"Web3." For the past few months, or maybe only for the past few weeks, you've been hearing about this term and probably wondering, "what the heck is this?" And you're not alone. To answer this question, we need to go back a bit, and more specifically to the birth of the Internet in the early 1990s.
At the time, cryptos did not exist, Internet is a "simple" communication network. To use it, you have to go through websites whose use is relatively basic. The sites make it possible to read and consult information. Companies create their first site where they post products, commercial offers and even their physical address! The Internet users create mailboxes and begin to exchange between them on line... This period corresponds to what we call the Web1.
Things will accelerate in the 2000s when the Internet will gradually allow to browse and share content, especially multimedia (images, videos ...). Websites are no longer static, but dynamic. This is the beginning of social networks with smartphones and the appearance of future giants such as Meta (ex-Facebook) which join other market leaders such as Google and Amazon. This is the period of Web2, or more commonly the mobile Internet.
The emergence of Web2 has enabled the development of new means of communication. The telephone giants have been (largely) eclipsed by the tech giants and social networks like Instagram that are at the heart of this new Internet. The fact remains that this Web2 is very centralized. Google and the other giants concentrate all the data of billions of users, which allows them to generate colossal revenues.
It is precisely in reaction to this movement of concentration of the Internet that the so-called "Web3" was born. The first person to talk about it was Gavin Wood, one of the co-founders of Ethereum, which is now the second largest blockchain on the planet.
Rest assured, Web3 is not a parallel world or an Internet for Martians. It is as we know it with sites, applications. Except that it has a new layer based on blockchain technology and cryptos. And this layer is fundamental in that it brings digital property to our societies.
Until now, you couldn't own anything on the web: neither your currency, nor your digital "objects", nor your identity... Everything was held by trusted third parties, intermediaries such as your bank, your telephone operator, your favorite social network.
With blockchain and cryptos, there is no need for intermediaries anymore. Technological innovations allow you to own and manage your data, your digital identity, your money yourself.
To hold and manipulate these cryptos, in fine to have control over its assets, you need wallets, i.e. digital wallets.
These wallets can be physical. In this case, they often have the appearance of a USB key. The world leader in the sector is none other than the French Ledger. Digital wallets can also be dematerialized applications. This may seem more convenient, but it is also a little more risky (especially in the face of possible piracy).
The most obvious example is logging in to all online sites and subscriptions. Until now, we enter our login and password to log in, and it is the tech giants who hold this data. With the system of wallets and other cryptocurrencies, it is now the Internet users who control the data.
The Internet was imagined to allow everyone to communicate and exchange with everyone else. At least, this is the original idea still carried by a part of the community. Except that in the space of about twenty years, the Internet has evolved a lot. Far from being a global network controlled by all, it is mainly dominated by the giants of the Tech industry who have the hand on the data of the Internet users.
Part of the success of Web3 comes from the will to "reappropriate" the Internet.
The success of Web3 is also economic. By giving the ownership of data back to the users, Web3 allows Internet users to recover the "value" of their data and to have control over it. One well-known example is that of items (objects) in video games. If you buy an item in a video game, such as a prop or a suit, you do not own it. If the creators of the game delete your account or even if the game disappears, you will lose these items. If you stop playing, you also lose what you have invested. In contrast, with Web3, you have ownership of the items, no one, not even the game publisher, can take away ownership of your digital object. And if you stop playing, no entity, not even the creators of the game, has the power to take away your ownership. And if you stop playing, you can sell or trade your items.
The appeal of the Web3 is also linked to the concept of community dimension. In the words of French sociologist Guy Rocher, "Belonging to a community means sharing enough ideas or common traits with other members to recognize oneself in the 'we'. Now, the possession of assets such as NFTs favors this feeling of belonging. It is notably this logic that was used by the studio Yuga Labs in the communication of its famous NFT Bored Ape collection.
This is why, in the evolution of the Web3 , DAOs (decentralized autonomous organizations) are a fundamental part of the decentralization narrative. Unlike traditional, centralized organizations where decision making is concentrated at the top, DAOs use smart contracts to give voice to each participating member. Again, Web3 gives users a voice. The digital world belongs to no one but everyone. The democratic potential is a drastic point of the evolution from Web2 to Web3 for our societies.
The future of Web3 is not ready-made. It is a concept that is still contested and is the subject of debate. So, are we heading for the best of all worlds? Or the worst nightmare?
To do this, we must immerse ourselves in the metaverse, the virtual world designed by Neal Stephenson in The Virtual Samurai in 1992, which would allow the extension of our identity. Public interest in the metaverse has exploded in recent months. Notably on the corporate side. Meta (ex-Facebook) alone has spent more than 10 billion dollars in 2021 on metaverse technologies.
The cypherpunks at the origin of these projects wanted to think of the metaverse as a way to overcome death thanks to the development of a virtual version of our lives. Is this promise enough to amalgamate it with the web3 revolution, while the metaverse is carried in particular by Meta, one of the flagship companies of web 2.0 and symbol of a centralized vision of the internet?
It is difficult to answer, but the subject cannot be avoided. It is an important question to take into account when the intrinsic values of Web3 are decentralization and control of its data. It is clear that web2 companies are taking this challenge seriously in order not to be left behind by the new players. They are deploying new dedicated branches within their institutions. This is the case of Meta, of course, but also of the Alphabet group (Google's parent company) which is the biggest investor in Web3 start-ups with a contribution of 1.5 billion dollars according to Blockdata.
As you may have understood, there is a lot of talk about money and investment in this ecosystem, and this could be one of its limits. The process of tokenization, which consists in digitally representing an asset on the blockchain, has many advantages. Nevertheless, the spectre of a world in which every object, every asset could be a financial security looms large and raises fears of a drift of these technologies. This is why, in a logic of generalized adoption, there is a real need to inform the population. Education is surely the keystone of the future of the web3. It is by explaining to everyone what web3 and blockchain are, that we will avoid the drifts and that the sector will be permanently anchored in our daily life.