Web 3.0, dubbed the next state for the internet, is being talked about more and more as the days go by. So what is it exactly?
To fully understand the term, we have to look at the evolution of the internet itself.
Evolution of Web
Web 1.0: Read-only Internet
The first iteration of the Web. In the Web1 ecosystem, almost all of its users are consumers of information provided by creators that developed the websites.
Mostly read-only static sites, there is almost no interaction between its users and no way for average users to provide any information back to the internet for other users. Instead, Web1 serves only as a way for site creators to put their information out there for users to consume. Nowadays, many sites still fall under this category of Web1, including our beautiful Cleverse Landing Page.
Checking the validity of the information is not possible; you have to take the site’s words for it, making the information manipulable by its creators. Although there might be mechanisms outside the Web1 internet to control the information, be it law or societal pressure, the point stands.
Web 2.0: Read-and-write Internet
The second iteration of the Web. Its main difference from Web1 is that users generate the content instead of the owner.
Now users can provide their content or interact with the internet. Giving feedback to other information becomes possible, mitigating the issues about information manipulation since the users can provide their correct information or at least point out the incorrectness, e.g., commenting on social media — though whether others believe said users is another thing.
Interacting with other systems becomes possible, such as online payment instead of paying with good ol’ cold hard cash.
Here’s an example of Web2: Cleverse on LinkedIn, with us as the user generating the content and LinkedIn as the platform.
But the problem of information manipulation still exists. Users’ comments can be censored — or getting their accounts banned. Payment service might get paused.
Also, platform owners own your registered personal information data and every transaction you have ever made in their database. And one can’t use their service without giving up said information.
With all that being said, it doesn’t mean that any of that will happen for sure; it just means it is technically possible.
Web 3.0: Read-and-write-and-own Internet
Enter the Web3, the next iteration of the Web.
There’s no definitive meaning to the term “Web3” presented since everyone has their implications associated with it. So, I will be giving you my understanding of Web3.
Web3 is the internet where no one entity truly owns the information and the system. The information is distributed among the users, publicly available, and verifiable by anyone. In other words, it’s a decentralized, permissionless, and trustless network.
To further explain these three terms, let’s go back to a Web2 example; the payment service, or more specifically, the bank.
Decentralized means that a network of computers holds the data instead of the bank holding them along with the only means to interact with your assets. You can interact with any of them to access the service. That brings us to another point: when a centralized banking service went down, got attacked, or got hacked, it rendered its entire userbase unable to do anything since it’s a single point of failure. But with decentralization, if one service provider goes down or is compromised, there are others to use.
Permissionless means that instead of the bank requiring personal information and being able to choose who or when to provide the service, everyone can use the service without giving up their personal information, and no one can decide on their own to stop providing the service to anyone.
Trustless means that instead of you needing to trust the bank to be your intermediary that when you transfer funds, the recipient will receive the correct amount, and the transaction will show up on their end. Although, to be fair, Web3’s trustless doesn’t mean we can trust no one entirely. It means that we can distribute our trust that everyone participating in the network — which is governed by code — will maintain the system’s integrity instead of harming it since the network was designed so that doing so won’t benefit them.
To summarize, the comparison between payment service on Web2 and Web3 are as follows:
The idea about Web3 doesn’t end here; however, concepts such as AI/Machine Learning infusion and many other things are being explored as we speak.
While it is exciting to talk about the future, for this article, I’d like to talk more about the current state of Web3. Specifically about the technology being used to make Web3 possible: blockchain.
What’s blockchain? I find this statement from Ethereum documentation most fitting to describe a blockchain:
A blockchain is a public database that is updated and shared across many computers in a network. — Ethereum.org
Now, let’s break the word blockchain down further, shall we?
What is a “Block”?
Block is a collection of transactions stored consecutively to each other. New transactions have to be added to a new block, and only until the network confirms the block and committed to the chain that the transaction is considered completed.
What is a “Chain”?
A chain is an idea that each block that supposedly should be stored consecutively is immutable. Every block will cryptographically refer to its ancestor until the first “Block 0” AKA “Genesis block.” Thus blocks are chained together, creating a blockchain.
Computers — AKA nodes — in the network have to agree when a new block comes in that the transactions inside the block are legit and the block itself cryptographically refers to the latest block, and also that the chain as a whole is still correct. Only then that the new block be committed to the blockchain, thus becoming the latest block for the following block to refer to as its ancestor. (For a more elaborate explanation, please refer to this.)
Now, you might have a question: what is cryptographically refer to even mean? Good question. Let’s dive a little deeper into how blockchain works.
How does blockchain work?
This section might get too technical even though I did try to simplified it. Feel free to skip to the Ethereum section.
Again, our old friend payment service will take place as an example.
Now, let’s start with a blank slate—the genesis block. No one has any balance in the system, and no committed transaction.
Then, Alice deposits 100 USD, and Bob deposits 50 USD. The node which Alice and Bob interacted with then added the transaction into a block.
When the node wants to commit a block, it will first have to combine the following data to generate a “hash”: the previous block’s hash, all the data within this block. You can think of this hash as each block’s identity; in a way, it’s similar to our fingerprints.
The node then commits the block to the network for every other node to verify the validity of this block, and when the consensus of the network agrees that this block is valid, this block then becomes the latest block of the chain.
Then, Alice creates a transaction to transfer 20 USD to Bob. The node then creates Block 2 and commits to the blockchain.
Now, to know the current state of the blockchain, we can “replay” all the transactions ever since the genesis block to find out everyone’s balance.
What if someone wants to act maliciously by tampering with the data in the blockchain? Say, change Alice’s deposit in Block 1 from 100 USD to 110 USD.
This mechanism means that certain someone(Alice, I’m looking at you) would need to change every block’s hashes ever since the tampered block. Since Block 1’s data changed, Block 1’s hash has to change, and with Block 1’s hash changed, Block 2’s hash also has to change, so on and so forth.
And even after changing all the hashes accordingly, there’s still a problem the malicious actor has to overcome: how to present to the nodes in the network so that they accept this new blockchain as the correct one — it’s virtually impossible.
That’s just a glimpse into what an amazing technology Blockchain is.
Disclaimer: This is just a very brief explanation of Blockchain. If you want to see an article going deep and technical, let us know!
Next, let’s briefly talk about Ethereum. The platform, which, I’d say, popularized and utilized blockchain technology to serve a way wider audience than Bitcoin.
Ethereum is a platform that uses blockchain as its core idea and pushes the utilization further.
There’s a single Ethereum blockchain whose state every node in the network agrees on. Each node then keeps a copy of this state on its machine.
Any node can request the network to perform any arbitrary computation (e.g., Alice sending messages to Bob, monthly paying the salary). Every node then verifies and executes such a request.
With that being said, I want to talk more about the most prominent feature of Ethereum, in my opinion: The Smart Contract.
What is Smart Contract?
A smart contract is a snippet of code on the Ethereum blockchain that developers can create to provide varying services like a marketplace, banking, lending, and many more.
Any user can interact with any smart contract, provided the parameters and the conditions are correct.
For example, a piggy bank smart contract that allows users to deposit Ether, withdrawable by them alone after a specific time.
Here’s an example of a series of instructions a smart contract could be doing:
Utilizing smart contracts on Ethereum allows developers to create complex applications that satisfy the users’ needs. Thus expanding the use of blockchain to solve a wider and wider array of problems as more contracts are being developed every day.
Let’s wrap it up
Web 3.0 is the direction the internet is evolving toward. The main goal is the distribution of ownership from a few large organizations to many small individuals(yes — you can be one of them!), moving the trust in the organization to the consensus of people, letting the internet be accessible to everyone.
The blockchain is the most prominent technology utilized for Web 3.0 to reach those goals. Being a public database shared by a network of nodes governed by computer code, blockchain made “Decentralized”, “Permissionless”, and “Trustless” possible.
And to be able to make Web 3.0 available and valuable to people, more blockchain use cases other than cryptocurrencies need to be developed. So that’s where Ethereum came in. Being a powerful platform superpowered with Smart Contract opens up endless opportunities eagerly waiting to be created and shared!
Personally, I don’t believe Web3 to be the sole future of the internet. I think it will coexist with Web1 and Web2 as they currently do. Each generation of web serve its different purposes. Also, not every application is meant to be decentralized, permissionless and trustless anyway.
This article’s purpose is about explaining the meaning of Web3 and its associated technology. Not to blindly suggest that Blockchain (along with Ethereum) is the silver bullet meant to solve every goal of Web3, just that it’s currently the most popular one. And who knows what technologies might be born in the future to better serve the vision of Web3.
I find discussing the real-world practicality of Web3/Blockchain to be interesting. So feel free to reach out to talk about it!
And that about wraps it up for this article!
There are many more exciting things left to talk about. The consensus algorithms, The pros/cons of blockchain and how it’s being solved, Ethereum 2.0, the list goes on.
If you are interested in any Web3-related topics and want to see more articles from us or give feedback about this article, feel free to reach out to us!
Stay tuned for upcoming articles! Spoiler: it’s for developers ;)