NFTs, cryptos, decentralised finance, metaverse it feels like everyone is talking about Web 3.0. Ramakrishnan Subramanian MBCS provides the background to the next web trend and why it matters.

Web 3.0 is a theme, a vision, a set of ideals to reshape internet in a sense to live out its founding promise and shape its next evolution vs the centralised Web2 we have today.

It attracts idealists, technologists and entrepreneurs who all have different motivations about this space, making it quite difficult to provide a simple definition and creates some very high profile differences of opinion around Web 3.0 as well.

But, what is Web 3.0? If you have heard about Brave, Arweave, Decentraland, Axie Infinity, etc., then congratulations, you are already familiar with some initial Web 3.0 real world examples.

History of Web

Its original purpose was to share knowledge among humanity with different iterations coined to represent their evolution.

Web1 - 90s Web Altavista, Yahoo, Email but mostly static web to read.

Web2 - Interactive web, search engines, ecommerce, social media, new business models and power concentrated among technology companies.

Web 3.0 - Indicates a decentralised and permissionless future for the internet.

So, what is Web 3.0?

Web 3.0 aspires to build a decentralised internet where a community of users own, control participation, switch seamlessly between services / platforms and share the rewards of using the ecosystem. The key tenet is decentralisation (trustless and permissionless) which leaves it open for all and resistant to any form of censorship. Any Web 3.0 conversation is mentioned in the same breath as crypto, which would make readers wonder what’s the connection here?

To achieve the Web 3.0 vision, we rely heavily on blockchain the technology that underpins the crypto ecosystem, the ability to implement smart contracts, etc. A blockchain is a distributed ledger of records maintained by a community. It’s public and immutable in the sense that history is maintained by consensus.

Smart contracts allow you to enforce agreements and terms via software code. All the developments we see in this space, like NFTs (non fungible tokens), layer 0/1/2 protocols, zero knowledge proofs, innovative tokenomics, DAOs (decentralised autonomous organisations), DeFi (decentralised finance), dApps (decentralised applications), metaverse and play-to-earn all tie in to some of these aspirations around Web 3.0. It’s this remaking of the internet with these innovations that broadly gets referred to as Web 3.0 – but it’s still early days.

How does Web 3.0 work?

There are already companies, platforms, protocols and services that operate in Web 3.0 but as a new field, we need to look forward, not necessarily to how Web 3.0 works at present, but at what the future might be, such as:

  • Users directly participating in and using the financial ecosystem without any intermediaries (DeFi).
  • Having single credentials to access the internet, where you control how much data you want to share and how it gets treated behind the scenes.
  • Artists and creators retaining rights to their work and being able to get a fair share for usage via NFTs (enforced via code / smart contracts) for perpetuity.
  • Gamers engaging with gaming environments with their private wallets and owning their avatars, rewards and achievements that are interoperable between multiple ecosystems.
  • Individuals participating in the virtual world (metaverse) with a more immersive and personalised experience through a combination of platforms and tools.
  • Individuals organised as a group in DAO where software code and consensus sets up goals and rewards for work, instead of a corporate structure with standard hierarchy and roles.
  • An intelligent, context-aware semantic internet emerging as envisioned by Sir Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the world wide web.
  • Web 3.0, social media and content platforms that aim to bolster ownership of content by participation and rewards, as well as resistance to censorship as access, is maintained via consensus and storage is distributed.

Second thoughts?

There have been some legitimate criticisms of Web 3.0 – about whether it will truly deliver a new world, or just shift power from incumbents to a different set of stakeholders and early movers. Would Web 3.0 investors and builders who own a large number of tokens end up driving its future evolution / governance standards to their advantage?

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Signal founder, Moxie Marlinspike, highlights that from Wallets to dApps, there is significant reliance on a handful of companies. Blockchains are not necessarily anonymous and how we manage visibility of our digital life will have implications for all our civil liberties.

Finally, this is also an area of immense interest to regulators and governments across the world. As we shift into this future, expect a clash of idealism vs government concerns around sovereignty, public protection and preventing bad actors which will drive many regulatory initiatives and actions.

Investment and innovation trends

In spite of these existing unknowns and uncertainties, the level of interest and venture money flowing into this space is only growing with billions invested by VCs in crypto space in 2021.

There is a very noticeable trend of some of the top talent leaving roles with technology giants to work in Web 3.0 and an increasing general awareness of the public to these shifts. This is a powerful combination of community, talent and money that could propel innovation and advancements in this space, very similar to what we have observed in the history of technological advancements.

The architecture and technologies used in Web 3.0 are quite different to how systems are built today and a true test of mainstream adoption is making Web 3.0 solutions really seamless to adopt for regular users. This change will be underpinned by very different business models to what we have today.

In conclusion

There is no way of knowing how this will pan out but the confluence of money, people and efforts in this space is too huge to ignore. There is no doubt that this space has some very passionate and well-meaning contributors who want to do good but even with best intentions it’s still quite hard to predict ultimate outcomes.

A shift, however, is definitely happening and its important for IT professionals to be engaged in the debate and have meaningful conversations and contributions, and work in companies that are building this vision if your career interests align. The decisions and outcomes now will have an impact on the future of our work, society and world. I will close with a quote from Naval Ravikant ‘Web 3: Users own their data, contributors own the platform, and the code is open.’

About the author

Ramakrishnan Subramanian heads data & analytics for an organisation within financial services sector. He has had experiences of multiple business and technology transformations and implementations throughout his career with Data, AI & Technology leveraged towards strategic goals while factoring commercial, regulatory and governance implications.

Disclaimer: The author holds digital assets mentioned here and from the wider ecosystem and any information about cryptos is for informational purposes only and doesn’t constitute financial advice. These are his personal views and opinions and do not reflect that of any employers present and past. All company names, products or brands mentioned in article are property of their respective owners.