Web3: from the hype to the highly unlikely

In recent weeks, the term “Web3” has caught on. Some believe that it can change the Internet forever, while others consider that it is just another turn of the screw in that control of the Internet that has been developing for years, but from a different perspective.

Between the seconds, Jack Dorsey. The ex-CEO of Twitter has been at the center of the controversy when on December 22 he used his favorite social network to say that “Web3 is not a force to democratize the web, but a tool for venture capital funds” . The statement did not sit very well in certain circles and since the atmosphere had already been heated for a few days, Marc Andreessen, one of the main VCs with interests in what Web3 represents, ended up blocking Dorsey.

But to understand the reason for the anger of some investment funds with Dorsey, or why the creator of Twitter has been so openly against this idea, it is necessary to take a step back and explain what Web3 is, on what principles it is based and if finally, these are going to matter at some point.

From Web 1.0 to Web3

In the development of the Internet, users have related to Web 1.0 (since its inception until probably 2004), Web 2.0 (from 2004 to the present time) and some consider that we timidly began to do so with Web3.

Web 1.0 was based on a truly democratizing idea of ​​the Web and the use of open standards and technologies. In addition to HTML pages, it is the era of online forums, Usenet newsgroups, chats through IRC clients, or the use of FTP to download files. Also in many cases it represented a one-way, one-to-many conversation.

The development of Web 2.0 supposes a democratization in that talk, since it allows massive conversations from many to many, thanks to, among other things, the popularization of social networks. But it also supposes the landing of large corporations on the Internet, with its good things such as the impulse of electronic commerce or helping us to connect with others, and the not so good, such as the creation of proprietary platforms, the control of the conversation and the indiscriminate buying and selling of users’ personal data for advertising and control purposes.

At the height of this Web 2.0 in which we still find ourselves, the concept of Web3 begins to take shape: a possible Internet of the future in which all data and content is recorded in blockchains, tokenized and accessed in distributed networks P2P in order to democratize the Internet, put power in the hands of content creators and wrest control from governments and companies.

Cryptocurrencies, NFT and Blockchain

In this definition of Web3 we find some of the ideas that were already present in Web 1.0, such as the democratization and decentralization of information, but that somehow were lost with the development of an otherwise very well-intentioned Web 2.0 in its origins.

Of course the idea of ​​Web3 may sound good … for cryptocurrency enthusiasts, those who have started doing business selling their own NFTs and yes, venture capital funds who consider that in both cases there is a great business opportunity to be found. you can take advantage of.

And yet it is not entirely clear how words are going to go into action or even if this is going to happen at some point. Elon Musk himself, who knows something about cryptocurrencies, has recently stated that, like the metaverse, Web3 is just “marketing-hype” and he doesn’t get it.

It is striking how two of the terms that have been repeated the most in recent months (Metaverso and Web3) describe platforms that they don’t really exist and from which nothing really interesting is expected for at least a decade or more. It is of course likely that the business of virtual currencies, blockchains and NFTs will continue to grow. But that the relationship of these three concepts in a form yet to be determined ends up giving rise to a new way of conceiving the Internet, It is something that seems very far away. In any case, Web3 wants to look more like that “next big thing” that technology companies are looking for than a democratizing revolution that works in the interests of users. And there Jack Dorsey is surely right.

From hype to reality

As much as the defenders of Web3 insist, the truth is that as they assure in ComputerWord, in the short and medium term it will be basically impossible to get users, companies and organizations to agree on the development of a new Internet based on the chain of blocks. Among other things because for the average user, who does not create monetizable content, this has no value.

And it’s not that it hasn’t been tried. In front of platforms such as Facebook or Twitter, companies such as initiatives such as Mastodon have proposed to users to bet on authentically decentralized social networks and not controlled by any company. The result? Users have continued to use Facebook, Twitter, TikTok, and YouTube.

On the other hand, it does not seem very likely that companies such as Meta, Google, Amazon or even Apple, which have made a billion dollars thanks to the development of Web 2.0, are very much in favor of betting on a completely decentralized network in which they are the users who take control and large corporations who lose it.

Even if this were the case, in an ideal world Web3 supposes an active participation of each one of the users of that future Internet, as investors of their own “personal company”. As this is not possible, it is the startups that would foreseeably act as intermediaries in this decentralized Internet (hosting, for example, that tokenized content), those that would have to gain the most and that in fact aspire, by the capitalist logic of business itself, to become to big companies that control this new “democratic Internet.” Because let’s be serious: venture capitalists invest to make money, not to make netizens happy.

Not even at this time, the world of cryptocurrencies, one of those pillars on which the new web wants to be founded, is democratic or egalitarian. Suffice it to remember in this sense that a new study published by Baystreet this week focused attention on what is becoming increasingly evident: the bulk of Bitcoins in circulation are in fewer and fewer hands (it is estimated that 0.01% of Bitcoin holders already control 27% of the coins in circulation).

In short, it is one thing to have services based on blockchain and tokenized that work on the web that we already know and quite another to think that they will replace the existing infrastructure. The first thing is of course very real and it will go further; the second, highly unlikely.

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