The Internet has come a long way since its inception in 1983. From the creation of network protocols to the advent of an interactive web, the Internet has undergone an entire evolution. Over time, these changes have been classified into three distinct phases: Web 1, Web 2, and Web 3.
This article aims to help you comprehend how the Internet has evolved to this point and why there’s an option to transition from Web 2 to Web 3. We’ll delve into seven (7) key aspects that differentiate Web 2 from Web 3 and explore how Web 3 aims to be a better form of the Internet than Web 2.
First, let’s start by peering into the historical context that gave rise to these distinct phases of the Internet.
The Internet’s Evolution
In its earliest days, the Internet was merely a static library of information. This era, often referred to as Web 1, was characterized by basic websites that presented information in a one-way street.
Users were allowed to read content, but they could not interact with it. More like reading a book in a library without the ability to discuss its contents.
Social media platforms, collaborative wikis, and online forums emerged. This enabled users to share, comment, and collaborate. The once static library suddenly became a lively marketplace of ideas — a town square.
Now, the Internet is on the brink of another transition, this time, to Web 3. Instead of a single town square controlled by a few, the Internet is moving towards being a decentralized network of interconnected squares.
Thanks to technologies like blockchain and decentralized applications (DApps), each of these squares has a different set of rules and governance.
Web 3 aims to transfer control to individuals. It intends to allow them to own their data, manage their digital identity, and interact directly with others without intermediaries.
Just as townspeople can trade directly in a bustling bazaar, users can transact, communicate, and collaborate independently in Web 3. This empowerment is the biggest selling point of Web 3.
Why does it matter whether we’re on Web 2 or Web 3?
That is because of the impact this technological shift will have — and is already having — on how we interact, transact, and communicate online.
Understanding the contrasts between Web 3 and Web 2 will help users become better equipped to navigate the Internet’s evolving landscape.
In the following sections, we’ll work on understanding the technologies that makeup Web 3 and also the possibilities they bring to the table. But first, what are the foundational technologies that powered the interactive Web 2 era? What are the ones that power Web 3?
Foundational Technologies of Web 2 and Web 3
Let’s explore the key technologies behind Web 2 and the emerging technologies driving Web 3.
Web 2 Technologies
2. Client-Server Architecture
Let us imagine the Internet as a bustling restaurant. In a client-server architecture, your device (the client) sends requests to a central server. The central server will receive the information, process it, and then respond with the requested information.
It is like placing an order with a waiter who brings your food from the kitchen. This architecture fuels Web 2’s interactive features, enabling real-time updates and dynamic content delivery.
Web 3 Technologies
Picture a ledger used to record transactions. In this ledger, any record entered cannot be changed and can be looked up by anyone, absolutely anyone, who’s interested enough to care.
This is the simplest definition of the blockchain — the technology which powers cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin, Ethereum, and other projects.
Web 3 harnesses the power of the blockchain to create secure and tamper-proof records of transactions, data ownership, and more. It’s like having an online public record book that no one can alter.
2. Smart Contracts
Imagine contracts that execute themselves automatically when certain conditions are met. These are smart contracts – self-executing agreements encoded in code. They eliminate the need for intermediaries and enable trustless transactions.
For instance, if you buy a digital art piece: as soon as you pay, the smart contract transfers ownership and even sends royalties to the artist every time it’s resold automatically. Easy peasy.
3. Decentralized Applications (DApps)
What’s your favorite social media platform? Now think of it without a central entity controlling them. Yes. No community restrictions from Zuckerberg or shadow bans from Elon. That is the essence of DApps.
They run on a decentralized network of computers, offering users greater control over their data and interactions. It’s like using an app where you control the rules, and no single entity can shut it down.
These technologies mentioned above form the backbone of Web 3’s promise of a decentralized and user-centric Internet.
7 Key Differences Between Web 2 vs Web 3
In exploring the disparities between Web 2 and Web 3, it becomes evident that these two phases of the Internet have distinct paradigms that shape our online experiences in very different ways. How do they compare across the following areas?
- Data Ownership and Privacy
- Interoperability and Standards
- Digital Identity and Authentication
- Monetization Models
- Content Creation and Curation
- Environmental Impact
- Scalability and Performance
1. Data Ownership and Privacy
Who controls and safeguards your data in the digital space? Consider the contrasting worlds of data ownership and privacy in Web 2 and Web 3.
• Web 2’s Data Ownership Challenges
Centralized Data Control
Imagine that all your personal information is stored in a giant vault. In Web 2, this vault often belongs to companies that provide online services. They hold significant sway over your data, how it’s used, and who can access it.
Think of your online activities as footprints in the sand. In Web 2, these footprints are tracked by numerous entities – from websites to advertisers.
That’s how you get targeted ads on your social media platforms and sometimes unsolicited messages from entities you never shared your information with. This tracking raises concerns about your online privacy.
• Web 3’s Data Ownership Advantages
How does Web 3 intend to tackle Web 2 privacy challenges?
User-Centric Data Control
In Web 3, users are guaranteed to have more control over their data. Through decentralized technologies, users can store data securely and share it only with those they trust. You own the keys to your data vault and decide who gets in.
Enhanced Privacy Through Encryption
Encryption in Web 3 means that your data remains private and secure — only accessible to those you allow. All of your online footprints are transformed into secret codes, ensuring your privacy remains intact.
2. Interoperability and Standards
Just like in the real world, connecting with others is crucial in the digital world. How does Web 3 compare to Web 2 in that regard?
• Siloed Nature of Web 2 Platforms
Picture the Internet as a collection of isolated islands — each island representing a different platform or service. In Web 2, these islands often operate independently, like walled gardens. Each island has its own rules, languages, and currency, making it challenging for them to understand each other. This set of rules is the algorithm that runs these platforms.
There’s a different algorithm for Facebook, Twitter, TikTok, and the like. Most times, it can be frustrating and limit your digital experience.
• Web 3’s Interoperability
Semantic Web Technologies
Now, imagine these islands mentioned above were connected by bridges that understand and interpret different languages. This is the essence of Web 3’s interoperability.
Semantic web technologies act as these bridges, enabling platforms to communicate meaningfully. Once these islands can learn to understand each other’s languages, it increases interconnectivity in the digital landscape.
Open APIs and Protocols
For these bridges to serve their purpose, the islands will have to share a universal translator. In the case of Web 3, this translator is open to APIs (Application Programming Interfaces) and protocols.
These translators ensure that different platforms can interact seamlessly. It is a shared set of rules that allow each island to communicate and collaborate with others. This openness makes the digital experience smoother and more dynamic.
3. Digital Identity and Authentication
In the digital world, identifying yourself is just as important as it is in the physical world. How do Web 2 and Web 3 handle this essential aspect?
• Web 2 Authentication Methods
Passwords and Usernames
You use codes to unlock your devices or some websites most time, right? In Web 2, this code takes the form of passwords and usernames. These keys grant you access to various online spaces. However, juggling multiple keys can be cumbersome, and forgetting one could leave you locked out.
Centralized Identity Providers
There’s a bouncer stationed at the entrance of almost every party venue you go to if you’re one for parties. These bouncers generally check your “eligibility” to attend the party.
In Web 2, companies often serve as these bouncers, managing your digital identity for you. While they verify your identity across different sites, this centralized approach also means putting a lot of trust in a single entity.
• Web 3’s Decentralized Identity Solutions
In Web 3, users are the sole owners of their identity, just as you own your physical ID cards. This identity is managed by seed phrases that you and only you have access to. These self-sovereign identities give you more control, allowing you to share only the necessary information while keeping the rest private.
Web 3 introduces verifiable credentials – cryptographic proofs that confirm your identity without revealing unnecessary details. It’s as if you carry a digital badge that confirms your identity and qualifications without disclosing everything about you.
4. Monetization Models
Money changes hands on the Internet just as it does IRL (in real life)… What are the monetary models of Web 2 and what changes does Web 3 proffer?
• Web 2’s Advertising-Centric Model
User Data as the Currency
In Web 2, your data often fuels the revenue engine. Companies gather your preferences and behaviors to tailor advertisements, turning your personal information into a form of currency.
The ad-driven model relies heavily on businesses buying advertising space to showcase their products. Your interactions with ads contribute to the revenue that sustains many online platforms.
• Web 3’s Tokenization and Micropayments
Web 3 introduces tokenization, where creators and platforms can tokenize their content or services. Most platforms own their own tokens and these tokens can be traded, supporting an economy where value is transparent and fluid.
Direct Peer-to-Peer Transactions
In Web 3, micropayments will enable users to pay tiny amounts for specific services or content, totally bypassing intermediaries or middlemen.
These payments are usually made in tokens called cryptocurrencies. It’s just like tossing a coin into a busker’s hat to appreciate their performance directly.
5. Content Creation and Curation
Creating and sharing content has become a cornerstone of online existence. How do the paradigms of content creation and curation evolve from Web 2 to Web 3?
• Web 2’s Centralized Content Platforms
Limited Control for Creators
Imagine you paint a masterpiece and then hand over a large percentage of the rights to a gallery just so they allow you to put up your work on display. In Web 2, creators often have to relinquish a degree of control when they publish on centralized platforms.
These platforms dictate how content is presented and distributed, sometimes limiting the creative freedom of the originator. A prime example of this in Web 3 is NFTs.
What if your masterpiece is taken down from the gallery wall without your consent, simply because it breaches a rule you were not aware of?
Content censorship occurs a lot in Web 2 due to platform policies or external pressures. This raises concerns about freedom of expression and the potential suppression of diverse viewpoints.
• Web 3’s Decentralized Content Platforms
Direct Creator-Audience Interaction
Decentralized platforms in Web 3 enable direct interactions between creators and their audience — as an artist would introduce his work to a physical audience. Creators are allowed to retain ownership and engage directly with those who appreciate their work.
Reduced Censorship Risk
Decentralized platforms are less susceptible to content censorship due to their nature. Content can be stored across multiple nodes, reducing the risk of single-point takedowns.
Creators will be able to share content confidently without fear of their work being taken down in their absence.
7. Scalability and Performance
The speed at which things happen in the “digiverse” greatly influences our online experiences. How does Web 3 address scalability concerns raised by Web 2?
• Web 2’s Scalability Concerns
Increased Load Times
As activities surge in Web 2, websites sometimes struggle to keep up. Increased user demands lead to longer load times, testing our patience just as congested roads do.
Can you imagine a single toll booth on a busy highway causing a traffic jam? In Web 2, central servers sometimes became bottlenecks, unable to process all the incoming requests efficiently. This results in slow response times and frustrating experiences for users.
• Web 3’s Scalability Solutions
Sharding and Layer 2 Solutions
A single two-way highway is generally clogged with many drivers and pedestrians, leading to traffic congestion. To solve the problem, the highway has to be expanded into multiple lanes to accommodate more traffic.
In Web 3, sharding and layer 2 solutions split the workload across multiple smaller networks or layers, ensuring smoother data processing.
Peer-to-peer networks in Web 3 distribute data across many participants, reducing the dependency on central servers. This distributed approach increases efficiency and speeds up interactions.
7. Environmental Impact
In the pursuit of progress, it’s essential to consider the footprint we leave on our planet. How does Web 3 compare to Web 2 in the area of sustainability?
• Energy Consumption in Web 2
Data Centers and Carbon Footprint
In Web 2, data centers house the servers that enable online activities. These centers require significant energy to operate, contributing to a carbon footprint. Simply put, the higher our digital demands, the higher the planet’s energy consumption.
• Web 3’s Sustainability Efforts
Proof-of-Stake Consensus Mechanisms
Proof-of-stake (PoS) consensus mechanisms replace the energy-intensive proof-of-work (PoW) used in Web 2. PoS relies on validators who already hold tokens, reducing the need for energy-consuming calculations.
In Web 3, energy-efficient protocols are designed to streamline communication between devices and nodes. This reduces the overall energy demands of the network while maintaining performance.
Challenges to the Adoption of Web 3
Change is never easy, no matter how beautiful it is and Web 3 is no different. And as the legendary Johan Cruyff said, “Every advantage has its disadvantages.” What are the disadvantages of transitioning from Web 2 to Web 3?
1. Learning Curve
Transitioning from the familiarity of Web 2 to the decentralized landscape of Web 3 involves a learning curve. New users need to understand the concepts behind Web 3 like blockchain technology, smart contracts, and decentralized platforms.
2. Infrastructure Requirements
Web 3 relies on decentralized networks and protocols, which require specific tools and infrastructure. Adapting existing systems or setting up new ones to accommodate these requirements poses logistical challenges and incurs additional costs.
User interfaces and experiences (UI/UX) within Web 3 platforms are still evolving. Creating a user-friendly experience that rivals the ease of Web 2 applications is still an uphill climb.
Interfaces need to be intuitive and accessible, especially for those unfamiliar with the complexities of blockchain technology.
As Web 3 gains popularity, the demand for decentralized networks will strain their scalability. Ensuring that these networks will be able to handle such a large number of users and transactions without compromising their speed and efficiency is still an ongoing process.
5. Regulatory and Legal Complexities
The decentralized nature of Web 3 creates regulatory and legal challenges of its own. Existing frameworks do not adequately address issues related to decentralized applications, smart contracts, and token economies. Getting governments and regulatory bodies to adapt to this new “culture” is a process that will take some time.
Although Web 3 aims to create a more interconnected digital landscape, achieving seamless interoperability between different blockchain networks and platforms is a complex challenge.
Standards and protocols are still in the process of being established to enable smooth interactions between the diverse ecosystems in Web 3.
“To whom much is given, much is expected.” With greater user control comes increased responsibility for securing one’s own data and digital assets.
Protecting a user’s data against hacking, phishing, and other cyber threats is an absolute necessity in Web 3. Educating users on the best security practices in a decentralized context is currently a challenge.
8. Community Adoption
As you’ve probably come to realize in this article, the success of Web 3 relies on community adoption and participation. To grow, it is essential to build a strong user base and a developer community.
These communities will then support and contribute to decentralized platforms and applications. While there is considerable success in this area, more needs to be done.
9. Resistance to Change
People are generally resistant to change. Therefore, moving away from the familiar centralized models of Web 2 is generally met with skepticism or reluctance from many.
It requires a lot of communication and effective education to convince users, businesses, and institutions to embrace Web 3.
Although the challenges listed above are significant, they can be overcome. The more Web 3 evolves, the more these challenges will be addressed.
Addressing these challenges will help in creating a more inclusive, transparent, and user-centric digital landscape — and that’s where YOU come in. Yes, you.
Grow Web 3
After all, we’ve discussed, here’s this — The choice to step into the Web 3 era isn’t just about technology, no. It’s about you – your control, your privacy, and your empowerment. How do you contribute?
You can grow Web 3 with your presence, your exploration, and your belief in a better, more connected, and empowered digital universe. Web 3 needs you in order for the transition to happen. Will you embrace the decentralized future Web 3 offers?