Here's everything we know about web 3.0, the so-called next era of the internet

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What's the difference between web 2.0 and web 3.0? We break it down (as much as we can).

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The web is constantly evolving. So what might the next chapter of the internet look like? In 2022, it seems we might have an answer to this question—it's called web 3.0.


Web 3.0 is a relatively new concept which started to gain traction in 2021. It represents the next phase of the internet, which is expected to be a more open, democratized way to access information. Large venture capitalists, like Andreessen Horowitz see tremendous potential in web 3.0, and are pouring billions into the field. Worldwide interest in the term "Web3" reached an all-time high on Google in December 2021. But despite all the buzz that web 3.0 has in the press, there is still a lot of confusion about what web3 actually is.


This article will discuss the evolution of the web, explain the difference between web 2.0 and web 3.0, and share some web 3.0 design recommendations.



A brief history of evolution of web


Much like human history, the history of the internet is defined by eras: namely, web 1.0, web 2.0, and soon to come, web 3.0. Those eras are represented by various technologies and formats.


Web 1.0 refers to the first stage of web evolution. This era lasted from 1991 until the early 2000s. Web 1.0 websites were mostly a bunch of static pages that didn't have much functionality for interaction with the content: all users could do is consume information on the page passively. One easy way to think about the web of that era is like a giant Wikipedia, and the individual pages of this online encyclopedia as websites.


From an aesthetic point of view, web 1.0 websites had a relatively simple design—page layouts closely resembled text documents, and underlined blue links were the primary interactive element on those pages.


A screenshot of the Microsoft homepage in 1998. Image: https://web.archive.org/
Microsoft homepage (circa 1998). Image: https://web.archive.org/

The web 2.0 era spans from 2004 to the present. This is the version of the internet most of us know today. It also changed our perception of the web. Web 2.0 was built around the idea of the web as a platform: Web 2.0 websites were no longer static pages; they basically became web apps. Web 2.0 pages have a lot of interactive elements that could hardly be imagined in the era of web 1.0—dynamic page layouts adapted to different screens and resolutions, interactive data validation in forms, and even embedded videos.


Web 2.0 also changed the way we work with content—it’s when social media boomed. For the first time, site visitors had an option to consume content or create content themselves. Social networks made it possible to allow user-generated content to be viewed by millions of people around the world. There’s a reason why web 2.0 is known as the era of social media.


Advances in hardware design during this period also popularized smartphones for the first time, so users also had an option to choose the web browsing device they wanted to use, making mobile internet access and social networks the two driving factors of web 2.0.


A screenshot of a Facebook profile page (circa 2014). Screenshot: https://time.com/11740/facebook-10-year-anniversary-interfaces/
Facebook profile page (circa 2014). Screenshot: https://time.com/11740/facebook-10-year-anniversary-interfaces/

The Web 2.0 era is also known as the era of centralized internet. In web 2.0, data and content are centralized within a small group of companies colloquially known as Big Tech: like Amazon, Google, and Meta, for instance.


The business model of companies like Meta is based on showing ads. Every time we visit a video on YouTube or write a post on Facebook, the companies provide those services in exchange for our personal data. And with the data companies collect from us, it becomes really easy for them to provide targeted ads that suggest products and services based on our interests or online activity. As a result, web 2.0 is often criticized for lack of privacy.



What is web 3.0?


There is no strict definition of what web 3.0 is, so let’s just go with a general introduction to the concept in this section. Web 3.0 represents a movement from company-owned internet platforms to community-owned internet platforms. It is distinct from the original concept of a web, coined by the father of the internet Sir Tim Berners-Lee in the 1990s. In the ‘90s, Berners-Lee mentioned a few essential ideas about the future of WWW, such as:

  • Bottom-up design. “Instead of code being written and controlled by a small group of experts, it was developed in full view of everyone, encouraging maximum participation and experimentation.”

  • Decentralization. “No permission is needed from a central authority to post anything on the web, there is no central controlling node, and so no single point of failure.”


The term "Web3" was coined in 2014 by Gavin Wood, founder of Polkadot and a co-founder of Ethereum. Gavin described web3 as a decentralized online ecosystem based on blockchain. Blockchain solves one of the most painful problems of web 2.0—the problem of a stateless HTTP protocol. Blockchain acts as a native state layer that allows it to hold and transfer users’ states (your history of browsing, favorites, online purchases, and other available data) independent of tech companies. Think of it as a natural extension to web internet protocol that enables users to keep their history and current state without the need to store local cookies (information about your web session). Once a user connects to the internet from a new device, the system will automatically transfer their state.


Solution architecture in web 2.0 vs web 3.0. Image: https://www.theblockresearch.com/
Solution architecture in web 2.0 vs web 3.0. Image: https://www.theblockresearch.com/