The transition to the Semantic Web is underway, and blockchain technology is playing an essential role.
By: Billy Endres
Since its inception in 1990, the Internet has evolved from Web1, static read-only sites with little interaction between users, to Web2, dynamic read-write pages where advertising is revenue and user information is sold as a commodity.
However, times are changing and more companies are choosing to work remotely, data and privacy are becoming more of a concern, and blockchain technology is advancing rapidly.
This leads to a change in the way the Internet is used and the development of the new and improved web, Web3.
What is Web3, what role will blockchain play in its development, and what can we expect for the future of the Internet?
Web2 is what we know and use today. Social networks, blogs and dynamic content have become the norm. Content is distributed worldwide every second and information is available at the click of a button.
While the last decade of growth has undeniably been exponential, many shortcomings remain to be addressed.
There is too much reliance on large corporations that monopolize parts of the Internet. Cloud storage companies and social networks own our data, which can be deleted at will or sold to advertisers.
Global reach is a major concern and corporations have chosen to put profits before people. First world countries see the Internet as a right, not a privilege. It’s over though 1 billion people — More than 10% of the population is without Internet access.
Although there is a long way to go and many issues remain unsolved, the push towards a new and democratized Internet is underway.
The future of the Internet
Web3 is often considered a crypto-specific term popularized by Polkadot (DOT) founder Gavin Wood. It’s a phrase used to describe the new internet of ownership and decentralization.
While this is a big part of the new Internet revolution, the concept has been around much longer than blockchain technology, which dates back to the dawn of the Internet itself.
In An article: Published in 2001 by Internet founder Sir Tim Berners-Lee, it described his vision for the Semantic Web.
“The Semantic Web will enable machines to understand semantic documents and data rather than human speech and writing.”
“A properly designed semantic network can help the evolution of human knowledge as a whole.”
Although Mr. Lee’s vision has yet to be fully realized, it is widely held and has been championed by many over the past few decades.
It adapted to the idea that the web is democratized and decentralized, bypassing the monopolistic silos of the Internet to put ownership of information, assets and data back into the hands of the people.
While it is unlikely that there will be a transition from Web2 to the Semantic Web or Web3, things are moving in the right direction. And blockchain technology could be the defining factor that changes the Internet as we know it.
Blockchain and Web3
Blockchain is commonly interpreted as cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin and Litecoin acting as digital currencies.
Many people are unaware of how far digital payments, blockchain and decentralized technologies have come.
Projects including: Stratos (STOS), Filecoin (PHIL) and: Arweave: (AR) develops decentralized storage and cloud infrastructure with the goal of returning ownership of online assets to their creators.
Using technologies such as IPFS:users can upload and access data quickly and securely, regardless of file size.
Through edge computing and thousands of widely distributed nodes acting as microservers, computing and storage are brought closer to where data is created.
This allows for better connectivity in the developing world and true decentralization, bypassing centralized servers and data hubs that are prone to outages and outages.
Nonfungible tokens (NFTs) are still in their infancy and have mostly been distributed as digital and commercial art. However, the potential use cases for NFTs extend further.
Technology is advancing rapidly, while asset ownership and verification have lagged behind. Signing legally binding documents with pen and paper is obsolete. Identity fraud and online theft are common and seemingly inevitable.
NFTs have the potential to fix these problems and many more. Blockchain-based projects are working hard to develop NFT use cases including voting, medical records and ID for developing countries, intellectual property ownership, supply chain management; the list goes on.
While digital art may be the first iteration of NFTs, its technology has a long way to go.
Cryptocurrency wallets are a means of transferring digital assets between parties. Users have full access and control over their cryptocurrencies via public and private keys.
Again, this is probably just the beginning.
Projects such as: Status: (SNT) are developing digital wallets with additional features including encrypted messaging and decentralized Web3 browsers.
These projects could compete with social media companies and eliminate the need for advertising and data collection as a source of revenue.
Users can store and control not only their crypto, but also their personal data, identity and tokenized assets such as property.
These are just a few examples of blockchain technology use cases and the role it will play in Web3 and a truly decentralized, semantic web.
Where to go from here?
There’s no telling how far the idea of Web3 and the Semantic Web will stretch and what lies ahead.
If you proposed the idea of rideshare platforms, artificial intelligence and blockchain in the early 90s, your thoughts would probably be written off. Web3’s offerings and potential use cases are likely to receive a similar response.
Trial and error will play an important role. some projects will succeed and others will fail.
However, in the constant evolution of online businesses and remote companies, adaptation and advancement will inevitably continue to suit consumers, filling in gaps we didn’t know existed.
In addition to this, more people are beginning to recognize the shortcomings of its operation. Data and personal information are traded as commodities, individual companies own large swathes of the Internet and make trillions of dollars in annual profits, yet more than 1 billion people still do not have access to the Internet.
But times are changing. Blockchain and decentralized technologies are quickly being implemented as a necessary piece of the puzzle for the future of the Internet.
Web3 is more than a cryptocurrency. It is what we make it, and it has the potential to change the world for the greater good.