Written by @ColorReader, Edited by @RealScrout (Telegram @s)
The internet has become a central part of everyday life, thanks to both its utility and accessibility. With the future of tech creeping closer every second, human ingenuity needs to step up its game. So how did the internet begin? If this Medium is about Web 3.0, then what is Web 2.0? Read ahead, and perhaps you’ll get a better picture of what is, and what is to come.
Web — The beginning
Static and slow, yet exciting and innovative, this description captures the inception of the internet. Mainly consisting of dedicated personal pages, the novel technology was costly for early adopters. Web visitors could look at whatever the owner had set up, with the resources required being pulled from the server’s dedicated file system. Dial-up connections, quirky sounds and slowly loading images are familiar to those who lived through this early period. Even though DARPA was technically responsible for the earliest form of digital networking, this described static experience was the public’s first exposure to the internet.
Evolution over the years
As mentioned, the initial stage of the internet was very primitive compared to today. This early version is retrospectively referred to as Web 1.0. Active, external participation was not available until the early 2000s when data hosting services and software engineers adapted the technology for dynamic usage.
APIs, later on, made it possible for users to install software with which they could alter information locally stored in a separate location with little effort. The internet experience became streamlined and user-friendly, with many filters and curation tools being widely available. This is more or less the internet we know of today, with additions still being made: Web 2.0.
Smartphones have become an almost necessity in everyday life, with cloud storage and software cross-communication being integrated seamlessly in most services. No longer restricted to server-side contributions, the ability to actively participate in online content has spiked interest and usage; the internet went from a niche to a much needed and strong fundament of modern life.
What comes after?
The following numerical progression of Web 2 is Web 3, of course. But you’re probably wondering, what differentiates the two? In short, it is AI learning, blockchain utilization and contextual extrapolation.
How would those elements hypothetically play together?
We have previously covered what benefits commercialized blockchain could bring in the education, insurance and health sectors. However, the main benefits here will remain the same; trustless, efficient and robust information storage and sharing.
Couple this with AI via machine learning, and you have a personal, tailored online experience. However, there is no need to think in hypotheticals; although currently lacking blockchain implementation, larger service providers have already put algorithmic learning to use. Instagram and Facebook, for example, have their user feeds optimized in real-time for each particular user.
All these elements combined increase both risks and potential, seeing how unethical usage to maximize ad revenue and views is not incredibly sustainable in the long term. This is where blockchain comes in. Decentralization could finally contest the anti-consumer and privacy breaching monopoly of today, thanks to the safety of smart contracts and oracles. Furthermore, on-chain data can now be used in conjunction with off-chain data through dApps; a noteworthy milestone in freeing the internet from its centralized chains.
What it means for the consumer
Traditional applications communicating with the blockchain opens the doors for the average person, established institutions and startups alike. Moreover, the hypothetical reduction of costs would allow even the most humble startups access to the proper tools needed for tech development.
DAOs automatizing and streamlining community involvement makes it easier for developers to stay in touch with their user base in a resilient manner, seeing how manipulating votes and proposals would often cost more than it would achieve. Add decentralized, cheap blockchain computing, and there is a case to be made that we are on the brink of a fourth industrial revolution.
Users no longer have to install different software locally on their computer, as most would be encrypted in the decentralized cloud. Instead, contextual information would be pieced together on the fly with A.I assistants being tuned to each person’s particular need in the moment. Whether it is a simple search, scheduling or content filtering, the adaptability here is what’s critical.
Many privacy concerned users reasonably raise their brow to this notion; they’ll be pleased to hear privacy chains aren’t going anywhere and can be freely used in unison with Layer 1 and 2 solutions, which could encrypt the needed data. This would only allow the algorithm to view the user’s data and not grant fallible humans access to sensitive information.
Seeing as how the cryptocurrency space is rapidly evolving, it should be no surprise that several projects are racing to fill out their respective niches. Dfinity, which recently listed on a swathe of exchanges, is an example of such a project. Their goal is to create an “Internet Computer” of sorts, with the help of their software canister system. Seeing how Vitalik considers Dfinity to be a worthy Ethereum competitor, their coming contributions should not be underestimated.
TrueBit, spearheaded by Ethereum developers and iExec, are also attempting to carve out their positions in the current developmental race. The bottleneck of today is high costs, both with traditional and blockchain-based cloud computing. These three mentioned projects and many more are attempting to resolve this temporary bump in the road.
Seeing how we are now at the forefront of development, there is no correct and established route. However, TrueBit, Dfinity and iExec all have their nuances, and the institutional backing they have received over the years cements their importance in the space.
Brave New World
In the end, it is safe to say that the future of the internet has a plethora of value propositions. Although the development of Web 3 can be used opportunistically, one must not forget that it’s the blacksmith that makes the hammer, and not the other way around. The future may hold opportunity as a double-edged sword; however, trustlessness will alleviate these concerns.
In time, perhaps we will see the benefits outweigh the hypothetical drawbacks. But, ultimately, there cannot be any reward without risk, which the developers and engineers of today luckily are aware of.
If you wish to learn about the etymology of Web 3.0, feel free to read up on Darcy DiNucci. She accurately described the internet’s coming influence well in advance, even down to the introduction of IoT[*], with Tim Berner-Lee building upon the term further later on.
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BlockchainHub. (n.d.). What is a dApp? Decentralized Application on the Blockchain. [online] Available at: https://blockchainhub.net/decentralized-applications-dapps/ [Accessed 9 May 2021].
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