What is Web 3.0? | The Big Idea

Artist and early crypto-adopter Mathew Dryhurst teaches a class on Web 3.0 and machine learning at NYU and summarized for Fox 5 News perhaps the defining distinction of how consumers might experience the next evolution of the internet.

"The idea that we will no longer be interacting with one or two kinds of central points of attention, let's say a Twitter or Facebook," Dryhurst said, "but instead be subject to potentially thousands of different interfaces of different interactions around content that is produced, I think, fundamentally changes the experience of the web."

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Before we attempt to unpack that definition, we first probably need to briefly revisit the 1990s and the birth of Web 1.0. For many of us, our first internet experience was clunky, decentralized, and, at times, tedious.

"And if you wanted to get to a web page," Forbes Senior Editor Michael del Castillo said, "you might even have to have a friend to help you make sure you had your forward slashes in that right."

Del Castillo then fast-forwarded a decade or so to the rise of Web 2.0, the reign of so-called Big Tech, where those Web 1.0 web pages, creatable by anyone, now sacrifice all of their data to the Googles and Facebooks of the world.

"These big companies sort of cordon themselves off from the search engines to make it difficult to search the content," del Castillo said. "They prevent businesses from building on them."

Del Castillo compared this internet of today to a collection of walled gardens in which users seed and cultivate individual profiles and followings that don't carry over to other digital plots, bringing us back to Dryhurst's definition of Web 3.0.

"A fundamentally different way of interacting with and developing relationships with the services that you use online," he said.

The technical difference of this Web 3.0 of no borders — where instead of dozens of accounts across social media, email, banking, music, video, shopping, you-name-it platforms, one personalized digital profile will take each of us and all our followers everywhere we go online — we find in its decentralization, reducing the reliance upon massive banks of servers in climate-controlled warehouses owned by mega-corporations able to censor the Internet and profit off our data without paying us a cent.

"There's big money to be made off of running the internet," del Castillo said.

In the Web 3.0 future, many millions, maybe billions of personal computers around the world combine to create blockchain networks that allow us to move information — pictures, videos, stocks, bonds, titles, songs, etc. — free from the control of any central authority.

"The network is up all the time because a distributed group of people globally are hosting and running it," Dryhurst said.

"You will pay for what you use in real-time," del Castillo said, "and it will be tiny, tiny, tiny fractionalized payments."

Digital wallets, holding our various cryptocurrencies and always present as browser extensions, will pay for these web services in real-time, potentially eliminating the need for advertisements or subscriptions.

"A Web 3.0-enabled news site might actually charge you as you scroll down," del Castillo said, "and it's going to charge you, like I said earlier, a billionth of a trillionth of a cent to read a word or a line or a paragraph."

The monetization of Web 3.0 shifts from enriching trillion-dollar tech giants to rewarding the creators off of whom those companies have profited.

"We as consumers ought to own some kind of a stake," Dryhurst said, "some kind of a voting share in the services that we contribute value to."

"If the new Web 3.0 Twitter existed, you being the first user on the platform who then amassed millions of users, you would actually own a bit of the company," Inspired Capital founder Alexa von Tobel said. "You would own your own data."

Von Tobel offered a Web 3.0 example where musicians might look to the blockchain to see which wallets paid for attendance to the most of their shows and then reward those superfans with something that gains value as the artist gains popularity.

"It's about alignment in a really powerful way that's better for the audience," she said. "It's better for the creators."

"The idea of having a permanent record of interactions of culture is ultimately really great," Dryhurst said, "and decentralization is one way."

"The future of work will become more gamified," Single Grain Marketing founder and CEO Eric Siu said.

Siu deviates from some others in and around this space in his expected degree of decentralization. 

"I think there's a lot of maximalists right now out there, like, 'Oh, Web 3.0 versus like, you're in the Web 2.0 world right now.' It's like, dude, it's just the internet," Siu said. "Like, in the next 10 years, it's just the internet."

Which brings us to the timeline of this transition.

"We're now at the point where this is no longer pretend [or] exploratory," von Tobel said.

"I think we'll probably start to get an idea of what the Googles and Facebooks of Web 3.0 might be in the next five to 10 years," del Castillo said.

And it's certainly possible we find Web 2.0's Google and Facebook among the Googles and Facebooks of Web 3.0.

"I think most of them got into blockchain with a sort of defensive posture," del Castillo said.

But however much of the last however many minutes you spent reading or watching this resonated with your Web 2.0 brain, this collection of thought-leaders stressed that if we digested nothing else about the arrival of Web 3.0, we needed to understand that a change is coming to the way we use the internet.

"It's going to be a public resource," del Castillo said.

One that empowers the consumer and the creator like never before.

"The meme or expectation that we all should have or own a share in the services that we contribute value to is something that I think is worth fighting for," Dryhurst said.