Web 3.0, also known as the third-generation internet, is the next evolution of the World Wide Web. It provides a data-driven Semantic Web employing a machine-based understanding of data with the objective of developing a more intelligent and connected web experience for users.
The Web of today is static and unable to adjust to the individual needs of each person experiencing it. Web 3.0 promises to be more dynamic and interactive. By implementing artificial intelligence and blockchain technology, it will redefine the web experience with structural changes to ensure democratization across all aspects of the internet.
In Web 3.0, data is stored securely and distributed across many devices, removing the need for centralized servers. Such a design also reduces the risks of massive data leaks because data is no longer centrally stored — making it more resilient to compromise.
Data Growth and the Path to Web 3.0
What is Web 3.0? Is it the future of the internet? If you look for a Web 3.0 definition you probably won’t find a clear and unique explanation. In 2006, Tim Berners-Lee said, “People keep asking what Web 3.0 is. Maybe when you’ve got an overlay of scalable vector graphics — everything rippling and folding and looking misty — on Web 2.0 and access to a Semantic Web integrated across a huge data space, you’ll have access to an unbelievable data resource…”.
To understand how much web data is being generated consider that consumer IP traffic will grow three-fold from 2017 to 2022 at a compound annual growth rate of 27%. Globally, consumer IP traffic will reach 332.7 EB per month by 2022. In 2020 alone, 2.5 quintillion bytes of data was generated daily, and 40% of that was machine generated. By 2025, there will be 152,200 IoT devices connecting to the internet per minute.
While it’s undeniable that the data volumes are growing faster than ever before (and we will continue to create new content to be managed every second), the debate about a Web 3.0 definition and its connections with the digital universe of data is still open.
Web 1.0: Static, Ready-Only
This first version of the internet is acknowledged as the first stage of the world wide web evolution. It is characterized as a read-only web experience. Users can read information on web pages driven by web browsers, HTML, HTTP and URL technology. The experience is highly decentralized, and there are no search engines. Instead, Web 1.0 content is static and hyperlinked together. Web 1.0 is also referred to as the Syntactic Web, and the user’s role is limited.
Web 2.0: Centralized By Giants
As the second generation of the world wide web, Web 2.0 is known as the read-write Web or the social Web because it facilitates interaction between users and sites. Driven by mobile, social networks and cloud technology, Web 2.0 users can read and write content on websites and applications and distribute it between sites.
A small group of big tech companies like Meta (previously Facebook), YouTube and Twitter own most of the user data associated with Web 2.0. The data is highly centralized with these tech giants. This centralization of data (and power) and monetization of users is spurring the need for Web 3.0.
Web 3.0 Definition and Features
Web 3.0 is highly decentralized, driven by machine learning and artificial intelligence, and leverages blockchain technology. The result is real-world human communication. Users retain control over their data and content, and they can sell or trade their data without losing ownership, risking privacy or relying on intermediaries. In this business model, users can log into a website without having their internet identity tracked.
Key to the innovation in Web 3.0 is the digitization of assets via tokenization. Tokenization converts assets and rights into a digital representation, or token, on a blockchain network. Cryptocurrency and fungible tokens are forms of digital currency that can easily be exchanged across networks, driving a new business model that democratizes finance and commerce. Non fungible tokens (NFTs) are units of data that represent unique assets such as avatars, digital art, or trading cards, that can be owned by users and monetized for their own gain.
It’s relatively easy to identify the major differences between Web 1.0 and Web 2.0. With the former, users passively consult web pages and, generally, do not generate their own content. With the latter, users generate content and interact with sites (and each other) through social media platforms, forums and more. With the Web 3.0 generation of the internet, the differences are not as clearly defined.
The term Web 3.0, coined by reporter John Markoff of The New York Times in 2006, refers to a new evolution of the Web which includes specific innovations and practices. Below are eight main features that can help us define Web 3.0:
- Semantic Web: The next evolution of the Web involves the Semantic Web. The Semantic Web improves the abilities of web technologies to generate, share and connect content through search and analysis by understanding the meaning of words rather than by keywords or numbers.
- Artificial Intelligence: By combining semantic capabilities with natural language processing, computers can understand information on a human-like level to provide faster and more relevant results. In doing so, they become more intelligent and better satisfy the needs of users.
- 3D Graphics: Three-dimensional design is used extensively in websites and services in Web 3.0. Museum guides, computer games, eCommerce, geospatial contexts and more are all common examples of this.
- Connectivity: With Web 3.0, information is more connected thanks to semantic metadata. As a result, the user experience evolves into a new level of connectivity that leverages all available information.
- Ubiquity: Internet content and services can be accessed anywhere at any time via any number of devices, rather than exclusively via computers and smartphones. Web 2.0 is already ubiquitous in many ways, but the growth of IoT devices will take it to new levels.
- Blockchain: With blockchain technology, user data is protected and encrypted. This prevents large companies from controlling and/or using users’ personal data for their gain.
- Decentralized: Decentralized data networks store data within a peer-to-peer interconnection. Users maintain ownership over their data and digital assets and are able to log in securely over the internet without being tracked.
- Edge Computing: Web 3.0 relies on the advance of edge computing in which apps and data are processed at the network edge on devices such as mobile phones, laptops, appliances, sensors and even smart cars.
How Web 3.0 Can Change Our Lives
These features bring us closer to a Web 3.0 definition. With the addition of semantics and machine learning, Web 3.0 is an evolution in which computers can understand the meaning behind information. They can learn what you are interested in, help find what you want faster and understand the relationship between things.
Now, let’s look at an example that brings these eight features together:
In Web 3.0, while driving, you can ask your automotive assistant a question: “I would like to watch a romantic movie and eat Japanese food.” The search engine embedded in the car assistant provides you with a personalized response that considers your location, suggesting the closest cinema that matches your request and a good Japanese restaurant by automatically consulting the reviews on social media. Then it might even present a 3D menu from the restaurant on the display.
Web 3.0 is no longer a dream but a reality (at least in many cases). In fact, it is cognitive technology like that of expert.ai that is making this all possible. Understanding language is integral to so many facets of the Web. By making semantics and natural language processing central components to it, the possibilities are endless.
Originally published in January 2017.