One of Web3’s promises is to give back power and choice to users, to represent a more democratic Internet era. But which features live up to that promise?
Web 1.0 is the web of static information, with creators on one side and readers on the other. Web 2.0 is characterized by the advent of social networks and centralized services, mainly provided by companies such as Google, Amazon, Meta and Apple. Users have tools for creating and sharing free content in exchange for their data. It is the Internet we know today, the model of which has gradually been installed.
Web 3.0 or “web three” promises to provide at least the same creation and sharing functionality as web 2.0, but with the ability to extract value from it. A version of the internet owned by the user and an autonomous economy. We also speak of “user generated web”.
This can be seen as a paradigm shift in the use of the Internet, an infrastructure that already exists and is very widely used. But how could Web3 and this change make the Internet more democratic?
Data ownership and identity
Blockchain can challenge the idea of digital identity and ownership. Today, what everyone produces on the “social” platforms Linkedin, Facebook, Instagram… is stored on those same platforms. You must log in to access your data and content and relinquish ownership of your information, photos, videos, tweets, etc.
In a Web3 model, the user has direct access to the blockchain, through a wallet (electronic wallet), which contains the user’s data and goods: product content, personal data, digital assets, any artifacts obtained in games, video or metaverse-like experience spaces… This digital property is “transportable” from one platform to another, thanks in particular to NFTs.
The financialization of everything
Using today’s blockchain enables easier financialization of activities. Anyone can produce and monetize and monetize content by designing spaces and experiences on the web for other users, or simply tokenizing and monetizing their data.
A telling example is that of NFTs, which enable this type of model and allow artists who produce digital works or associate NFTs with physical works to monetize their work without a middleman. Also, smart contracts in NFTs can regulate royalty payments by automating them to protect makers.
The fact remains that NFTs are the subject of constant speculation these days and the fair remuneration of artists is reserved for the select few for now.
Inclusion and accessibility
One of the expected features of Web3 is inclusiveness. Today, 1.7 billion people in the world do not have access to financial services. Blockchain would enable people without a bank account to communicate financially.
Using unregulated cryptocurrencies would expose these potentially already financially vulnerable users to volatility, but future digital currencies, stablecoins, and central bank DeFi (decentralized finance) services offer the beginnings of an answer.
In addition to financial inclusivity, we can mention metaverse-type virtual exchange spaces that enable immersive experiences without discriminatory criteria (geographic or mobility, for example). The opportunity to visit a museum, in particular to attend a cultural or social event.
The essential condition for inclusion remains equal access to the infrastructures and access devices to the technologies that serve the Web 3 . However, the digital divide is real today.
The other expectation is accessibility, an essential feature for mass adoption. Making services easy to use and taking care of the user experience is one of the challenges of Web3.
The decentralization of the decision
The Web3 is based on the blockchain, which offers real benefits in terms of traceability, transparency and allows value to be exchanged between peers by placing trust in the technology. This makes it possible to create business models whose alignment of interests between equals is easy, thanks to smart contracts, and therefore without trusted third parties.
The decentralization of the decision is a strong mark of Web3 as it is backed by the blockchain. The idea of the internet as a common good to be shared, by proposing clear and immutable governance rules on the blockchain, allows anyone to participate in a company, an association or any other organization. Thanks to the DAO (Decentralized Autonomous Organization), the organizations want to be community-based and individuals can be rewarded for their contribution. Intended to be decentralized and disintermediated, Web3 allows parallel solutions to be created and made available to allow the individual to regain control over their internet use, placing them as the protagonist and contributor to the spaces they occupy.
Web3’s democratic potential lies in the ability for users to own and fund their data, in the promise of accessibility and inclusion, and in the ability of the individual to make and participate in decisions.
Mass adoption of the model would also mean a rapid break, led by a generation that wants to create a different world. This interruption can reduce dependence on large web and technology companies.
But can we call a system decentralized if the companies that develop and operate it are owned by funds and venture capital companies? Other trends suggest that an alternative could be called Web2.5 or Web5, based on a technology that allows users to store their data themselves.
In short, Web3 has not yet reached its final definition, and there are still significant barriers to overcome in order to move towards a more transparent and less centralized Internet model. Managing value sharing, scaling and interoperability are key challenges of this transformation and require technological and societal responses.
Author: Lina Bendifallah, senior consultant at Square Management