Headline: What is Web 3.0?


Body:  If I hear about Web 3.0 from another pointy-headed geek, just one more time, I’m going to find where they live and fantasize about killing them in their sleep… or at least sending them glitter bombs.  But, my cantankerous nature aside, this is very important, as Web 3.0 is where we are aiming, as a society.   So, how do we get there?  How will we know that we have reached it?   What advantages can we predict?   What dangers might we face?   There are a lot of questions.  Beyond question, though, NFTs, cryptocurrency and other items will reach much closer to their fullest expression as Web 3.0 evolves.

OK, I might have been asleep, when was Web 1.0 and Web 2.0?

In Web 1.0 (roughly in the early 1990s) HTML was started, along with some of the organizational concepts like URL and HTTP were created.   Netscape Navigator was the highest tech in browsers, and e-mail was a real treat.

In Web 2.0 (roughly 2000 to today) user generated content became a really big deal.  Ever read fan fiction?  This is a part of Web 2.0.     Social media sites have begun to be very important.   Interaction seems to be the name of the game.   As the pandemic started, the FAANG stocks went crazy as Zoom and many other apps became central to our lives.  Now, the Web 2.0 is revolutionary enough, many people ser using it to report to work in the gig economy.

In Web 3.0, the keyword becomes participation.  In Web 2.0, there was a smallish group of people called coders who were behind the construction of each website and experience.  In the Web 3.0 world, anybody should be able to put up a website and coding and linguistic capabilities should be almost irrelevant.  Permissions needed are very few, and artificial intelligence becomes very important.  The Internet of Things (IoT) is also  part of Web 3.0   In one appliance, you can get an internet-enabled fridge, and this can e-mail you a list of what you need, when you get to the grocery store.   An internet-enabled toaster might toast the  weather forecast on your bread in the morning.   The possibilities are endless.

OK, Web 3.0 sounds really cool!!

Yes, it does sound really cool, but, cool down a little, for there are potential pitfalls as well.  Do I think that our computers will act together in a conspiracy, and like HAL try to kill us all?    No, this is unlikely.  But, there are still potential problems.   Most broadly, the computers could learn our leanings so well that we only get information that agrees with our opinions, even if the Truth is contrary.  This would make the echo-chamber problem of today’s media much, much worse.  I think it quite valuable for our opinions to be challenged, in a civil manner.  On the more felonious track, computers could decide that the “safest course” would be to do one thing, when for humans, it is unsafe.  (Assume that there are flood waters.  The computer might decide that, to save itself, and thus control, certain gates should be opened, even if it endangers a nearby senior community.)  Sometimes, it is optimal for the computer to control because response time needs to be very fast, and we have to be able to know when to override this response.  It’s a tricky thing.

Further, as there is no central executive authority, it is exceedingly easy to launch Denial of Service (DoS) attacks on individual websites.  If there was an intermediary, it could notice the repeated targeting, and take that node offline until the problem was fixed.

The thing to remember here, is that Web 2.0 is becoming Web 3.0 before our very eyes.   The transformation is rather slow in many ways, and the outward appearance of the websites will likely not change.   But, the coding behind the scenes has changed materially.

I have heard of the Semantic Web, is this the same as Web 3.0?

The Semantic Web was envisioned in 2001 to include natural language processing.   Web 3.0 adds a significant amount of artificial intelligence and uses the blockchain model as a replacement for a central authority.  We can easily see this today.   The Bitcoin and Ethereum currencies run on their own independent blockchains, maintained by the people who use the networks.   As far as AI goes, the best example I can give you is TikTok.  When first starting, the system asks you to check off boxes related to which types of content you would like to see.   But, the level of priority is not set by you.  As it serves you hundreds of video clips, the AI system takes note of what kind of content you “like” which content you watch to the end, and which pieces of content you comment upon.  It then gives you more of this kind of content, and your other choices are presented to you less.  (TikTok knows me WAY too well, serving up mainly videos of dogs being cute in families, and the occasional bikini-clad young woman.  It even picked up on my political leanings, and will prioritize a very active poster, who espouses opinions I am likely to agree with.)

Web 3.0 and its connection to cryptocurrency.

The point of cryptocurrency is to find a way around having a central authority in charge of the transactions.   That is why it is part of a movement called decentralized finance.  Web 3.0 is very similar in its attempt to allow for the broadest participation without need for a centralized authority.  In brief, if you agree to help maintain the system (e.g. being a miner or playing some other role) your participation in and support of the cryptocurrency is rewarded by earning cryptocurrency.  It’s quite easy for me to imagine a system in which individuals could develop d’apps to help in their DeFi experiences, and people would individually pay them cryptocurrency in return for the use of their programming.  In the past, when one would dig up physical gold, you would take it to the assayer’s office.   This person would certify the gold as 100% genuine and provide certification of the weight.    Thus, the reputation of the assayer was central to their success: one public whiff of being unscrupulous, and they would be out of the game.    It is not hard for me to imagine a Web 3.0 future where people and their reputations (good or bad) are represented by their NFTs.  The NFTs that have always been paired with truthful, factual information will become trusted and relied upon.

Another thing to consider is that 3-D graphics (even in the mobile sphere) are improving each day.   This will have huge implications for Web 3.0.   For instance, you might buy a Tesla if you can pay cryptocurrency, after having hand manipulated a projection of it.   In this way, you can alter the paint color, kind of roof or any other option.  Imagine how successful you could be in clothes shopping online.  Right now, it’s pretty much a guessing game to see if a pair of pants will fit.   But, if your phone can scan you, a truthful avatar can be made, and the clothes you are considering can be virtually “tried on.”  It’s kind of fun to theorize these things, but they would all be game changers.

What’s the chance Web3 is just an over-hyped fantasy?

Just to be fair, there are quite a lot of specialists who refer to Web 3.0 as “vaporware.” (This means a kind of software that sounds great and promises a lot and yet, never  achieves its potential.  James Grimmelman is a professor at Cornell who studies computer science and law, and seems to be one of these scholars.  He opines that if one of the purpose of Web 3.0 is eliminate any centralized authority, the blockchain retains all of the challenges related to the central authority.  He suggests that blockchains might be in the toolkit of Web 3.0, but it will not be the steel or rock underlying it.  He concluded that as of now, Web 3.0 is an aspirational statement.

The Verdict.

“Every new advent of the web is at first baffling,”   And this was said by a uniquely well-educated computer scientist.  So, you can just imagine the effect upon people who are not tech experts.  One computer scientist went even further.    “To the average person, it does sounds like voodoo,” said Olga Mack, entrepreneur and blockchain lecturer at University of California, Berkeley. “But when you press a button to switch on lights, do you understand how the electricity is made? You don’t have to know how electricity works to understand the benefits. Same is true of the blockchain.”  So, given these opinions of experts, what are we to conclude?    Well, I think we can conclude that people are aiming to achieve a more participative Web 3.0, but the timeline is uncertain.  More to the point, the timing is most probably going to be diffused over many attributes.  (The toaster I spoke of?   I saw that in an in-flight magazine offered by a major national airline.  It’s here NOW!!)  Other things like the crypocurrency  disbursement engines will likely take a little bit longer to develop, and that’s probably as it should be.  What do you think?   Remember, participation is a key attribute of Web 3.0.


Web 2.0 and Web 3.0 Definitions (investopedia.com)

What is Web 3.0: A beginner’s guide to the decentralized internet of the future (cointelegraph.com)

What Is Web 3.0? (forbes.com)

People are talking about Web3. Is it the Internet of the future or just a buzzword? : NPR

Editor’s Note: Please note that the information contained herein is meant only for general education: This should not be construed as Tax Advice.   Personal attributes could make a material difference in the advice given, so, before taking action, please consult your tax advisor or CPA.


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