Web 3.0: The Decentralized Internet of The Future
To date, few innovations beat the convenience and value the internet affords billions of people worldwide every day.
In its early days, the internet was represented by static HTML pages and Internet Relay Chats akin to electronic walls of text that only allowed limited interactivity. Today, we have dynamic social media websites, and interactive applications that have brought about dramatic changes to the world.
Web 2.0 vs. Web 3.0
Although the current version of the internet (Web 2.0) boasts an active user base of over half of the world’s population, it is subject to centralized control, heavy surveillance, and exploitative advertising by multinational corporations.
Web 3.0 is the next generation of this technology that promises to bring back Sir Tim Berners’s original vision of an open, trustless, and permissionless network. Let us take a brief look at the history of the internet to understand the foundations for a new Web 3.0.
Evolution of The Internet: A Brief History
At the very beginning, Web 1.0 was nothing more than a private network of connected computers sharing information. Early users of this internet had to ask for permission to connect or be online. However, Berners-Lee, the inventor of the World Wide Web, quickly realized that the internet’s full potential would be best achieved through a platform accessible by anyone.
This began a shift towards Web 2.0. Creative and collaborative innovations such as Netscape and AltaVista sprung up in the form of browsers that allowed users to access multiple sites. Instead of boring static HTML pages, suddenly, anyone could create interactive websites with any content they wished to upload. As speeds, servers, and developers’ skills improved, this gave birth to new types of online applications such as the social media or video game streaming sites that we are accustomed to today.
However, even with the incredible progress of Web 2.0, Berners-Lee’s vision of a “Semantic Web” where information is intelligently delivered to the user with the help of machine learning and artificial intelligence has yet to be realized. Web 3.0 is the proposed next iteration of the internet where centralized multinational corporations do not own data. Instead, all users share fair and equal access to personalized information based on context.
Building Blocks of Web 3.0
The move towards Web 3.0 is a leap into an internet where data is personalized and understood conceptually and contextually by machines. It is also a move towards a decentralized internet experience where applications give individual users rightful ownership of their data, taking back control from centralized entities. Technologies such as Blockchain, the Internet of Things, Edge Computing, Artificial Intelligence, and Machine Learning will all serve as building blocks to facilitate this move.
Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning
Artificial Intelligence (AI) is a branch of computer science that seeks to create computer programs capable of intelligent and autonomous decision making. Already, current machine learning standards and AI are proving to be powerful and capable of handling difficult tasks. AI will help machines better understand the needs of the user to offer personalized services.
Significant progress has been made in the creation of intelligent systems that can thrive in a Web 3.0 environment. A few examples include search results customized to a user’s preferences based on previous searches, suggestions, and overall browsing history. AI will further enable semantic search engines capable of differentiating between keywords based on context. For instance, when ‘Jaguar’ means the car brand and when it means the animal.
Besides intelligent search results, AI will also enable internet applications to be device agnostic, meaning capable of running across multiple types of hardware devices and software. Different servers can communicate with AI to decide the most user-friendly or effective version of an application to run for every specified device. Therefore, users will be able to enjoy customized applications depending on the device they have and their geographical location.
Decentralized Storage Technologies
The rise of Blockchain and other distributed ledger technologies will enable a framework for a decentralized, transparent, and trustless Web 3.0. Blockchain, for instance, will be significant in giving users sovereignty over their data. Censorship, surveillance, and centralization will disappear as legacy data centers become supplanted by IoT and Edge Computing (a computing methodology where data is stored locally).
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The cumulative resources of interconnected devices through IoT in the form of phones, appliances, and computers, will give centralized servers a run for their money as data storage becomes increasingly cheaper. Instead of paying to access your data on a centralized application, users will barter and sell their data on a peer-to-peer format without losing ownership, thus giving rise to an emerging data economy.
Challenges to a Web 3.0
For a truly intelligent and semantically capable internet to exit, a system would have to read and understand every single word in existence. Furthermore, it would have to overcome the vagueness and the inconsistencies that plague all languages. This seems like an insurmountable task, even for the most advanced AIs we have today. In addition, there is much information or data out there that is purposefully misleading or incorrect. The system must have a way to recognize and filter these instances out. Teaching a machine to learn what is factual and what isn’t will be particularly difficult considering that we often cannot even agree that what constitutes a basic fact.
What The Future Holds for Web 3.0
AI-driven services, decentralized data architectures, and an Edge Computing infrastructure are the cornerstones of Web 3.0. With the advent of blockchain technology, machine learning, and IoT, the world is ready to embrace an internet where machines interact and share data without a third party. With time, Web 3.0 will bring about a fairer internet. Users will not only get personalized information but will also get back control over their data. This will likely escort us away from the exploitative internet full of centralized profit-seeking entities that we have today. Though there are many challenges ahead, and it may take a considerable time to make substantial progress, it is encouraging to know that there are many experts working towards this goal.