This article was authored by Jouko Ahvenainen, and was originally posted on telecomasia.net
Since Web 2.0 became important, many companies have wanted and claimed to create Web 3.0. The label has mainly been artificial. For example, the semantic web has been a candidate for this role, but we haven’t really seen it or what it might mean in practice. Now we again have a strong candidate for this role: a blockchain-based distributed web.
Web 2.0 means especially more interactive web services, user generated content and social media. It changed internet services significantly from the broadcast model to real interaction between people. Those interactive social media type services now make up a significant part of web services usage time. We can really say Web 2.0 was a change and it was easy to notice this change, although Web 2.0 hasn’t really had an official specification.
The problem with Web 3.0 has been that many companies and people have tried to use it for marketing purposes. It is nice to include it into a business plan covering how to disrupt internet services and pave the way into a new phase. Despite its wide use in marketing, users and service providers haven’t been able to see these changes.
The Web 3.0 label has been put on Semantic Web where computers can understand content, always-on mobile internet, or virtual world web services. The World Wide Web Consortium, W3C, has even created a Semantic Web standard. But it is probably based more on technological dreams than what the users really see and can use today.
Together with blockchain we now see more services and, at least plans, to offer more distributed services. Cryptocurrencies are, of course, an example of these. They are based on models that don’t require a centralized organization or technology to manage and authorize transactions.
Now we see more evidence that these models are not only for cryptocurrencies. Smart contracts are bringing distributed models for many kinds of transactions from buying real estate to managing digital rights for movies and songs. These services are not only going to change web services, but also the role of central ‘authorities’ like notaries, banks and rights owners. We can even see they might challenge governmental services and the role of governments.
At the same time, we see development towards more distributed data on two levels, physically and logically. Physically distributed data means, for example, a local device with AI functionality keeping data locally for several reasons like availability, latency and privacy (read more on MWC2018 on distributed models). An example is self-driving cars that must be independent enough. The logically distributed data means that, for example, users can own their own data, although it is physically in centralized clouds.
This year privacy issues and the rise of blockchain have made distributed data models more relevant. We don’t necessarily need a centralized social media that keeps our data, we can have a service that only shows the data we wish to share to our friends, but we keep it on our own servers (that can be on our account in a cloud). We don’t need a bank or hospital to retain our data, if we can keep our own verified data and use it in services when needed, granting and revoking access on a need-to-know basis.
Timing is always the difficult part to predict. We can be quite sure; the distributed Web is coming. But it is hard to give an exact timetable for it. A breakthrough always requires that several things click at the same time, like availability of technology, the price of technology and user experience. The final breakthrough then might need some lucky coincidences, like one very successful service. After that changes can happen truly rapidly.
It is more difficult to say if the distributed web is the Web 3.0. And does it really matter? Logically, Web 3.0 should be any big change in the internet services that comes next and really changes the user experience, business models and dominating internet services. In that way, the distributed web is the most promising candidate at the moment for that role.