By Scott Hamilton
Senior Expert Emerging Technologies
There is a new technology under development that, if successful, will change the way the Internet works, or at least the way documents and websites are shared on the Internet. Web 1.0 was the documentation sharing standard in use on the Internet from 1991-2004, where the vast majority of Internet users were readers of web content and most web-pages were static, meaning the content rarely changed. Web 2.0 was based on the idea of “the web as platform,” meaning user-created content. Facebook was born in the Web 2.0 era from 2004 until the present day.
Web 2.0 made the Internet more available to the general public for publishing content; it started when web-pages became websites, meaning the content was stored in a database structure and consisted of multiple database-generated web pages. When you create a post on Facebook, Blogger, Twitter or any other social media platform, you add an entry into a public database that generates dynamic web pages containing your content alongside the content of your friends on the platform. The Internet changed from being created by a few and read by the masses, to being created and read by the masses.
The biggest issue with Web 2.0 is that it requires centralized storage of the content and a relationship between the content author and service provider to make the content available on the Internet. Even if you are capable of creating your own website with something like WordPress, you are still dependent on a service provider to host your content. This centralized component of the Internet makes the content vulnerable. A great example of the vulnerability of centralized content providers was the takedown of Parler in January 2021. Amazon Web Services decided to end the contract with Parler and shut down the servers; this effectively removed not only Parler but all the Parler user-generated content.
Web 3.0, the next era of the Internet, is planning a mechanism based on block-chain that will allow all user-created content to remain intact regardless of the platform or provider. The focus of Web 3.0 is decentralization, and though there are several iterations of Web 3.0 under development, they all share one central technology, block-chain. I have done a few past articles on block-chain, but at the very basic level, it is a method of tracking changes to content over time and guarantees the integrity of the content with a link directly to the original creator’s identity. If content is modified outside of the chain it fails the integrity check, so it can only be modified by people allowed by the creator. Such technologies are mainly useful for creating what might be called distributed social networks, where content is stored on individual users’ computers and shared across the network. You would be in complete control of your content, unlike today when the platform has control and can remove or block content at will.
Web 3.0 is a great idea in concept, but we are a long way from having a viable Web 3.0 product, mainly because it means a loss of advertising revenue for big tech companies and a loss of content control as well. It would create both freedom on the Internet but also a lack of control, making it easier for illegal content to enter the web. There are a lot of great ideas, but without the support of big tech, they are not likely to be accepted.
Until next week, stay safe and learn something new.
Scott Hamilton is a Senior Expert in Emerging Technologies at ATOS and can be reached with questions and comments via email to email@example.com or through his website at http://www.techshepherd.org.