The decentralization and democratization of information was the distinguishing feature of the internet and Web1, while Web2 corporations wanted to create walled gardens to retain consumers within their ecosystems.
The internet was developed in the 1960s and 1970s, at the peak of the Cold War. The US created a decentralized network of numerous computers spread out across the nation so that its defense system would continue to function even after a nuclear assault by the Soviet Union. Tim Berners-Lee later developed the World Wide Web, one of the first internet applications, in the 1990s. Users could easily “surf” the internet and browse material with browsers like Microsoft Internet Explorer. It was decentralized (run by standard computers), open-source (anyone could build on it without restriction), and read-only (very few people had the technical skill to publish on it).
Web2 started in the middle of the 2000s when websites like Facebook and YouTube first appeared. Regardless of technological ability, anyone could publish content online using these platforms. The decentralization and democratization of information were the distinguishing features of the internet and Web1, while Web2 corporations wanted to create walled gardens to retain consumers within their ecosystems. In fact, with Web2, information is being more compartmentalized and controlled by a small number of powerful technology firms.
The centralized control of data and power has been a major component of the Web2 era. Virtually all web programs, including Facebook, Twitter, Gmail, and others, are centralized on servers owned by a select few big businesses. Companies keep users’ data in their control so that users don’t have to, and their terms of service govern how data is handled. For instance, a small number of businesses dominate a disproportionate amount of the global market for cloud infrastructure, with Amazon, Microsoft, and Google holding over 65% of the market. In terms of online traffic rather than data storage, Facebook had 2.9 billion monthly active users in 2021, or more than 60% of active internet users worldwide. Simply put, a small number of powerful technological businesses effectively dictate what users see and do online. As a result, rather than becoming a democracy (where users own and control their data), the internet has changed into something more akin to an oligopoly (where a few firms possess and manage user data).
The quickest option for centralized enterprises to provide reliable infrastructure to fuel Web3’s dApp ecosystems is to build several blockchain nodes in AWS data centers and enable developers to use them from anywhere for a fee. A few participants in the market accomplished just that, albeit at the cost of decentralization. This has left the ecosystem susceptible to threats and at the mercy of a few strong entities.
For users and creators, this centralization causes problems, including:
In contrast to users and creators, value accrues to intermediaries and, consequently, a select group of people (i.e., founders, employees, and investors). Because platform advertising regulations and algorithms are subject to change, this presents difficulties for creators whose advertising revenue may be drastically affected. Numerous major platforms impose hefty take rates (20%+) on their creators, which reduces their profitability.
Web2 companies frequently retain, use, and sell user data. Data privacy and user sovereignty issues may result from this. For instance, Facebook has come under fire for allegedly prioritizing engagement on its platform over a few ethical considerations. It experienced a hack in October 2018 that compromised the data of more than 50 million members. Additionally, 91% of American people, according to Pew Research, concur that consumers no longer have any control over how businesses gather and utilize their personal information.
Platforms govern how users connect with their peers and how content is distributed on Web2. This may have important ramifications for creators whose companies rely on these sites. For instance, because it competes with Periscope, similar software that Twitter just bought, the mobile video streaming app Meerkat was essentially banned from Twitter.
Platforms like Facebook and Twitter have emerged as key players in the presidential election results and have been charged with spreading false information. Additionally, these businesses have been compelled to weigh in on political discussions. For instance, in January 2021, Twitter famously suspended President Donald Trump’s account. Governments can easily censor access to centralized servers, as was the case when Turkey stopped access to Wikipedia.
Simply said, the current web has a number of issues. With the goal of regaining user and creator sovereignty, Web3 aims to address these problems. The switch to Web3 has a number of possible advantages, including:
Web3 fully supports open economies in which everyone benefits. Web3 includes new digital primitives, including fungible and non-fungible tokens, which users can utilize to participate in growth where centralized Web2 platforms did not allow for this. These assets give users ownership of their project contributions.
Users can choose which data and information they will share through Web3 projects. The decentralized web aims to separate itself from businesses that control the flow of information on the internet and gather, store, and sell user data.
With Web3, users can turn the tables on platforms. Applications can be developed on top of one another using Web3 composability and data transparency, which goes beyond the traditional perception of platforms as walled gardens. Due to this, tech and product distribution are fundamentally transformed, and open social networks are made possible.
Web2 gave centralized organizations command over distribution. Web3 aims to decentralize this decision-making process by giving project communities control over governance. Decentralized Autonomous Organizations (DAOs), which are owned and operated by tokens, are emerging from these online communities. Decisions in DAOs are made by the members. Thus, formerly centralized decisions on revenue, censorship and other matters are now decentralized among DAO members.