Have you heard about Web 3.0 and Web3? Online articles use the terms interchangeably. But are Web3 and Web 3.0 the same thing?
I admit it, I’ve tuned out the hype. My disinterest probably stems from the way the promise of social media turned into a tangle of misinformation. However, established companies are starting to develop products labelled with Web 3.0 and Web3. Maybe it’s time to figure out what’s happening.
Let’s start with some definitions.
The term Web3 describes the concept for a decentralized Internet [Wikipedia]. The term was coined by Gavin Wood, Ethereum co-founder and Polkadot founder. He believes that we shouldn’t entrust our information to organizations. He believes modern companies have “income models that require they knows as much about people as possible, [and] the potential for covert misuse is difficult to overestimate.” [2014 Coinbase article, republished 2022].
These are the main components of Web3:
- A publication system. This is to publish and download information to share.
- A messaging system. This allows peers to communicate, update and self-organize, and publish information.
- A consensus engine. This will provide a means of agreeing to rules of interaction.
- A front end. This is the browser and user interface.
This is the web3 foundation‘s mission:
Our mission is to nurture cutting-edge applications for decentralized web software protocols. Our passion is delivering Web 3.0, a decentralized and fair internet where users control their own data, identity and destiny.
The Web3 foundation is built on the Polkadot blockchain. However, Polkadot can apparently support cross-chain composability.
The term Web 3.0 describes the concept of an Internet built around machine-readability and interoperability standards [Wikipedia]. Sometimes, Web 3.0 is referred to as the “Semantic Web”. The Semantic Web has had many other nicknames, because it was introduced by Tim Berners Lee twenty years ago!
An article in the February 2021 issue of Communications of the ACM (the journal of the Association for Computing Machines) points out that there still is not an a working “semantic web”. Further, the article points out that there is not even agreement about what the semantic web *is*. The article describes the semantic web as a field of study.
This is how the field is being approached:
- Enhancing the current world wide web. The current world wide web is built for human use. However, the semantic web combines machine-understandable information with intelligent agents (services). Many types of metadata is what creates machine-understandable.
- Establishing efficient ways to share data. Is it possible to share, discover, integrate, and reuse data if the traditional web is not the transmission vehicle? To me, this sounds like IoT and Edge use cases.
- Investigating the applications of data sharing. Existing applications include ontologies, linked data, and knowledge graphs.
Doesn’t this sound like Machine Learning and AI? Indeed, semantic web conferences have been including AI tracks for years.
Are Web3 and Web 3.0 the same thing?
Overall, it doesn’t appear that Web3 and Web 3.0 are the same thing. Essentially, Web3 is another Semantic Web “area of practice””. The Web3 foundations even says that is their goal:
Our passion is delivering 3.0, a decentralized and fair internet where users control their own data, identity, and destiny.
Web3 introduces some novel components:
- The delivery mechanism of Web3 is blockchain.
- Web3 is anti-establishment. They trust the community to be egalitarian.
What about the Metaverse?
The other hot topic right now is the Metaverse. Is this Web 3.0 or Web3? The Metaverse Primer defines it this way:
The metaverse is a massively scaled and interoperable network of real-time rendered 3D virtual worlds which can be experienced synchronously and persistently by an effectively unlimited number of users with an individual sense of presence, and with continuity of data, such as identity, history, entitlements, objects, communications, and payments.
In other words, the metaverse will be “a simulated digital environment that uses augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR), and blockchain, along with concepts from social media, to create spaces for rich user interaction mimicking the real world” (xrtoday).
If you think this sounds like science fiction, you’d be right! That’s where the name comes from.
Cautions to Web 3.0 and Web 3
One of the main cautions to the Semantic Web have been about privacy and security. Certainly, these dangers apply to any technology that manipulates data. In the 2018 literature revue Privacy, security, and policies: A review of problems and solutions with semantic web technologies [available online], a connection was made with the idea of enabling the sharing of datasets and privacy issues. It was worth reading this lit review for the security articles alone.
Additionally, this literature revue predicts that widespread use of linked data could be part of the solution. Web3 was created for this reason! Backers believe using widely shared blockchain-backed information will solve the privacy issues, because you’ll be able to prove who owns a particular piece of data.
This was a very hard post to write, since the terms are similar but the technologies are different. Also, it was hard to separate fact from hype on this topic. So, if you disagree with anything I’ve written, please leave a comment.
One thing I’m sure of: Web 3.0, Web3, and even the Metaverse are indications that the “digital transformation” we talked about for the last few years is finally here. It’s going to be interesting to see where all this lands in another five years!