Could blockchain technology become something more than a basis for digital money and applications for various activities, from commerce to governance? Is it possible that the entire Internet will be based on distributed ledger technology?
Today, there is a lot of conversations about different concepts of Web 3.0 – after all, the Internet is evolving, and many of the technologies widely implemented only a decade ago are no longer able to meet the rapidly increasing demands of users. Moreover, people are already talking about Web 4.0, looking further into, as it turns out, the not-so-distant future.
Let’s first deal with the definitions.
From the early 1990s to the 2000s, the Internet was based on the concept of Web 1.0 (although then there wasn’t even a concept yet, it was just the Web, aka WWW). Today, many would have trouble even imagining what the Internet looked like originally. Firstly, it was slow, and secondly, it was focused on passive content consumption. There were no social networks, no streaming, you couldn’t even post a comment on a website to be displayed on the screen. Users were able to view the content, but not interact with it.
After 2003, the Internet quickly rose to a new level, reaching the practical implementation of the Web 2.0 concept. By then it was already the Internet as we know it today: allowing visitors not only to view the output of the website, but also to interact with it by creating and uploading user-generated content. That is also when E-commerce and a great variety of other services and platforms were in full swing. Web 2.0 has made the Internet more democratic and user-friendly.
Web 3.0 is what we can see coming today. Whereas a typical Web 2.0 site provides essentially the same content to all visitors, next-generation platforms use machine learning and artificial intelligence to tailor site content to the preferences of each user.
The first ones to use this were, of course, the developers of e-commerce solutions. Modern e-commerce platforms use machine learning to offer you things that others usually buy after purchasing the same product as you.
Web 3.0 makes websites and applications interoperable and intelligent, relying on machine learning and big data analytics to quickly deliver relevant and personalized information to Internet users who can access services from every device connected to the network.
To sum up, Web 1.0 is the first version of the Internet, in which users act exclusively as passive consumers of information. Web 2.0 is the current concept of the Web, which provides users with the ability to log in and unleash their creativity any way they see fit. And Web 3.0 is the next stage in the development of the Internet that involves solutions being implemented right now.
Though Web 3.0 is also a term that is often referred to in various blockchain projects. This is due to our expectations: The Web 3.0 network should not only initially provide decentralized and unregulated data exchange, but also solve the biggest problem from the previous versions – the collection of personal data by private networks. Furthermore, different financial solutions should not be implemented as countless add-ons, serving as some kind of crutches, but integrated into the very structure of Web 3.0.
That means, ideally, that the basis for Web 3.0 as we would like to see it should be the blockchain.
However, as is already pretty evident, that is not happening. The creation of a more democratic, user-oriented and decentralized Internet is being carried out with the use of old technologies. For example, the simplest Web 3.0 implementation can be seen in the Brave browser. Unlike Chrome and other centralized browsers, Brave refuses to track its users and automatically blocks ads, while also allowing you anonymity in just two clicks by enabling Tor.
So it is quite clear now that we should rather turn our attention to Web 4.0, which is also just around the corner, and with which users will be able to access several decentralized applications (DApps) through blockchain platforms. Any solution based on Web 4.0 will significantly increase control over data and at the same time improve security (since there are no single points of failure in decentralized networks). In addition, due to the nature of blockchain technology, it doesn’t require intermediaries, which makes the network more efficient.
The Polkadot project is currently working on a similar advanced implementation of decentralized Internet. The project has developed a decentralized protocol that acts as a bridge between all types of blockchain networks, including public, open, closed, private and authorized chains, allowing for data (and tokens) to be transferred and applications to be deployed across all connected networks.
As a result, Polkadot now has the potential to create an interoperable, highly scalable and secure blockchain protocol – the foundation for decentralized Internet Web 4.0.
Nevertheless, this is still only a project in developement, and it has enough competitors. Some people (quite a few of them, actually) believe that implementating a new concept of the Internet is only possible with the Ethereum blockchain. In this case, the web would be completely decentralized, and all DApps created on top of it would be open, with none of the parties able to control the data. Instead of relying on traditional financial networks, all transactions would then take place through a single universal currency – ETH.
Others, in turn, point out that creating a “single cryptocurrency for all” is ridiculous and utopian, and the bandwidth of the Ethereum blockchain will not be nearly enough to support the whole Internet. That requires a much higher speed blockchains, such as Solana, Ripple or Tezos. But then the question still remains: Could even the fastest blockchain handle all the huge amounts of data passing through the WWW today? And isn’t it better to create a kind of evolutionary hybrid solution – a combination of the current structure with blockchain-based solutions for different needs?
In any case, we can say with confidence that Web 4.0 will no longer be Internet sites and web pages marked up with the semantic web. There will simply be no need for them. In the new web, each user will be their own site, or rather, a node of one or more clusters of a global peer-to-peer network, as well as the owner of the content they create. And the browser – now a semantic browser – won’t be used to navigate between millions of pages, but to search and present fragments of a single semantic cryptographically protected graph, distributed on the same user nodes. In such a meta-network, cryptocurrencies will be the main and, perhaps, the only means of payment initially integrated into Web 4.0 in the form of DeFi solutions.