Have you ever had wild imaginations of what the internet would look like in the next couple of years? Have you wondered what web 3 will mean for the future?
If you haven’t been thinking about any of this, here’s your chance. What do you think the internet will look like in, say, ten years?
Don’t think too hard about it; we have the answer (more like a fraction of it).
Introducing Web 3
Web 3 is the next generation of Internet Technology — an upgrade from Web 2, the version of the internet which we currently know and use. It is focused on improving the internet experience using various new technologies, including Artificial Intelligence (AI), Machine Learning (ML), Blockchain, and decentralisation.
The aim is to create a smarter, faster, and more interactive internet. Imagine going on CNN’s website, and the first thing you see is the exact news article you’re looking for based on your history, none of that scrolling and searching hassle.
With Web 3, “Siri, play me soothing songs” will be “Siri, I’m sad and need to be comforted.” In the first statement, which is the current state of the internet, your phone’s AI performs the instruction without any further processing.
But with Web 3, the AI understands human emotions and gets that you need to be comforted, so it could start with playing nostalgic music from your favourite playlist, putting your phone on silent mode, and going on to prompt your friends, family, and/or partner wherever they are in the world, alerting them of your mood.
To fully understand these things, and what they represent, we have to go back to the beginning of the internet.
The evolution of the internet Web 1 (1989 to 2005)
When Tim Berners-Lee invented the World Wide Web in the late 1980s, it was mostly web pages filled with text and little to no images. This version of the internet was referred to as the Static Web.
It was impossible to interact with websites as we do today, and most people came online to consume content made available by the few people who knew how to create and deploy web pages.
Web 2 (2005 – Present)
This new internet was the foundation for user-generated content and social media; hence it is called the Social Web.
Web 2 made it easy for people to share, exchange, and store information on the internet.
It was easy for social media platforms like YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter to spring up amidst this new technology.
Web 3 (yet to come)
This new version of the internet has been rumoured to be many things—some easily achievable, others not so much.
But if our history as a species is anything to consider, we tend to pull off the impossible regularly.
The basic features of Web 3, which have been generally agreed upon, are more transparency, decentralisation, privacy, and intelligence, all powered by a lot of human and machine interaction.
What will make up Web 3?
Even as Web 3 continues taking shape, some features seem to be non-negotiable. Some of these things are already being executed on today’s internet but will be implemented worldwide when the new internet finally launches.
When we eventually pivot to Web 3, the internet might just be everywhere. It will be accessible to everyone, irrespective of time and space — like when Web 2 launched and access to the internet was moved from just desktops to other smart devices like phones, TVs, and even fridges. Web 3 will enable internet connectivity on more things than we can imagine.
New technologies, like the Internet of Things (IoT) — the technology that focuses on connecting everyday physical objects to the internet — will enable us to use the internet on almost any surface. In essence, you might be able to tweet from your washing machine or even your dining table, depending on how rich you are.
That’s just how smart the new internet is going to be.
Tim Berners-Lee has always expressed his dream of building a semantic web; an internet powered with artificial intelligence that doesn’t just read keywords but understands the context behind them.
Websites would understand words and queries just like the average human being. A practical example of this is the difference between search results on Wolfram Alpha and Google.
Wolfram Alpha is a next-generation answer engine that uses computational intelligence to answer queries directly, and Google is, well, Google.
Imagine writing an academic paper comparing Spain and England, and you need some data. A quick search of the words “England vs Spain” on Google would bring up football results, past and future match fixtures, and YouTube highlights. All very useful if you’re looking for football-related information.
However, on Wolfram Alpha, the same keywords would bring up the distance between both countries and compare their demographics and geography. With Wolfram, you get direct answers to your questions and not the most popular websites that tank for that keyword.
One feature of the new internet that seems almost certain is its decentralised nature. In recent years, users have complained of the monopoly of tech giants like Google, Amazon, and Facebook and their mismanagement of user data. Facebook’s scandal with Cambridge Analytica and Twitter’s ban of Donald Trumphave been brought up a couple of times.
Users think it is time to control how the platforms work and how their data is used. They also want to be able to earn money from the use of their data.
This is where blockchain, cryptocurrencies, and other related technologies come into play. The biggest selling point of the blockchain is decentralisation.
It is open-source, transparent, and your data is kept private for as long as you want it to be.
Decentralized Apps and Decentralized Autonomous Organizations called DApps and DAOs, respectively, have gained some popularity.
With these apps and companies, there’s no central authority. Instead, everyone can contribute to decisions based on the monetary or technical value they bring.
Augmented and virtual reality
One of the biggest considerations for the future of the internet is the mainstream use of AR and VR.
Facebook made a play for this industry with its announcement of Meta. If we get AR and VR right, it will change how we view time and our immediate space.
People will go on vacations, attend schools, get married, and even make many friends without ever leaving their houses.
What does this mean for netizens?
For users of the internet worldwide, the advent of Web 3 is a good thing as users would own their data and be responsible for it, and they would not be afraid of being censored by a central platform authority or interrupted by irrelevant ads every five seconds.
They would also be able to choose anonymity in all their online activities or publicise their information as every decision would be in their hands.
Moreover, the smarter the intelligence powering these platforms gets, the easier users’ lives would become and the adverse effects of this new technology, if any, are yet to be seen.
Web 3 might seem like an idea that is still decades away, but with the speed of technological advancements, we would not be surprised if the pivot happens even faster than projected.
The new internet will drastically change the world as we know it and our experience with the web will become personalised, smarter, decentralised, and hopefully, more equal.
This also means that the internet will become more integrated into our individual lives than ever before and the thought of what this would mean for physical communication and human interaction is both exciting and scary.