In a nutshell.
The history and evolution of the internet up until this point and how the Web3 is going to change everything — again — is a long story worth telling in detail. In this piece I’m going to try to summarise it as simply as possible.
Web1 — Read Only
‘The Web’ has for decades been shorthand for ‘The World Wide Web’, and what people use to refer to the internet — even though the web is technically an application on top of the internet — the main interface through which we access the internet.
The web was called the web up until a new version of the web began to emerge around 2005 — Web2. Much like people referred to World War I as the Great War right up until the start of World War II, ‘the web’ became Web1 and Web2.
Web1 was open, decentralized and no one controlled it. If you built something on top of it it was yours and no one could force you to change it. Much of this consisted of taking static information like magazines or brochures from the real world and transferring them into digital form for people to read.
In case the image above didn’t give it away — the key drawback with Web1 was that functionality were very, very limited.
Web2 — Read & Write
It was that limited functionality that instigated the rise of Web2. Web2 brought about an explosion in functionality, accessibility and ease-of-use — but at a huge cost to privacy, security and control.
The shift from Web1 to Web2 can be summarised as a battle between open and closed protocols which closed won, because they enabled more elaborate, fast and easy-to-use digital products. It’s easier to get a social profile on a platform like Facebook than to register a domain. The ability to access the internet and social networks on mobile devices massively underscored this.
Web2 is a mix of dynamic information exchange and corporate-owned social profiles which enable us to connect and communicate with others online. Social networks also enabled web users to become creators — creating, sharing and even earning a living through the rise of different forms of e-commerce.
Web2 made it easy to exist, create, communicate and earn on the web — but not on our terms. Big Tech — Facebook, Google, Amazon, etc. — took over the web, mainly by monetising users and their data.
You use my platform, I take your data.
You get likes, I get money.
There was also one important puzzle piece that never fit Web1 or Web2, though. Ownership.
Web3 — Read, Write, Own
Web2 kicked off around 2005 and is still the order of the day — but a shift to Web3 is currently underway, and this is really good news for users and creators — or 99% of us.
The Web1 represented the digitalisation and exchange of information. The Web2 added social networking and e-commerce. The Web3 is adding ownership and exchange of assets via internet-native tokens. Tokens come in two types; fungible tokens and non-fungible tokens, or NFTs. An NFT is unique. Only one of it exists, and this can be independently verified. Fungible tokens represent value but are not unique, just like dollars or euro. All tokens exist on blockchains.
In the Web3, users and builders can own things on the internet by owning tokens. Tokens give users property rights: the ability to own digital assets. This can be art, photos, music, credentials, governance rights, or in peaq’s case — ownership rights over machines, vehicles, robots and devices.
Web3 is combining the best of both webs. The decentralized, community-governed ethos of Web1 is being fused with the advanced, modern functionality of Web2.
You can now build applications on the open ‘Web1-esque’ internet with no corporations in the way. Communities of people are developing highly-functional applications which no single person or company owns, to replace the corporate-owned platforms of Web2.
Blockchain technology is enabling all of this. Before blockchain we relied on third parties to ensure things were safe and trustworthy. Blockchain allows anyone, anywhere to directly verify information, people or services on the web — cutting out the middleman. It’s a peer-to-peer revolution.
Web2 vs Web3
Web2: The Uber company creates an application on top of the web. Drivers and users must access the app on Uber’s terms. Uber takes a cut from both drivers and users for providing the app. They gather and monetize user data.
Web3: A community of users and builders creates a taxi app (a dApp). Drivers and users co-govern the way it works and evolves. No single person or company owns the application. Everybody earns from it. Your data remains your data.
In Web3, Uber drivers and users own Uber. (peaq enables this, too.)
The internet is the most important innovation of our time. When accessing the internet before Web3, users and builders had to choose between the limited functionality of Web1 or the corporate-controlled Web2. Most people chose Web2, and this has taken its toll on us all.
Now, Web3 offers a way that combines the best aspects of the previous two eras while finally allowing us to actually own our data and assets in the digital world, and this can and is being mapped onto, referenced and leveraged in the real world.
Web3 is still massively misunderstood. It’s very early in this movement and a great time to get involved, explore and buidl.