Skip main navigation

New offer! Get 30% off one whole year of Unlimited learning. Subscribe for just £249.99 £174.99. New subscribers only. T&Cs apply

Find out more

The road to Web3

Web3 is the next generation of the internet. But how is it different from the internet you use today?

In this video, Darcy discusses with Associate Professor Chris Berg, one of the founders of RMIT’s Blockchain Innovation Hub, what Web3 means and how it evolved from previous versions of the internet. Watch the video and then read the following to better understand the road to Web3.

What Web3 allows us to do

One way to distinguish Web1, Web2 and Web3 is by the capabilities that users have.

Let’s delve slightly deeper into these different generations of the internet.

From Web1 to Web2

In Web1, the first generation of the internet, users could read information online. Web1 was remarkable for the liberation of information. It took us beyond the print age of information. But, as described on Liquid, Web1 was just the first generation of the internet, and looks primitive to what we have today:

Web1 was the internet at its most primitive stage. In this era, websites were read-only informational pages. There were no options to comment or suggest. You could send emails but only texts and not photos or upload any images.
There were also a range of other problems with Web1. While of course information was much more free and accessible than pre-internet, it was still largely curated by content creators:
We saw less censorship here (though still dominant) compared to print. Due to this, people started questioning the credibility of the quickly growing database of information. There were loose social networks on Web1 and only a few “internet companies” controlled content. Web1-esque websites still exist today, but they aren’t very typical. Craigslist is an example you are likely familiar with.
Around the 2000s, Web2 emerged. This is the internet that you’re familiar with today. You cannot only passively read information online, you can write information too. You can also comment, share, argue and build networks of social connections.
Large digital Web2 platforms dominate the economy today. They have emerged across almost every major area of the economy and society. Web2 introduced social media, marketplaces, and the sharing economy.
Again, information was more free, the centralised control of Web2 platforms has led to issues around a lack of competition, privacy and censorship. Indeed, many question the dominance of large siloed platforms, and the role of users in those platforms, in Web2:
Web2 refers to the version of the internet most of us know today. An internet dominated by companies that provide services in exchange for your personal data.
There are many concerns with both monetisation and security in Web2.
The next generation of the internet, Web3, seeks to remedy some of those challenges. To build a more open, accessible, decentralised, permissionless and user-driven space of collaboration.

Web3

In Web3, users aren’t limited by reading and writing data. They also have ownership. Particularly through the use of blockchains and smart contracts, users are able to own their data, identities, transactions and other digital assets (including money). This is a step-change in the way the internet operates, and the way that different parties engage. We are moving beyond the old siloed and controlled data to the new digital platforms of Web3. Indeed, Max Mersch and Richard Muirhead describe Web3 as a “leap forward to open, trustless and permissionless networks”:
  • Web3 is more open. The code of many Web3 businesses, as we will see throughout this course, is open source. That creates opportunities and challenges for building businesses.
  • Web3 is more trustless. In Web3, trust comes through a network (e.g. on a blockchain, through consensus), rather than being produced by centralised intermediaries.
  • Web3 is more permissionless. Because of a lack of intermediaries, Web3 enables more permissionless access.
As Max Mersch and Richard Muirhead lay out in their article, these properties paint a radical shift in how we interact:
Web 3.0 enables a future where distributed users and machines are able to interact with data, value and other counterparties via a substrate of peer-to-peer networks without the need for third parties. The result: a composable human-centric & privacy preserving computing fabric for the next wave of the web.

Web3 businesses must be built in this context. The fact that users can own digital assets, and transfer value, opens up entirely new types of business models. These business models must be built with an ethos of decentralisation.

Why decentralisation matters

Web3 isn’t just about new tools. It also has new ethos and missions behind those tools. As mentioned above, one core ethos is decentralisation. Web3 is revolutionising the way that users engage with the platforms they use online. Users now have more control of their data (including their identity), the way that platforms are governed and their choice between platforms.

This article is from the free online

Doing Business in Web3

Created by
FutureLearn - Learning For Life

Reach your personal and professional goals

Unlock access to hundreds of expert online courses and degrees from top universities and educators to gain accredited qualifications and professional CV-building certificates.

Join over 18 million learners to launch, switch or build upon your career, all at your own pace, across a wide range of topic areas.

Start Learning now