Web 3.0: the evolution of the web in the near future; the term genetically indicates the next and imminent phase of development and diffusion of the Internet, characterized by decentralization and based on a wide variety of technologies such as blockchain, crypto, NFT, artificial intelligence, augmented reality, and virtual reality. The digital world has gone through several evolutionary phases over the years, and today, we find ourselves at the gates of a new digital revolution known as Web 3.0, characterized by the decentralization of power from companies to users.
This new era of the web promises to radically change the way we interact with the online world, paving the way for a more engaging and immersive interaction than Web 2.0, thanks to virtual reality and its integration with other enabling technologies such as blockchain and artificial intelligence. In this entry, we examine the concept of Web 3.0, delving into the stages of development and the features that make it so promising for users and businesses.
How The Digital World Has Evolved: From Web 1.0 To Web 3.0
To fully understand the meaning and scope of Web 3.0, it is essential to start with its past. Web 1.0, which represents the first evolutionary stage of the network, is characterized by the centralization of information within a single organization and by a unidirectional communication flow. In Web 1.0, the user can access websites and browse the various online contents but cannot interact with them, nor does he have any way to interact with other users except via email.
Web 1.0 has evolved into Web 2.0 with the emergence of social media, blogs, messaging apps, and the new business models connected to them. This new network model favors the decentralization of information, given that each user can interact with web pages and create and share online content. However, even if the information is exchangeable and accessible to all, the storage process is still centralized with the entity that owns the platform.
Web 3.0 represents the next evolutionary step, in which emerging technologies such as blockchain and information systems based on distributed ledger technology (DLT) could be exploited to achieve ever-greater decentralization of information possession and to encourage a reduction in dependence on intermediaries. Web 3.0 is also known as the decentralized web due to its ability to decentralize the possession of information.
This emerging network model aims to create an alternative to the excessive power of big tech. The objective is to remove the control and exploitation of data from the hands of a few centralizers in order to democratize this process, leaving users the right to decide what information to share and what information to keep private. To achieve this objective or to create a decentralized web, new business models are starting to be tested that incentivize users to monetize their data, thanks to the technologies linked to Web 3.0.
How Does Web 3.0 Work?
As already mentioned, Web 3.0 was born from the convergence of different technologies such as blockchain, NFT, crypto, artificial intelligence, augmented reality, and virtual reality. Let’s briefly look at the leading technologies that enable and support Web 3.0. They are:
- Blockchain: The fundamental driver of Web 3.0 is blockchain, which provides users with the power of decentralization, digital identity via crypto wallets, and a gradual transition towards open and connected digital economies. In blockchain, users have complete control over their data and digital assets without the need for intermediaries. In more detail, this technology uses a network of nodes to validate and store transactions in a decentralized way. Data is recorded in blocks linked sequentially, making them immutable, accessible to all, and constantly updated. Please refer to the blockchain entry for further information.
- NFT (Non-Fungible Token): Web 3.0 offers the possibility of certifying the authenticity and ownership of digital objects via decentralized registers. NFTs are cryptographic tokens that use blockchain technology to uniquely and unchangeably guarantee ownership of a digital (or physical) asset, such as works of art, collectables, music, videos, and games. Non-fungible tokens can represent both fully digital assets and tokenized versions of real-world assets. To learn more, read the NFT entry.
- Artificial intelligence (AI) is the branch of computer science that deals with the development of machines equipped with autonomous learning and adaptation capabilities. It aims to build models that can replicate human behaviour and make decisions similar to how humans do. AI systems are, in fact, capable of processing enormous quantities of data and use statistical models and algorithms that allow machines to learn from experience, adapting to the information received from time to time. For further information, see Artificial Intelligence.
- Augmented reality, or AR, can be defined as an interactive experience that enhances the user’s sensory perception of the natural world, adding information that otherwise could not be perceived with the five senses. Augmented reality, therefore, enriches the user experience, offering information and digital content generated through the use of IT devices and the help of software, apps, and hardware such as AR glasses.
- Virtual reality (or VR): simulation of a natural environment by means of electronic and computer technologies. Through the use of devices specifically designed for this purpose, such as VR viewers and motion controllers, the user can interact with the virtual world around him as if he were genuinely immersed in that environment. Virtual reality involves the creation of a new, entirely digital environment that isolates the user from the natural context. In AR, however, the natural environment remains unchanged but is enriched by additional multimedia information. For further information, see the virtual reality entry.
- Metaverse: virtual social environment, the result of the convergence between different technologies, in which users can interact with each other and with the environment around them more directly and immediately compared to traditional social networks, making the experience more engaging and immersive. The applications of the metaverse can be multiple and concern different fields, including gaming, entertainment, business, education, and professional training. See the Metaverse entry for more information.
Web 3.0 marks the transition towards a new paradigm that aims to create a decentralized ecosystem thanks to technologies based on distributed ledger technology (DLT). This new network model is characterized by the possibility of direct interaction between users without the interference of intermediaries and by the fact that the data is interoperable even if the platforms are many and different from each other.
Thanks to the use of a wide range of emerging technologies, Web 3.0 offers an unprecedented opportunity to create a decentralized and disintermediated economy. This represents a challenge to the dominance of large technology companies over Web 2.0, offering a concrete and more democratic alternative to the current, highly centralized web. Overall, Web 3.0 paves the way for a digital future full of potential but also pitfalls. The adoption of technologies such as artificial intelligence, blockchain, and IoT offers new opportunities for the decentralization and democratization of information.
However, attention must be paid to emerging challenges, such as managing data privacy and security, fairness in access to digital resources, and safeguarding digital identity. It is essential to address these pitfalls responsibly, ensuring user protection and promoting ethical and inclusive use of Web 3.0 technologies. Only in this way will we be able to truly exploit all the positive potential that this new digital era can offer.