevertheless, that even the largest blockchains, Bitcoin and Ethereum, are at the moment nowhere sufficiently big to deal with the size of mainstream monetary providers. Many individuals are engaged on scaling up the blockchain for cryptocurrency transactions, however a spread of different methods would should be developed to handle social, e-commerce, and belief and popularity providers.

Metaverse on the blockchain

As outlined by many individuals, the metaverse is additionally a Web3 expertise. That’s as a result of present internet platforms and applied sciences can’t facilitate a vital side of the metaverse—the power of customers to maneuver freely between any digital house or expertise, simply as we will use any internet browser to navigate between websites on the internet.

New protocols could also be wanted to ensure a continuity of expertise as customers transfer from place to position within the metaverse. They’d enable us to maneuver between the metaverse domains of, say, Apple, Meta, and Amazon, and the digital identification, content material, and foreign money we stock with us can be honored at every place.

Meta, the Large Tech participant making the most noise in regards to the metaverse, appears to acknowledge this dynamic. CEO Mark Zuckerberg has stated that Meta intends to construct “for the metaverse,” not “construct the metaverse.” Although it certainly desires to play a number one function in growing the open requirements that may govern the place, it’s not saying that the metaverse must be a self-contained, proprietary world like at the moment’s Meta.

As individuals spend increasingly more of their time in digital house, the pondering goes, they’ll purchase and accumulate extra digital items similar to recreation skins and different digital attire, digital artwork, digital actual property. In Net 2.0 a person would possibly purchase a brand new pores and skin (outfit) for his or her avatar in Fortnite that they’ll use solely in Fortnite, and pay for it solely with V-Bucks, which have worth solely in Fortnite. A Web3 structure would possibly present protocols for the avatar, the attire, and the foreign money so that each one of these issues work anyplace throughout the metaverse.

“Constructing a metaverse bottom-up on high of open requirements is like constructing a fantastic metropolis,” argues Andreessen Horowitz’s Yahya in an e-mail to Quick Firm. “It’s a lot tougher, as a result of it requires a big collective of individuals to come back collectively and cooperate, however the output is significantly better.

“When it really works, a fantastic metropolis—like a real metaverse—is a dependable scaffold upon which an infinite ecosystem of experiences and entrepreneurial exercise can thrive,” Yahya provides.

The open requirements required for the metaverse might be enabled by the blockchain. Customers would possibly use NFTs to show possession of their digital property. They might use the blockchain to handle, dealer, lease, or promote their digital stuff. Some would possibly determine to make a enterprise of it, creating their very own digital items (represented as NFTs) or curating and brokering the products of others.

“Web3 is a recreation changer for the longer term of social and digital possession,” says Pierina Merino, founder of FlickPlay, a social NFT discovery app. “It allows our digital inventories to journey cross-platform with out shedding their worth and authenticity.”

Quite a bit of work needs to be executed to put the muse for Web3. Some of that could be political work, that means that customers, builders, tech firms, particular curiosity teams, and others must take part in a spread of requirements our bodies and hammer out agreements on how the Web3 protocols would work. Solely when this work will get going, and when monetary incentives align behind it, will Web3 begin to get actual.


It might be a fad, a bubble, a rip-off, a pie within the sky fantasy.

It additionally represents potential, hope, a brand new method of collaborating, organizing, interacting, and so on. It might assist us obtain the guarantees of the open internet.

I am voting with my vitality that we will make it into the latter.

— rickmanelius.eth (????,????) (@rickmanelius) November 16, 2021


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