Introduction to Web3: The Decentralised Web

Welcome to the first instalment in a comprehensive series exploring the transformative world of Web3.

Late last year, we began working on our first serious Web3 project. While we can't reveal all the details just yet, over the past nine months, we've been diving into new ideas, technologies, and applications that are changing how we all use the Internet.

From understanding how decentralisation can put more control in the hands of everyday people, to the innovations that make online interactions more exciting and personal, and yes crypto, we thought we would share what we've learned about Web3's possibilities, and the challenges too.

From whence we came

If you haven't heard the term Web3, then chances are you haven't heard about the first 2 iterations of the web either. Let's kick off by describing those before we take our first steps into the future.

Web 1.0 is often described as "the read-only Web". This was the early days of the Internet where a small group of individuals and organisations created content for a broad audience. Content was static, i.e. not pulled from a database, and the layout was limited by the technology of the era e.g. early HTML, frames, and tables.

Web 2.0 ushered in a more participatory era. It evolved into a space where a multitude of individuals contributed to the creation of diverse content for an ever-expanding audience, placing a heightened emphasis on participation, interaction, and contribution.

Key characteristics that define Web 2.0 include User-Generated Content (UGC), enhanced usability, increased interactivity, and improved connectivity with other systems and devices. In this new phase of the Internet, the user's experience takes center stage. These principles laid the groundwork for the emergence of social media platforms, collaboration tools, and online communities, solidifying Web 2.0 as the predominant mode of web interaction for many users today.

Web 2.0 is often characterised as "the participative social Web," contrasting with Web 1.0's more passive nature. By integrating advancements in web browser technologies, such as JavaScript frameworks, Web 2.0 marked a significant enhancement over its predecessor, offering a more interactive and inclusive platform for users around the globe.

For a deeper dive, check out "The Origin Story of Web 1.0 and 2.0" by Christian Keil.

What is Web3?

Web3, also known as the decentralised web, is a conceptual shift in online architecture. It aims to address the issues of centralisation and monopoly that have characterised the current Internet era, Web2. Unlike the existing model, where large corporations have significant control over user data and online platforms, Web3 seeks to distribute this control across the network.

Why is Web3 Important?

In today's online ecosystem, a small number of technology giants control significant portions of data and online services. This has raised concerns over privacy, monopolistic behavior, and the lack of user autonomy.

Web3 aims to redistribute control and authority through decentralisation, thereby:

  • Enhancing user privacy and control over personal data
  • Reducing the power of central authorities
  • Increasing transparency and trust through cryptographic verification

For example, in the current model, social media platforms have complete control over user data, which can lead to misuse or unauthorised access. Web3, through decentralised protocols, would enable users to control and manage their data directly.

Comparing Web2 and Web3

To elucidate the differences between Web2 and Web3, let's compare their essential characteristics:

Control and Ownership:

  • Web2: Platforms like Facebook and Google hold extensive control over user data and interactions.
  • Web3: Users have direct control and ownership, as seen in decentralised identity solutions like SelfKey, which allows users to manage their digital identity without intermediaries.

Trust and Security:

  • Web2: Requires trust in central authorities, creating potential single points of failure.
  • Web3: Trust is established through decentralised mechanisms like blockchain, where information is transparently recorded and verified across multiple nodes.

Monetization and Value:

  • Web2: Value accrues primarily to platform owners.
  • Web3: Enables users to gain direct value through peer-to-peer transactions and decentralised finance (DeFi) platforms like Uniswap, where users can trade assets directly without traditional banks or brokers.

Decentralised Applications (dApps): An Overview

Decentralised applications (dApps) play a pivotal role in Web3. Unlike traditional applications, dApps operate on decentralised networks, eliminating reliance on a single controlling entity.

  • Example 1: Decentraland, a virtual reality platform, allows users to own and control virtual real estate within a decentralised environment.
  • Example 2: Compound, a decentralised finance platform, provides users with the ability to lend and borrow funds without the need for traditional financial intermediaries.

These examples showcase how dApps are revolutionising various industries by promoting transparency, inclusivity, and innovation.

Where to next

Web3 presents a radical reimagining of the online experience, fostering a decentralised and democratic digital landscape. It's not just about new technologies but a redefinition of online principles — promoting individual control, decentralising authority, and encouraging open collaboration.

The transition to Web3 is still in progress, with challenges related to scalability, user adoption, and regulatory compliance. However, the compelling vision of a more transparent and user-centric Internet is driving continued innovation and development.

The upcoming articles in this series will delve further into the underlying technologies, opportunities, and challenges of Web3, and will hopefully provide you with a solid understanding of this next phase of the Internet.

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