The transition to a Semantic Web is underway and blockchain technology is playing an important role.
By Billy Endres
Since its inception in 1990, the Internet has evolved from Web1 – static, read-only sites with little user interaction – to Web2, dynamic read-write pages where advertising is revenue and user information is sold. like a commodity.
However, times are changing and more businesses are choosing to operate remotely, data and privacy are becoming more of a concern, and blockchain technologies are advancing rapidly.
This is leading to a change in the way we use the internet and the development of a new and improved web: Web3.
What is Web3, what role will blockchain play in its development, and what can we expect for the future of the Internet?
The internet today
Web2 is what we know and use today. Social networks, blogs and dynamic content have become the norm. Content is distributed worldwide every second and information is available at the touch of a button.
While the past decade of growth has undeniably been exponential, there are still many flaws that need to be ironed out.
There is an overreliance on large corporations monopolizing parts of the internet. Cloud storage companies and social networks own our data, which can be deleted at will or sold to advertisers.
Global availability is a major concern and companies have chosen to prioritize profit over people. First world countries view the Internet as a right rather than a privilege. However, more than a billion people, more than 10% of the population, do not have access to the Internet.
Although there is a long way to go and many issues remain unaddressed, progress towards a new and democratized Internet is underway.
The future of the internet
Web3 is often considered a crypto-specific term popularized by Polkadot (DOT) founder Gavin Wood. It is an expression used to describe a new Internet of ownership and decentralization.
While this is a big part of the new internet revolution, the concept has been around for far longer than blockchain technology, dating back to the dawn of the internet itself.
In a 2001 article by Internet founder Sir Tim Berners-Lee, he describes his vision for a Semantic Web.
“The Semantic Web will allow machines to understand semantic documents and data, not human speech and writing.”
“Properly designed, the Semantic Web can help the evolution of human knowledge as a whole.
Although Mr. Lee’s vision has yet to be fully realized, it is widely shared and has been championed by many over the past two decades.
It was adapted to the idea that the web is democratized and decentralized, bypassing the monopolistic silos of the internet to put ownership of information, assets and data back into the hands of the people.
While it’s unlikely there will be an overnight transition from Web2 to the Semantic Web or Web3, things are moving in the right direction. And blockchain technology may be the deciding factor that changes the internet as we know it.
Blockchain and Web3
Blockchain is generally interpreted as cryptocurrencies, such as Bitcoin and Litecoin, which act as digital currencies.
Many people are unaware of how far digital payments, blockchain and decentralized technologies extend.
Projects such as Stratos (STOS), Filecoin (FIL), and Arweave (AR) are developing decentralized storage and cloud infrastructure with the goal of returning ownership of online assets to their creators.
Using technologies such as IPFS, users can download and access data quickly and securely, regardless of file size.
With edge computing and thousands of widely distributed nodes acting as microservers, compute and storage are brought closer to where data is generated.
This allows for better connectivity in the developing world and true decentralization, bypassing centralized servers and data hubs prone to downtime and outages.
Non-fungible tokens (NFTs) are still in their infancy and have been popularized primarily as digital, tradable art. However, the potential use cases for NFTs go further.
Technology has advanced rapidly, while asset ownership and verification have been left behind. Signing legally binding documents with pen and paper is very old. Identity fraud and online theft are widespread and seemingly unavoidable.
NFTs have the potential to solve these problems and many more. Blockchain-based projects are working hard to develop NFT use cases for issues such as voting, health records and identity for developing countries, intellectual property, supply chain management – the list is long.
While digital art may be the first iteration of NFTs, its technology has a long way to go.
Cryptocurrency wallets are a way to transfer digital assets between parties. Users have full access and control over their cryptocurrencies via public and private keys.
Again, this is probably just the beginning.
Projects like Status (SNT) are developing digital wallets with additional features, including encrypted messaging and decentralized Web3 browsers.
These projects have the potential to compete with social media companies and remove the need for ads and data collection as a source of revenue.
Users could own and control not only their crypto, but also their private information, identification, and tokenized assets, such as property.
These are some examples of use cases for blockchain technology and the role it will play in Web3 and a truly decentralized Semantic Web.
Where to go from here?
It is unclear how far the idea of Web3 and the Semantic Web will go and what is yet to come.
If you had come up with the idea of carpooling, artificial intelligence and blockchain platforms in the early 90s, your thoughts would probably have been written off. Proposals and potential use cases for Web3 will likely receive a similar response.
Trial and error will play a major role – some projects will succeed and others will fall through.
However, with online businesses and businesses operating remotely constantly developing, adaptations and advancements will inevitably continue to suit consumers, filling gaps we never knew existed.
On top of that, more and more people are starting to recognize flaws in its operations. Data and personal information are sold like commodities, individual companies own significant parts of the Internet and generate billions of dollars in profits a year, but over a billion people still do not have access to the Internet.
But times are changing: blockchain and decentralized technologies are quickly being seen as a necessary piece of the puzzle for the future of the internet.
Web3 is more than a cryptocurrency. It’s what we do with it, and it has the potential to change the world for the greater good.
The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.