Understanding Web 3.0 and how it will completely change the way we use the Internet.

Ancient Greek myth speaks of a man named Prometheus who stole the secret of fire from the gods—an act for which he was punished gruesomely (we won’t go any further that that, but let’s just say that it had something to do with chains and some birds with sharp beaks).

But, why was he punished?

He was punished not because of the theft itself, but for what his bounty was: fire as a tool, as a technology, as a means to further humanity’s development to the point that they did not need or require the intervention of the gods in day-to-day life. 

It’s easy to forget that the Internet, despite its ubiquity and saturation into our daily lives, is just that: a tool. The Internet is a piece of technology that, just like fire and humanity’s relationship to it, is ever-evolving—and us with it.

The Internet as we know it is constantly changing and has gone through one major paradigm shift since its first iteration, and now we are at the brink of a new era: Web 3.0.

While this term may be a buzzword that you’ve likely come across in some form or another, it is actually quite a nebulous term and a concept with many different disputed ideas for what it means. 

So, let’s have a closer look, shall we?

Web 1.0 & 2.0: From libraries to the agora

A brief history of the internet, Web 1.0 to 2.0

Before we can understand Web 3.0, let’s first understand where the Internet currently is and where it came from. 

These phrases ‘Web 1.0’ and ‘Web 2.0’ describe phases of the Internet that have lasted about 10 years or so and they have been labelled as such in hindsight. There is no strict definition for what each age is but think of them more like a shift in focus than anything else—both “ages” overlap in an opaque primordial soup of ones and zeros.

When the World Wide Web was invented by Tim Berners-Lee in 1989, he had a vision for the Internet as a distributed system, a democratic force that could connect disparate humans and could help us at the same time by sharing information. 

But, when the Internet first emerged, this wasn’t necessarily the case. What was termed Web 1.0 was more of a passive experience. Computer scientists and coders were focusing on developing the infrastructure of the Internet, and the front-end was more or less static. Think of it like a library where you could read many books but couldn’t add your own (unless you had the resources to do so). 

The Internet at that stage was “Read-Only” with a few producers and many more consumers—businesses made content for their customers, in a unidirectional process. 

Then, the focus shifted in another direction: the Internet became a more active, “Read-Write” experience with the rise of social media around 2003. Thus, the term Web 2.0 was coined (much to the chagrin of Tim Berners-Lee who derided the term as simple marketing and nothing more).

The library that was the Internet had now become the agora, a market place, a place to gather and meet. It was an active space where people could add their own content and volumes and talk to each other, share experiences and stories—it was a place people could connect with each other.

Sites like Myspace, Facebook and Wikipedia are prime-examples of this paradigm shift in action: there is the ability to submit user-generated content on the Internet, be it pictures on social media, videos on YouTube, music on Soundcloud, informative articles on Wikipedia, comments and discussions on forums in various topics, general and niche.

This move was exactly the type of Internet that Tim Berners-Lee had envisioned from the start: the Internet as a connection-making platform with between other people. The utopia Tim Breners-Lee dreamed of had arrived, it just took a while. 

The new focus of Internet development shifted towards the front-end of user-experience (UX), as the infrastructure had been refined almost to a (computer) science; and, as a result, business and marketing have been completely redefined in a little over ten years.

Now, we’re reaching a tipping point where it’s almost like Web 2.0 has gone as far as it can go, and in order to move on, new solutions and new disruptive paradigms are being developed. We’re returning to an infrastructure phase again as new technologies are being developed and investigated: technologies such as VR, AI and blockchain are set to revolutionise how we use the Internet.

Web 3.0: Assistance is just semantics

Web 3.0 is all about semantics and context.

The next iteration of the Internet is already on the horizon, and we’re already seeing the beginnings of the technology that will make it happen surfacing here and there.

The general philosophy of Web 3.0 is that we will start seeing the infrastructure of the Internet itself to be more of an assistive tool—while Web 1.0 and 2.0 were defined by humans uploading information for other humans, Web 3.0 will start using that information, interpreting it and returning it back to us in a new form, to better assist us in our daily lives.

Despite how ubiquitous the Internet in its current form is, it has a few limitations. For one, searching the web is entirely based on searching a database of keywords—massive as it may be—but the problem with keywords is that they do not have any meaning attached to them.

If you Google a term, you will receive thousands of results that contain that keyword/s in any order and more often than not these articles are irrelevant to what you are actually searching for. Despite advanced search algorithms, finding the correct articles still requires us manually filtering out the relevant from the irrelevant. For example, if you were to search the term “beetle” in a search engine, it will return everything from the Volkswagen model to the insect, and even to pages that misspell a certain popular music group’s name. In this case context matters.

The Semantic Web is thus an idea for a new type of Internet that understands what the content within it means and the context in which we’re asking for information. Right now the Internet and its content are geared more to humans, and less to the computers that store and display it.

If you have something that understands the context, then it makes it much easier to find a relationship with other content that is contextually relevant—for example, if you were to search for “cheap flights to Rome”, Web 3.0 would understand the context and would already have a few recommendations of other budget activities and hotels for you to do, based on your interests.  

Together with Artificial Intelligence that understands information and can link disparate information together automatically and accurately, we will see a sharp rise in how much more the Internet itself can assist us. For example, if our profile on the Internet knows what kind of movies we like, then it would make it a much simpler job to know what we mean when we ask it, “What’s a good movie to watch?” based on your tastes, it would know what your own subjective definition of what a good movie is.

Another feature of Web 3.0 could be a dramatic change in how we interact with the Internet. 

Currently we do so primarily through the two-dimensional portal of a screen, but as computer 3D graphics, Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) technology improve, it’s more than likely that this will be how we will interact with the Internet in the future—turning the Internet into a cyber-world for us to explore.

Changing times: It’s about how you use it

New technologies that are emerging now are the basis for Web 3.0

Some of the things we’ve mentioned above might already sound familiar to you. They should—as we mentioned earlier, there is no fixed boundary between when Web 2.0 ends and Web 3.0 starts.

The line is fuzzy between the two as new ideas and new technologies are slowly being developed, tested and integrated into our day-to-day lives.

We’re already starting to see these new technologies cropping up in our Internet use now, from AI analyzing our search histories as part of Big Data sets, to 4G technologies that are offering a whole new scope to mobile data access and integration.

Here are just a few of the other ways that Web 3.0 is emerging:

  • Amazon and Netflix use AI to analyze our data and make recommendations on products or content that they think we will enjoy based on our preferences;
  • Blockchain technologies, such as Ethereum and Bitcoin, are only two examples of the use of entirely different infrastructure than the conventional Internet to connect people in more secure and trustless ways;
  • VR and AR technologies are being refined, experimented with and perfected every day, to one day fundamentally change (for better or worse) how we view and experience realty;
  • Smart Assistants like Alexa or Siri are becoming more and more popular, being integrated into smart homes where more and more devices are being connected to the Internet to make our lives easier, creating an Internet of Things that is slowly growing.

All of these things are still relatively new, but we can already see the potential for Web 3.0 disrupting how we do things. The problem is that all these systems are scattered between various property holders and organizations, which means that each needs their own logins and purchases.

Web 3.0 sees a more holistic approach to all these services, where each product as the potential to interact, buffer and assist each other to deliver pinpoint content to us that accurately reflects our tastes and needs on a more contextual basis and in a way that seamlessly fits into our lives.

The species homo sapiens, us, are what we are today because of technology and tools—that is, the ability to use things to make our lives easier and accomplish tasks more efficiently. 

Without fire we would still be living in the Stone Age, let alone the Bronze, Iron, or the Silicon Age in which we find ourselves today.

Without fire, we would never be what we are today. Without fire we would never have been able to sit in the safety of caves into the night, to scare away predators and keep warm during the winter, and to ponder how better to make stone tools; we would never have been able to cook or boil water, to purify and sanitize our food and drink so that it can be safe to eat; we would never have been able to smelt metals to make better tools in order to hunt and defend ourselves, to survive better.

The use of tools, and the further development of tools, is quintessentially what makes us human—and the Internet is nothing more than a tool that is constantly evolving.

As the Internet does evolve, Digital Cabinet wants to be there with you, to guide you and your business through these technologically changing times. 

Prometheus understood that fire was a powerful tool. We see the Internet as the tool that it is. We want to use it in a way to better humanity and to see how these technologies can be best utilised to make your business more efficient.

How do you want to use technology? Let us know in the comments below.

You can find out more about Digital Cabinet at www.digitalcabinet.co.za

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