It’s difficult to remember a time when you had to wait 5 minutes for an image to load. While much has changed since the days of grayscale message boards and MSN, we’re now on the verge of a new era in cyberspace, fueled by a rising perception that the web has been governed by tech’s power players for far too long.
We’re in the midst of a transition toward “Web 3.0,” or “Web3,” a utopian ideal of online existence, also known as the decentralized web. Web 2.0 turned us all into active participants on the internet, sharing Instagram stories and tweets — when Web 1.0, the original internet, was all about static, read-only pages. However, this has resulted in a tiny group of companies (Google, Facebook, and Amazon) commanding 50% of global marketing spending. And, obviously, people want to change it.
Web 3.0, the third generation, would presumably allow consumers to bypass middlemen by utilizing the blockchain, which in principle gives authority to producers and artists. NFTs are a component of this (although many look like pyramid schemes in all but name). Some are referring to the stage we’re in as “Web 2.5,” a liminal area where things feel like they’re changing, but not drastically enough for our web experience to feel drastically different.
Is the metaverse Web 2.5? That’s not quite it. It’s more of a word for new platforms that allow consumers to subscribe to the content they’re watching, and more importantly, pay the individuals who created it. A quick example of this are services like Substack (a mailing site) or Patreon (a membership platform), that are gradually moving audiences away from the assumption of free goods. This makes Web 2.5 a transitional term, because it is believed that Web 3.0 will inevitably eclipse these services.
What’s challenging about all of this online discussion is picturing the web’s future in real-life technicolor. Plastician, a producer, provided a practical, real-world illustration of how a DAO (Decentralized Autonomous Organization) could be helpful without broad adoption. He shared on Twitter: “You could set up a DAO focused on keeping your road clean and make your neighbors engage and collectively invest and benefit. If (the) street stays clean then it’s a success.”
On the other hand, Andre D. Leucke, a culture writer, believes that “Web 3.0 could cause real subcultures to reemerge,” writing that, as it’s based on “trackable ownership and faux scarcity that one must opt into … many will never participate in Web 3.0 and would be part of sub-Web 3.0 culture(s).”
However, these utopian gains are accompanied by concerns about platform decentralization and deregulation. While it is true that fake or misleading news is published on a daily basis, wholly unregulated and private communities could also allow disinformation to flourish, giving conspiracy theorists and anti-vaxxers more ability to fund and promote erroneous ideas.
Read more on how Instagram’s new Creators subscription actually makes sense.
Photo via Rapid Innovation