The next frontier of the internet’s evolution, Web 3.0, promises a decentralized, permissionless and open-source alternative that will transform computing, data storage and peer-to-peer transactions.

For one, it will eliminate freeloading third parties, giving back the ownership of private data and enabling users to monetize it as a product.

Second, Web 3.0 will enable fractionalized and mutual digital ownership of property, assets, organizations, and everything in between — leading to a trustless, global macroeconomy, where participants can collaborate toward common incentives.

Third, tomorrow’s ownerless companies and organizations will become more resilient, where each stakeholder is a partial owner.

Web 3.0 aims to create this future with a collection of underlying technologies like blockchain, artificial intelligence (AI) and the Internet of Things (IoT). 

Here’s what you’ll learn in this Forkast explainer:

The evolution of the web

The internet was invented for military purposes in the 1960s before serving scientific communication. 

Web 1.0 (1993 – 2005)

The original internet was released to the public on April 30, 1993. Web 1.0, also known as the web of cognition, was a one-way communication channel between website owners and users, where websites consisted of static, read-only HTML pages.

Users weren’t able to interact or communicate with the websites beyond reading their content. Web 1.0 quickly started developing in the public domain, as it started to shift toward its successor in the 1990s.

Web 2.0 (2005 – present)

Web 2.0, also known as the social web, represents a more interactive and interoperable internet, where users can interact with websites via server-side processing, online forms, and social media. Websites on Web 2.0 are more dynamic, emphasizing user-generated content and participatory culture where any user can disseminate information.

The centralized websites of Web 2.0 also represented the rise of ads, making the consumer of the previous web, the product of website owners. 

By the mid to late 2000s, Web 2.0 websites became more popular than sites built on Web 1.0. Examples of Web 2.0 sites include Wikipedia, WordPress, Twitter, and other social platforms where users can interact with one another.

Web 3.0 

Web 3.0, called the semantic web by the World Wide Web inventor Tim Berners-Lee, is the next frontier of web development that will likely be based on AI, IoT and blockchain technology. 

Web 3.0 will be able to interact directly with users, devices, and systems in smart homes, smart vehicles and workplaces. The content creation process will also be assisted by machines, which will likely lead to more quality content being distributed. Web 3.0 internet users will evolve from products to owners — as technologies like non-fungible tokens (NFTs) will enable content creators to truly own their digital content.

Web 3.0 and why it matters

The philosophy behind Web 3.0 is that websites will be able to interpret user data and continuously become smarter — offering an improved digital experience.

There are some early implementations that you might have experienced if you recently shopped on Amazon. For instance, when you’re shopping for a laptop, the e-commerce platform will automatically recommend a set of related items based on what shoppers with similar profiles have also bought. Amazon is already using the customer’s digital footprint to evolve and make more relevant recommendations.

Unfortunately, this current learning mechanism makes internet users a commodity, with the browsing data being the product. Since most people didn’t realize the value of their data, they gave it away willingly to internet giants, making them the owners and sole profiteers. With the advent of the semantic web, this will soon be subject to change.

Web 3.0 users will reclaim the sole ownership of their data, and they’ll be compensated for it, instead of internet giants exploiting their information and selling it to third-party advertisers. Sharing personal information will be optional for each individual.

Internet users are also hoping that the semantic web will be the end of disruptive advertising, which is the current standard of Web 2.0. The user experience would no longer be interrupted by never-ending pop-ups and unskippable ads. Instead, users will regain control of their precious time, choosing if and how many ads they want to see and be compensated accordingly.

Web 3.0 aims to create a fairer online environment, as the next generation of the internet becomes open-source, permissionless, and increasingly decentralized. But such a large paradigm shift is only possible with an array of advanced technologies.

There will likely be three fundamental technologies powering Web 3.0, namely blockchain, AI, and IoT. Blockchain and distributed ledger technologies will be the go-to solution for decentralized data storage and self-sovereign identity — as well as the payment infrastructure behind the semantic web. AI will be responsible for interpreting and filtering online data and offering the best choices to users. IoT will assure the semantic web’s interoperability layer — connecting the internet to smart devices.

Web 3.0 and blockchain

Blockchain is envisioned as one of the core technological layers of Web 3.0, responsible for facilitating trust in a trustless virtual environment. Meaning that users can trust online data as it is filtered by a consensus engine through the future internet’s decentralized, blockchain-based publication system.

Ethereum, called by some the “world computer,” is emerging as the bedrock of numerous Web 3.0 applications, also known as dApps, short for decentralized applications. Instead of centralized servers, Ethereum hosts these dApps on user-operated nodes on the blockchain — allowing anyone to use them without having their data monetized. There is no central entity that can block one’s access to these dApps.

The Ethereum network also offers built-in payments via its native cryptocurrency ETH. In the ethos of the semantic web, payments on Ethereum require no personal data, and there is no central party that can prevent or undo payments. Crypto payments will likely become the digital payment layer of Web 3.0, as they can offer cheaper and near-instant transactions that are available round the clock.

Utility tokens like LBRY — the cryptocurrency behind the decentralized digital marketplace LBRY — will also play an important role in redefining the interactions between content creators and consumers. LBRY allows creators to upload their original content pieces and decide the way they wish to monetize them. Creators are paid for the generated views with the LBRY token, while consumers can also purchase their content using the same coin.

How Web 3.0 will shape our future

Presently, the concept of the semantic web is criticized as far-fetched and futuristic, yet there are already some applications built on the characteristics of Web 3.0.

Filecoin, the decentralized storage and open-source cryptocurrency network, is a popular project. The protocol ditches central servers, enabling computer owners around the world to rent out their spare disk space, in exchange for FIL — the network’s native crypto token.

Another semantic web-oriented project is Odysee, a decentralized, blockchain-based, peer-to-peer video sharing network, built by LBRY — which directly rewards content creators with LBRY Credits.

Ocean Protocol aims to unlock the value of data by building tools for the Web 3.0 data economy. The open-source protocol’s Ocean Market App enables data owners to publish using Ocean data tokens, and users to purchase access to the data, while data providers are rewarded with OCEAN tokens. 

These early iterations of Web 3.0 native applications are paving the way toward an open-source, privacy-preserving, human-centric future web — where machines and users can exchange data and value on peer-to-peer infrastructure.

Web 3.0 will also introduce an array of possibilities, like decentralized autonomous organizations (DAOs), global-scale decentralized autonomous companies (DACs), self-sovereign identities, and decentralized data marketplaces. It will also redefine the mechanics of human-machine interactions, by facilitating trustless data transfers, automatized, cryptocurrency-based payments, seamless ownership transfers, and much more. 

The dawn of Web 3.0 will mark the first time in history when biological and artificial intelligence will be globally interconnected and interoperable.