How did we get to Web3?
Part 3 in the short series for noobs who want to get started in the quickly evolving technology
So last time we spoke we reviewed exactly what crypto is and what your responsibilities are as a reader moving forward in this series. The gist of that being that you agree to do your own research against what I write because this space is advancing quickly and you deserve to be a part of it.
Note: If you have not read that as yet, stop 🛑 here and go back to read the disclaimer now.
Now that we’ve gotten our agreements in order we can continue.
To understand why crypto is such a crucial part of where the Internet is heading, we gotta take the time to walk through where the Internet came from.
In the beginning
There was Russia.
No seriously, all impending nuclear war jokes aside, it was Russia’s initial foray into space in the late 1950’s that served as the inspiration for the beginnings of what would be man’s greatest source of advancement since learning how to use fire.
The idea began as a response to the ever looming threat of a nuclear attack from Russia. And with them in space, U.S. based researchers were nervous they wouldn’t be able to remain in contact with each other should such an attack occur. The solution they came up with was a robust system of communication between computers in research facilities, that would not only allow researchers to collaborate and share information easier, but would also be able to pick up the network should one of the computers get taken out. And considering how monstrously huge and cumbersome computers at that time were, and how limited their capability–most could only perform a task at a time– a connected network of computers made the workload easier for everyone involved. Through much trial and error, the hardware and software of technology advanced, and the Internet grew from two computers to four and so on until it became a thriving network that allowed people to work together across great distances.
Web Surfing for dummies
But like the beginnings of all tech, there was a problem. Only the people who had been there since its inception were really capable of using it. A lot of technical complexity in protocol along with not so user friendly interfaces were making mass adoption of the life changing tech a bit slow.
Enter Tim Berners Lee.
His creation, the World Wide Web, turned the technical landscape of the Internet into something anybody could access and use. His idea was to create a knowledge repository that could be shared amongst the people. And who knew what kind of advancements would come out of that one idea.
Web 1.0: what’s that screeching noise
The first iteration of the Web was pretty lame. The hardware made it difficult for communication to be established with the networks, at least not without sounding like a wounded banshee. And the software made it a place people could go and visit, but they couldn’t interact with it. The limits of the technology at the time made the pages read-only. You know like that company file at work everyone has access to but not everyone can edit? Yeah that stuff.
And this was fine for a while but humans like to play with their toys. It was only a matter of time before another leap forward would change the game again.
Web 2.0: beyond the static
The World Wide Web grew massively during the dot-com era of the late 1990’s and early 2000’s. And it is here where the technology starts to pick up some sexiness we know and love. As we moved from dial up to broadband, the silicon valley rush picked up. And finally Internet users could do what they’d been dreaming about ever since stumbling across those static pages all those years ago. They could interact with them!
And interact we did. Here is where we see the birth of blogging, commenting and sharing. Not only were we able to interact with each other now, we could also share our thoughts.
Note: it saddens me to point out that this may be in part to blame for the reason Millennials like myself love think pieces so much.
E-commerce also got its start here with payment gateways slowly building across the Web to allow for secure transactions to occur between servers. This nifty pivot away from manual to digital payments brought us even closer together. It made our lives easier by bringing us what we wanted with a few keystrokes.
Web 2.5: a convenient inconvenience
Eventually we wanted to interact with each other even more and mail client messengers weren’t enough. And it is out of this need to connect deeper with one another, the toxic wasteland we now know as social media, was born. And with the rise in networks, grew the rise in applications, spurred on by Apple’s and Android’s introduction of the application marketplace.
As the app market grew so did the tech giants that we know and hate today. A long way from singular web pages, these behemoths have woven their way into our lives and the very fabric of our existence.
Don’t believe me?
Pop quiz: if a website gives you the option to create a username and unique password OR login with your Google/ Facebook/ Microsoft/ Apple account?
If you answered login in with anyone of the major providers listed, you, like the rest of the world, have been Web 2.5’d.
Every bit of our lives is online. From banking, to hair appointments, even purchasing a car, Web 2.5 has significantly closed the gap between humans and what they have access to with a singular haptic keystroke. And the government as well as the greedy behemoths are well aware of this.
Web 3.0: Beyond the dome…
The funny thing about this hyper connected world that we built is that now that we have it, it damn hard to imagine life without it. Can you imagine having to make it through your morning run without Tidal or Apple music cheering you on? Or sending bill payments via snail mail? Or even worse, driving to go get food from your favorite sushi place 30 minutes away?
If you are in a country where this picture has become the norm, I’d imagine the answer to that question would be a resounding no. And if you are joining me from a country where 21st century development has been slow due to colonial reinforcement practices by countries like the U.S that bleed talent from formerly colonized countries and disincentivize the return home, I’m sorry this way of life has been slow in coming but it shan’t delay much longer.
And what happens when your country restricts your access to applications because of slow moving legislation? Or you say the wrong thing and suddenly you find yourself without any access to social media platforms? The danger of a powerful few being able to restrict your access to this hyperconnected world, is that they get to decide what you must or must not do to be worthy of access.
And that’s a major buzzkill when all you’re trying to do is binge the latest episode of Doctor Who.
It is out of this train of thought that the idea behind Web 3.0 was conceived.
The concept is simple: how do we build and maintain a connected world where we don’t have to rely on traditionally trusted authorities to manage the minutiae of day to day lives?
As Web3.0 gawd Gavin Wood put it, we go for less trust and more truth.
And how do we do that? By using transparency and providing behavioral incentives for participants to fill vital community roles.
With Web 3.0, blockchain protocols and code is often open source so that the community is aware of what’s happening, mimicking the way public townhalls functioned back in the day as a place where you could go and see notices that were important to be aware of.
Most ecosystems rely on tokenomics or the creation and distribution of tokens as a reward/ punishment system that drives its operations in the same way you’d earn rewards and bonuses in Mario Kart for completing certain tasks. Those tokens then serve as a way for you to have a say in what’s happening in that ecosystem, fund the creation of other ecosystems, and gain access to other levels of projects.
Theoretically with a Web3 project for everyone of our societal needs, there would be no need to wait on government institutions to service us any longer. Meaning our connections and passions won’t be limited to geopolitical landmasses or be strained by the temperament of world leaders.
We are still a bit of a way out from where the blockchain can handle everything, for reasons we will discuss as the series progresses, but we are already starting to see real world applications for Web3, along with a strong argument for its necessity.
Right now at the time of writing this article, the Russian people are being punished for the actions of their leader Vladimir Putin. They have been cut off from major payment platforms while their currency tanks, entertainment service providers like Spotify have reduced services in the country, and major retailers have pulled products and services from the people. All because Vladimir Putin did as selfish old men tend to do, and chose to expand beyond his reach of power. As an American, for whom some of those services have become integral to basic survival (you are not coming between me and my Game of Thrones re-runs), the thought of what the Russian people are going through because their leader is an idiot, is seriously disturbing as hell.
Even more disturbing is the fact that a page taking donations for the Ukraine Army was taken down by Patreon because it violated the terms of service. Which theoretically is supposed to be a good thing. But when you are being attacked by a mad man and your army consists primarily of volunteer soldiers, it’s not an ideal situation.
But in the midst of all this chaos, the crypto community has stepped forth to shine where Web 2.0, 2.5 and corporate shenanigans have failed. Several major crypto projects stepped forward to help raise capital for the people of Ukraine, including the Polkadot Network which was created by Web 3.0 term coiner Gavin Wood. And while the mechanisms for doing so have been complex, the continued work of developers and community leaders is making Web 3.0 less of a high-minded utopian dream and more practical real world advancement.
Seeing the World Wide Web’s progression from scientific brainchild to technology that is integrated into the core of our society, helps paint a better picture of where everything is headed. And with crypto and Web3, the likelihood of creating a connected world where we don’t have to rely on traditionally trusted authorities to manage the minutiae of day to day lives, is becoming more of a reality every day. As with all things it will take time, but with you here, reading this now, that means more of us are coming along with the additional ideas and insights necessary to take us into the future.
That’s it for this installment. Tune in next time when we take a deeper look at crypto itself and how it’s shaping up to be a true game changer for us all.
Till next time loves!