Imagine all your online accounts are linked through one wallet. You aren’t constantly resetting your passwords, you can connect to any website with the click of a button, and make payments that way as well. A decentralized Internet, one where content creators get compensated for their work directly instead of through a third party company that pays them a fraction of the profit they deserve. Social media websites can’t take down your posts. Your digital identity becomes more important than ever with the integration of Metaverse technology. This is the essence of Web3, which comes one step closer to becoming reality everyday.
Today’s Internet is outdated
There is an illusion that we are in control of our data when we use the Internet. We can instantly message a friend, pay bills, or make a post for anyone to see. However, when we do this, we are going through a third party. If you use PayPal to pay your bills, you’re going through their servers to transfer the money. What if your account is blocked or the payment delayed? PayPal’s website says, “Delaying the availability of payments for a specified amount of time is a common practice in the payments industry. Delaying access to payments helps make sure that sellers have enough money in their account to cover claims or refunds.” There’s nothing you can do except contact customer support, you’re at the whim of a massive corporation that, at its core, could care less about your $120 payment.
There has been a consistent problem recently with big media platforms like YouTube or Twitter censoring content. A New York Post article about how Twitter is censoring users states that “Numerous high-profile accounts have been banned — including a sitting member of Congress and a virologist who helped invent mRNA vaccine technology.” YouTube has a history in recent years of demonetizing, restricting, or sometimes banning creators for trivial issues. Some of these reasons include marijuana consumption on video, swearing, or political misinformation, the definition of which is entirely defined by YouTube.
Twitter’s mission statement on their official website is, “The mission we serve as Twitter, Inc. is to give everyone the power to create and share ideas and information instantly without barriers. Our business and revenue will always follow that mission in ways that improve – and do not detract from – a free and global conversation.” They then directly contradict this idea by going and banning users for posting certain opinions and ideas. It is unimportant how controversial these opinions are, if Twitter really is a platform for free and global conversation, the ideas should not matter. Individuals all over the world gave these companies their power. We don’t use YouTube because we like the company, we use it because we love being to stream millions of hours of content from anywhere in the world. We don’t like Twitter because of our love for Twitter, Inc. Instead we use it because of the ability to share our opinion with like-minded, and sometimes opposed, individuals in hopes of sparking a good conversation.
These companies have the right to remove any content they choose, it is their platform. If YouTube wants to demonetize a creator because they swear too much in a video, they are allowed to do that, because the creator is choosing to use their platform as an outlet for their content. Twitter is allowed to ban whoever they want, they’re a private company, and if they want to, they can permanently ban a politician for speaking their mind. However, just because these media giants CAN do these things, doesn’t mean they should.
Benefits of Web3
With Web3, all of the data is on a blockchain. That means that thousands of different computers are in charge of keeping it running, and data is largely untargetable. No company will be able to delete a post you make, because the post is uploaded onto a network like Ethereum, which is decentralized. It limits digital censorship. Creators can fully monetize their products with a token like Ethereum (ETH). They receive a payment directly into their wallet every time someone watches their video, no middleman is required. Users can even get incentives for using content, a concept that is scare in today’s internet.
Payments don’t require you to give personal information and can’t be blocked. The Web3 equivalent of an account is your crypto wallet, which is essentially a digital signature. Your wallet address is similar to an email address, but for any sort of transaction. You can use it as a username, a way to pay for goods, or to hold NFTs. Since all payments are made on the decentralized network with Web3, there is no way for them to be blocked or stopped. Additionally, all you the payments will be made with the native token of the network, like MATIC or ETH.
Web1 was the first websites on the Internet up into the early 2000’s. The pages were static, and there was little the user could do to interact with the site, besides maybe download an image, GIF, or other file. However, only the host of the website could edit the text on it, add images, etc. Web2, the Internet we know today, came next. This was revolutionary for the world. People could now interact with each other through their screens in a way not previously thought possible. Image and video sharing, blogs, wikis, social networking, the entire modern Internet started to come together, people became connected like never before. Web3 is similar, but is instead run with blockchain servers as the support system.
Why is an Internet run on blockchain good for its users?
Data breaches are constantly happening in Web2, where millions of people’s personal, private, information is leaked. An article on UpGuard cites hundreds of millions of people’s info being released in data breaches with banking and credit companies. While I am an avid advocate and supporter of blockchain technology, I admit it isn’t perfect. There have been hacks where substantial amounts of money are lost, it is a technology that is still far from perfect. However, hundreds of millions of people trust big banking institutions with everything, their social security number, address, family information, all their passwords, just for it to be leaked in a data breach. We need to do better.
Web3 is uncensorable, more private, and secure than Web2. Web3 servers are built on a blockchain network like Polygon or Ethereum. This makes sure the network never goes down, and it also ensures decentralization. The network isn’t run from one place, but is instead built off thousands of computers all doing their part to keep it going. Crypto hacks that occur are often on less secure networks or exchanges, where the hacker finds and exploits a bug in the code for their own monetary gain. Blockchain technology is still very much in infant stages compared to the Web2 Internet today. As adoption increases, technology and security will as well.
There are still many issues that face Web3. As it exists right now it can be a confusing and frustrating process to use Web3 apps. The UX (user experience) isn’t up to the standards of Web2, which would potentially drive away the average consumer. Another problem some networks face is gas fees, which is the cost to make a transaction on the network. When a network like Ethereum has a high volume of transactions, the fees to make a transaction on the network go up, this cost is referred to as a gas fee. This leads me to the next problem which is scalability. Billions of dollars a day move through Ethereum, and yet it can only process 15 transactions a second, which may sound fast, but when there are millions of potential users on the network, it isn’t enough. Networks like this are really supposed to be the backbone of Web3, but there is still work to be done.
Critics have brought up an interesting point, not everything belongs on the Internet. What is to stop people from posting obscene and horrible videos, ads, and posts on this new Internet for the world to see? There’s no way to really know at the moment. The technology is still very much in its infancy. It is a hard question to ponder, how do we ensure certain things, like child abuse and human trafficking, stay off this “uncensorable web”. This will surely be a big roadblock for the adoption of this technology in years to come.
The future of the Internet
Change happens slowly, then suddenly. Integration of Web3 into the mainstream won’t happen overnight. The average Internet consumer wants a smooth and easy experience above all else, and that just isn’t there yet. It took twenty years for Web2 Internet to get to where it is today, and it is still constantly evolving. I have personally seen and interacted with lots of young motivated and smart entrepreneurs from all over the world who want to make Web3 a reality. Where there’s a will, there’s a way. Web3 may not happen tomorrow, but it is an inevitability for the Internet.