The war for the next Internet – believers towards…

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For the past three years there has been a library of news and commentary on the “next internet”, which may or may not be a thing one day, called Web 3. You know, not the internet we use every day. , the one we love and hate. But something new, fundamentally better, they say.

Most people don’t even know or care that we are in the age of Web 2. Or that there even was a Web 1 and what it looked like. And now this. Web 3. Very soon now.

But so-called Web 3 talks have gotten very ugly lately, with one side lining up to praise and sing its promise as a beacon of virtue that will spread joy and goodwill to all mankind, and the other side lining up to rant it is the work of the devil that will make the rich richer, the poor poorer and the rest of us slaves.

Both are probably right. It would help if they could start by agreeing on a definition of what it is in the world.

But first, a caveat. Whichever definition one chooses to articulate, there are bound to be the usual pesky, objectors, and pinchers. Regardless, I’m going to wade recklessly.

Web 1 was in the dark ages, in the 1990s. It was mostly a one-way conversation. You clicked on a website, you received images, text and sound, and sometimes you could click on a link to take you somewhere else. Sometimes you can fill out a form and send it back. It was a simple machine, very useful for finding things and making modest contact with the website to send them data, like your contact details.

Web 2, which dominates where we are now, was born on rising seas of increasingly sophisticated interactive capacity and speed. Massive back-end databases, video, audio, artificial intelligence, and all sorts of fancy back and forth between you and the app. WhatsApp and Instagram and eBay and Uber and Airbnb. All Web 2. Two-way conversations between you and a digital world. And with the possibility for the Internet user to be both a producer of information and a consumer (think about uploading a TikTok video or a photo of your apartment on Airbnb).

And then came crypto.

In 2014, a renowned cryptographic computer scientist, Dr. Gavin Wood, who worked on what is now the second largest blockchain, Ethereum, coined the phrase Web 3. It was going to be like Web 2, only better. More just. More intelligent. Democratized. And a lot of adjectives like that. Because, well, blockchain.

What he was reacting to was the growing centralization of the web in the hands of large, dominant power centers – Facebook, Amazon, Netflix, Google, TikTok, Alibaba, Microsoft and others.

The Internet was originally a project to uniformly spread global information accessibility (remember the quaint “Information wants to be free”?) and had tragically turned into a march of elephants, with massive flows of capital diverted from other places to a few companies, many of which are now largely unbeatable.

The Internet had gone from a democracy to a council of autocrats.

Woods and others realized that the type of cryptographic magic built into blockchain technology could provide the tools needed to build a decentralized Internet and Web, owned by its users, without intermediaries who extract usurious rent and impose their favorite content on us. .

Well, yeah, that sounded great. Always does.

Here’s how it’s supposed to work:

The vision of Web 3 is that the people who use the Web will own it and be inspired to build and lead it. Not a few big companies. Users only. That’s basically it.

Everyone on Web 3 will have ownership rights, protecting their own data (all data, including how you browse the Internet). Your own data would be kept private at your option, or potentially traded in marketplaces, at a fair price to you and the buyer.

Not only data about you, of course, but data by you – love your blog, posts, comments and cat videos. Or even your participation in a webinar. Or your identity. Anything can be valuable to you (or someone else) – but it’s yours first. And will be owned, kept private, sold or given away at the web user’s option 3. As a subset of this, of course, there are cryptocurrencies – the lubricant that will seamlessly integrate in all of this to enable the exchange of value.

It’s not just the end user and their data that Web 3 proponents want to protect. It is also the infrastructure. No owners, no middlemen, no choke points, no censors, no exploitation, no shareholder influence, and if one follows this to its logical conclusion, no “corporations “in the traditional sense, just communities of interest. Above all, the community governance of the next Internet – users can shape it as they see fit. Secured and hardened by the magic of the blockchain.

The devil is in the details, but you get the drift. A huge vision. Alarmingly complex sets of technologies, economies, and processes must be invented for all of this to happen. Many things are already in the works, such as cryptocurrencies and NFTs. And the smartest programmers and computer scientists line up to contribute and build the rest.

So, at the risk of oversimplifying – Web 1 = read. Web 2 = reading and writing. Web 3 = clean.

Yes good. Now let me introduce you to the skeptics.

Molly White is a 28-year-old woman who lives with her pets in Massachusetts. She is of the internet generation and has had a long stint as a self-confessed, obsessed Wikipedia contributor. She also created the website https://web3isgoinggreat.com/. It’s a compendium of Web 3 scepticism, including its own blog. She has become something of a star in this world.

A recent Washington Post article about it doing its thing – Web3 is “filled with a litany of scams, failures and frauds designed to separate ordinary people from their money”. A careful reading of the malicious links on its website reveals the documentation and exposure of the very many scams in the cryptocurrencies and NFT world. Which of course it’s true, but I’d say it’s early opportunistic malfeasance as opposed to a fundamental problem.

More convincing is Moxie Marlinspike, the creator of the messaging app Signal, who argues that some systems naturally tend towards centralization, and equating this kind of accretion with evil and oppression is a bit silly. He wrote a 4,000-word essay to make this and other arguments against Web 3 evangelism. It makes a nice counterbalance, worth reading for those who want to delve deeper here.

Let me end here:

Web 3 is a big bag of things that includes blockchain and cryptocurrencies and NFTs and metaverse and tokenization and decentralization of everything. And a vision of full digital democracy that seeks to end the form of capitalism and economy that has seen the rise of tech giants that now have more power than most countries.

I don’t know how this will all turn out, if it will turn out well (although my money is on the believers). But the transformation of the internet space over the next 10 years will be unlike anything we’ve seen before, so buckle up.

Oh, and postscript. A few days ago, Jack Dorsey, famous on Twitter, just announced Web 5. Why 5? Because his vision is Web 3 + Web 2. I’m not even going to go there. DM

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