The transition to the Semantic Web continues and blockchain technology plays an important role.
By Billy Endres
Since its inception in 1990, the internet has evolved from Web1—read-only static sites with little interaction between users—to Web2, dynamically readable pages where advertising is revenue and user information is sold as a commodity.
However, times are changing and more companies are choosing to work remotely, data and privacy are becoming more of a concern and blockchain technologies are developing rapidly.
This is changing how we use the web and leading to the development of a new and improved web: Web3.
What is Web3, what role will blockchain play in its development, and what can we expect for the future of the Internet?
Web2 is what we know and use today. Social networks, blogs and dynamic content have become the norm. Content is distributed around the world every second and information is available at the click of a button.
Although the past decade has been undeniably exponential, many shortcomings remain to be overcome.
There is too much trust in large corporations that monopolize parts of the Internet. Cloud storage companies and social networks have our data that can be deleted at will or sold to advertisers.
Global accessibility is a major concern, and corporations prefer profit over people. First world countries treat the Internet as a right, not a privilege. However, more than 1 billion people – more than 10% of the population – lack internet access.
Although there is a long way to go and many issues are unresolved, the push towards a new and democratic internet is building.
The future of the Internet
Web3 is often considered a crypto-specific term popularized by Polkadot (DOT) founder Gavin Wood. It is a phrase used to describe the new internet of ownership and decentralization.
While this is a big part of the new internet revolution, the concept has been around longer than blockchain technology, dating back to the dawn of the internet itself.
In a 2001 paper published by Internet founder Sir Tim Berners-Lee, he outlined his vision for the Semantic Web.
“The Semantic Web will enable machines to understand semantic documents and data, not human speech and writing.”
“A properly designed Semantic Web can help the evolution of human knowledge as a whole.”
Although Mr. Lee’s vision has yet to be fully realized, it is widely shared and has been advocated by many over the past few decades.
It is aligned with the idea that the Internet is democratized and decentralized, bypassing the silos of Internet monopoly to put ownership of information, assets, and data into the hands of the people.
While it is unlikely that there will be a rapid transition from Web2 to the Semantic Web or Web3, things are moving in the right direction. Blockchain technology could be the decisive factor that changes the internet as we know it.
Blockchain and Web3
Blockchain is usually interpreted as cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin and Litecoin that act as digital currency.
Many people don’t know how far digital payments, blockchain and decentralized technologies have come.
Projects including Stratos (STOS), Filecoin (FIL), and Arweave (AR) are developing decentralized storage and cloud infrastructure that aim to return ownership of online assets to their creators.
By using technologies like IPFS, users can download and retrieve data quickly and securely, regardless of file size.
Computing and storage are brought closer to where data is created through thousands of distributed nodes acting as edge computing and microservers.
This allows for better connectivity in the developing world and true decentralization, bypassing centralized servers and data centers prone to interruptions and outages.
Nonfungible tokens (NFTs) are still in their infancy and have become popular primarily as digital and tradable art. However, the potential use cases for NFTs expand even further.
Technology has advanced rapidly, while asset ownership and verification have lagged behind. Signing legally binding documents with pen and paper is very outdated. ID fraud and online theft are widespread and seemingly inevitable.
NFTs have the potential to solve these problems and more. Blockchain-based projects are working hard to develop NFT use cases for issues including voting, medical records and identity cards for developing countries, intellectual property ownership, supply chain management – the list goes on.
While digital art may be the first iteration of NFTs, its technology has a long way to go.
Cryptocurrency wallets are a way of transferring digital assets between parties. Users have full access and control over their cryptocurrencies through public and private keys.
Again, this is probably just the beginning.
Projects like Status (SNT) are developing digital wallets with additional features, including encrypted messaging and decentralized Web3 browsers.
These projects have the potential to compete with social media companies and eliminate the need for advertising and data collection as a source of revenue.
Users could store and manage not only their cryptocurrencies, but also their personal data, identities and tokenized assets such as property.
These are just a few examples of use cases for blockchain technology and the role it will play in Web3 and a truly decentralized, Semantic Web.
Where to go from here?
There’s no word yet on how far the idea of Web3 and the Semantic Web will be extended or what’s to come.
If you had proposed the idea of rideshare platforms, artificial intelligence, and blockchain in the early 90s, your ideas would likely have been shot down. Proposals and potential use cases for Web3 will likely be met with a similar response.
Trial and error will play an important role – some projects will succeed and others will fall by the wayside.
However, with ever-evolving online businesses and remote companies, adaptations and advancements will inevitably continue to suit consumers and fill gaps we didn’t know were there.
In addition, more people are beginning to recognize the flaws in its operation. Information and personal data are traded like commodities, single companies own significant parts of the internet and make trillions of dollars a year in profits, but more than 1 billion people still don’t have access to the internet.
But times are changing: blockchain and decentralized technologies are rapidly being implemented as a necessary piece of the puzzle for the future of the Internet.
Web3 is more than a cryptocurrency. It is what we make it, and it has the potential to change the world for the better.
The views and opinions expressed herein are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Nasdaq, Inc.