Web 3.0: The next paradigm shift
Christopher Attard, Head of Media Operations, writes about the next shift in market disruption
Newton’s third law states that every action has an equal and opposing reaction. When certain systems trend towards control and micro-management, other forces increase their efforts towards an equilibrium. This is true of the Internet’s evolution, where the last decade saw a fast-paced networking moving towards centralisation as a handful of companies secured their monopolies on Internet services, be it retail, cloud-based or otherwise.
The Web 2.0 paradigm shift brought with it a transition from static content to a dynamic, interoperable and collaborative medium. However, resulting the social media platforms, tech giants and web applications which once pushed the boundaries of what was thought possible established themselves as digital imperia that inadvertently threaten the ideals of the Internet.
This in turn sparked a Newtonian response that focuses on rebuilding vertical structures in today’s by reimagining the horizontal plane upon which they’re built. To a degree, the transition has already started in finance, with Bitcoin’s genesis blockchain being a response to restrictive currency practices and the 2008 global recession. While the jury is still out on whether Bitcoin will achieve mass adoption in its entirety, the Web 3.0 paradigm shift is positioned to do for the Internet what Bitcoin has done for money. Undoubtedly, naysayers, die-hard traditionalists and all those with a vested interest in maintaining the current system won’t go quietly into that good night, nor will they notice the ground shifting beneath their feat as young generations get older. Then again, tech journalists and experts have killed Bitcoin over 348 times – perhaps the 349th death sentence will be the final blow.
What is the Web 3.0?
At its core, the Web 3.0 is a collection of values attempting to make their way into technology. The goal is to restore individual sovereignty by re-asserting democratic values on the Internet through decentralisation. In fact, not only does this budding ecosystem aim to place control of information back to the individuals who create it, but it includes value as one of its essential pillars. Currently, payment processors are necessary intermediaries that bridge the gap between the world of digital and fiat currencies. As previously alluded to, such middlemen have their uses, but the evident downsides like Patreon’s controversial user bans and Paypal’s history of questionable conduct and successive lawsuits lend themselves to a growing yearning for alternatives.
Another consequence of centralisation is the prospect of Government interference and collusion. Back in September 2018, the European Parliament passed the Directive on Copyright in the Digital Single Market – dubbed the “anti-meme law” – which obliges Facebook, Youtube and Twitter to censor distribution of copyrighted content.
While the directive is focused on copyright law enforcement, opponents highlight the restrictive impact of legislation on the level of web-based service providers, harming free speech online. YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki states that “Article 13 threatens hundreds of thousands of jobs, European creators, businesses, artists and everyone they employ,” while European Parliament Member Julia Reda argues that state-enforced content control is designed to benefit “big media companies, with their waning control over distribution channels” only.
Why Web 3.0?
Unlike the last shift, the next move will not focus on expanding Internet functionality, but on horizontally restructuring the Internet. By leveraging the technology that underpins blockchain projects, Web 3.0 aims to brawl with the big three for ownership of the space.
To put things into perspective, almost all online services today are owned by the big three; Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure, and the search titan Google – the subsidiary arm of Alphabet. Similarly, Facebook boasts 2.23 billion users worldwide – over two thirds of the world’s 3.2 billion active Internet users. The undeniable benefits like reliability, efficiency and the swaths of services provided by these giants unfortunately come with a set of repercussions too. One such consequence occurred when Facebook’s data was used for voter manipulation in the widely cited Cambridge Analytica scandal, where a massive data breach exposed over 50 million Facebook accounts.
To sour the pond even further, Facebook’s recently changed algorithm, which by their own admission is meant to create “meaningful social interactions” wasn’t well-received either, to put it mildly. These series of events left a permanent stain on the social media giant’s reputation, propping up arguments about the giant’s declining U.S. millennial and gen Z population. Ironically, the ex-users instead flocked to Instagram, which has a distinctly different content algorithm, but which is still owned by Facebook.
Going down the speculative rabbit hole, this could lend credence to the idea that younger, tech savvy generations know all too well that their information is no longer their own on certain platforms. In addition, the mainstream prevalence of Facebook usage might make the platform unappealing to younger, more rebellious teens who have been given plenty of reasons to abstain from traditional social media use. Fast forward to 2019 and whispers of the Web 3.0 evolved into loud and clear voices, with new projects gunning for the next digital arms race yet again.
Projects to keep an eye on
Having just reached the 20-million download mark, the cryptocurrency-based Brave browser is the new kid on the block seeking to “fix the Internet” by taking standard user experience to the next level. Traditional web content monetisation methods involve exposing website viewers to overly intrusive adverts in order to cover managements costs and generate revenue. This in part explains the 30% influx in ad-blocking addons for browsers in 2017 alone. To get around this, Brave browser pays users using its native cryptocurrency, Basic Attention Token (BAT), should they choose to view adverts.
In the meantime, Waves platform released its version of its Web 3.0 Application Programming Interface (API), which marries a decentralisation layer together with the convenience of a centralised data point, stored under layers of encryption. Waves is focusing on three projects with mass adoption in mind; a decentralised voting platform, a social network and a Vostok enterprise network to rival Hyperledger.
As is certainly clear, a common theme around Web 3.0 projects is the importance of individual users over organisations. Following this train of thought, one can see the early kindling of this restructured web exemplified by decentralised platforms like Ethereum, Neo, EOS and the emerging DEX’s (Decentralised exchanges) gracing this reimagined concept. At the time of writing, these competing blockchains are working on scalability, network security, data ownership, dApp interoperability and permissionless blockchains. In truth, this all but ensure an eventual market disruption – but we’re not quite there yet.
An emerging ecosystem looking to overthrow the established order must first prove itself to be at least marginally better than its convenient rivals that dominate the web today. Only then will mass adoption be on the cards. To this end, the Malta A.I. & Blockchain Summit is moving beyond the hype and shaping the conversation towards real applications with intrinsic value. It’s time to get involved.