SummaryThe web we know today ("Web2") is all about big companies like Google, Facebook, Twitter and others controlling the web. Over the past few years, a new form of the internet came to the surface. Web3 is "the internet of the people". But what does that mean? And how can this affect you?
What is Web2?Web2 made the internet interactive by allowing users to not only read site contents, but to also write them. Leaving comments on a YouTube video, creating an account on Instagram, all of that can be considered as Web2. Web2 started emerging 2004 and is obviously still around until today.
The problem with Web2Web2 is centralised. A few entities (Google, Facebook, Amazon, ...) can make decisions that apply to everybody. In some cases, this is good. Scams or straight lies should not become big on the internet and is is good that social networks like Facebook filter them out or remove them. But as always with humans involved, abuse of this decision power is almost inevitable.
This centralisation makes censorship attractive. I have seen this very well during the COVID-pandemic. Often times, reputable experts have been censored because their opinions do not follow along with the mainstream narrative (example).
I think independent from what one thinks about this, we can all agree that "big tech" has big power. If they change a decision in their policies, it could strongly affect your personal life. How much power is too much?
Also, Web2 drains your data. Period. By now everyone should know that your favorite social media platforms know more about you than possibly you do. As if that wasn't bad enough, they even monetize and share your data. Didn't know this? Always remember:
If the product is free, you are the product.
What is Web3?Web3 is often correlated and associated with cryptocurrencies. But they are not the same. Hence let's first define what Web3 is.
Web3 in its purest form is permissionless:
Anyone who is on the network has permission to use the service – or in other words, permission isn't required. - Ethereum.orgBut what does that mean? That essentially means that if you use a decentralised Web3 app ("dApp"), no one can censor you. Deny you service. Mess around with your data. Of course, in reality it's not that simple. Behind most dApps there is a central team. And they can mess with you. But you get the idea.
How is this possible?Web3 utilizes blockchain technology. You can imagine a blockchain like a giant database, with the following advantages over central databases (e.g. at Facebook):
- decentralised (distributed/secured all over the world)
- more than just a database: Apart from storing data, you can also run code on the blockchain. That code is immutable and hence can't be tampered with either. Actually, you can build anything you want on the blockchain, since modern blockchains like Ethereum are even turing-complete
Is Web3 the holy grail?We have to make an important distinction here. As said earlier: Web3 in its purest form is permissionless. But dApps and blockchains are build by people, and people might want to choose centralisation over decentralisation. For example, the "Binance Smart Chain" has only 47 validators securing their blockchain. Thus, even YouTube would be more decentralised.
Goal of this article is to introduce you to the theoretical potential of Web3, not to the practical implementation. That brings us to the last question.
Why should you care about Web3?The world is changing constantly. New things emerge, some die after the first hype, some are here to stay. With Web3, we have a toolkit that people can use to build apps that need noone's approval. That need no central authorities like payment providers and database services. That are literally owned by people from all over the world, not by a single entity.
This is true power. So yes, you should care about Web3, especially if you're a developer.