What is Web 3?
Many of us have been hearing about this Web 3 garbage for a while and I’m sure many of you are wondering what the hell it is. Here’s a quick primer on what people are calling Web 3 and which is really a vision for a decentralized Internet that will, ultimately, become recentralized.
Web 1, if we dare use the term, was the concept of a flat, interactive experience that allowed for simple CRUD management and order taking. Think Pets.com — in 1998 it took 50 Sun servers and 100 programmers to make a basic shopping cart and now, thanks to advances in coding platforms, you can spin up a similar store in about a minute. So Web 1 is HTML and forms. Think of it as the Read-Only web.
Web 2 was a bit more complex. There was some interaction involved and much of the old business models — physical books and video games, photo printing, and audiobooks — was supplanted by online alternatives. Further, there was a participatory aspect to the services that brought us the simple FIFO stack of social media. Web 2 encouraged user-generated content which, in turn, degenerated into misinformation, Qanon, and all the bullshit we’re dealing with right now. Think of it as the Read-Write Web.
A few years after Web 2 came Web 2.5, an amalgam of one to many broadcast services like Twitch, TikTok, Snapchat, and the like. These services were participatory, to a degree, but like all previous “webs” they were completely controlled by central authorities who could, in theory, deplatform anyone they wanted. Only absolute morons equate participation in these platforms with their right to free speech, but here we are. Users at this stage were paid by corporations who monetized them through ad sales. This is the Read-Write-Participate Web.
Web 3 is supposed to be decentralized. The vision is one-to-one sales of digital items which includes content, 3D models, and software. Rather than selling a book through Amazon, a decentralized store will automagically bring your book up in front of a potential buyer. News organizations won’t exist, replaced by content that floats up from the ether created by people incentivized by the concept of mining. The Web 3 warriors believe that there won’t be a single VR metaverse but many interconnected ones and access to them will be egalitarian and unsullied by the capitalist instinct. Monetization will come from the transactions themselves, a model that has been successful in cryptocurrencies thus far.
Web 3 is also shorthand for VR and blockchain and the definitions are used somewhat interchangeably by where Web 3 zealots use them in pitches.
Web 3, then, is the Read-Write-Participate-Own web, a portmanteau of things that don’t quite go together but sound cool.
Here’s the trick, however. MAANG née FAANG won’t allow this to happen. They have too much riding on the participation web in which they run the park, the rides, and the concessions and you, the user, feel like you have full run of the park. That any number of Bored Apes or NFT Dickbutts will change that is laughable, but it’s a fun goal and it definitely put the fear of god into boy-king CEOs. The resulting amalgam will probably be as exciting as Habbo Hotel in VR and here’s hoping we get to Web 4 before decentralized teledildonics invade our homes.
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