Web 3.0… wtf?
So often, this is the first reaction that people have when anyone mentions web 3.0. Is this just another TLA (Three-Letter Acronym) from the Tech-Industry trying to sell us new big ideas and new big budgets based on some under-cooked technology with the promise of exponential potential? There then follows a buzzword salad that through ever-increasing usage, gently fits into the jigsaw of the mainstream vernacular.
At USPC, we prefer to say Web 3.0 – wtf – where’s the future?
Ultimately, web 3.0 reflects the next iteration of the internet.
The challenge is that Web 3.0 is not well defined, with so much depending on who is talking and their background.
The crypto community views web 3.0 as the internet of value meeting the internet of ownership. Cryptocurrencies and tokenization are at the epicenter of the internet’s future, where individuals have more control of their privacy and their data and everything is run through community-based decentralized structures.
To others, web 3.0 brings together many rich technologies – gaming, virtual reality (VR), and augmented reality (AR). These 3-dimensional worlds are seen to create an immersive future where the technologies converge together, providing community-focused experiences. This latter camp believes that instead of being on the internet, we will be in the internet.
In reality, web 3.0 will probably be a blended combination of the two camps, taking the best from each side to create business models that make sense. In truth, however, no one really knows where web 3.0 will end up and when it will be truly defined and production-ready. In so many ways, we’re still designing the plane as we are flying it.
Ultimately, successful commercial models will shape web 3.0 in the future.
To get there there will be plenty of experimentation and, to be honest, plenty of failures, where the graveyard of ambition will fill with ideas that failed to gain sufficient market traction to survive and thrive. In the game of IT roulette, ideas will get backed and Darwinian economics will play out its ever-repeating cycle that has gone before. The markets will be the ultimate arbiter, shaking out the weak, and embracing the strong.
In this article, we will look at the power of web 3.0, especially the power of cryptocurrencies to create new business models. We will also explore we have come from to arrive at the current web 3.0 crossroads and to help make sense of where the dots are most likely to connect in the future so that you can get a sense of future opportunities. It is only here that you can make your own call on how best to capitalize on this explosive trend.
The journey to web 3.0 – where have we come from?
Web 1.0: The Initial Innovation (Read-Only)
The internet had its humble beginnings back in 1993 with the launch of the world wide web by Tim Berners Lee. At the time, he was a computer scientist working at CERN – the European Organization for Nuclear Research. It wasn’t formally defined as web1.0 at the time, but it was as geeky as it was transformative.
Using the global telephone system at its core, connecting to the internet was painful and an auditory nightmare. Connecting via a 14.4k telephone modem would create a random symphony of painful anguish – where screeches, dings, and bleeps would welcome your initial connection to the internet. The first websites would ease their way on to the screens with occasional images emerging one line at a time on the white concrete block – called a monitor. For those of us that saw these initial images, we recognized the image could be in Stockholm, Seoul or Los Angeles, or anywhere globally – and that was its power – the power of connectivity.
For those that may want to take a nostalgic trip down memory lane, or for those that would love to know why anyone over the age of 35 suffers deeply from the PTSD of early internet connectivity, you may want to visit the Museum of Endangered sounds to embrace the sounds from the mid-1990s – that seem both quaint and painful. Yes, Web 1.0 was raw, but it laid the foundations for the internet we have today.
Here was a technology layer that opened up global information. So much so that the former vice president, Al Gore – first labeled it the information superhighway.
The journey to where we are now – required so many commercial giants to stand delicately balanced on the shoulders of giant geeks.
The early iterations of websites were very basic. With limited images that chewed up the very limited bandwidth, the first web page iterations were glorified 3-dimensional adverts. To the left is Apple’s 1997 web page. The technology of early sites was basic but had the capacity to be a breathing advert by updating web pages in real-time by updating the html code underneath it.
The user experience, however, was poor. Reading the information on the web page was as far as interaction went – there was none of the interaction that we take for granted today. Essentially, web 1.0 was read-only
Web 2.0: Innovation (Read-Write)
Images and video were painful in web 1.0. They required heavy bandwidth, were very slow to download and the user experience was very poor. As the underlying infrastructure continued to improve so did the user experience. Enhanced infrastructure gave more power to embrace a far richer internet, creating enhanced opportunities for users and business alike.
It was the financial layer that saw exponential growth in web 1.0. Accepting credit cards online transformed the virtual realm of the internet into marketplaces and commercial models. It was here that serious adoption happened via Amazon and eBay. Slowly, the banks recognized they needed to play catch-up resulting in furious M&A activity in the financial services sector as banks embraced the ability to transact online. It was 2004, however, that saw a step-change in internet-based models when fresh-faced Harvard student Mark Zukerberg created “the Facebook”
Through such sites as Facebook, Twitter, Youtube and others, Web 2.0 created the ability for users to interact with websites and ultimately communities. The world-wide-web became “read-write”. As these websites began to grow, they came into their own in terms of the ability to build communities. It was here that the dramatic shift occurred that truly defined Web 2.0 – where website users became the product.
YouTube enabled influencers, where influencers could launch and monetize videos themselves. By generating an audience Youtube created very closely target adverts based on the influencer audience. Advertisers would pay very handsomely, especially as the data became more granular.
The viewer data was tracked, stored, and ultimately sold. This created very powerful models for advertisers to get access to very tightly targeted audiences. The sheer power of tightly targeted advertising showcased the power of data-driven digital advertising – where advertisers could track and iterate results.
On Facebook, communities developed with members interacting together. Advertisers accessed data and multiple touch points with their target audience together with the audience’s extended networks. As sophistication grew, so increasingly divisive models emerged. This was perhaps most reflected in the high-profile case of Cambridge Analytica during the 2016 US election. This resulted in so many people feeling nervous about their data privacy.
This was best expressed in a recent (very clever) advertisement from Apple promoting the iPhone’s ability to restrict the release and use of your personal data. At the time of writing, the video-based advert had over 15 million views. This issue of data ownership will play out markedly within web 3.0 and begs so many questions:
- Who owns your data – especially if we start to embrace Virtual Reality headsets?
- Can Big Tech use your biometric data? (Facebook has at least two patents for tracking users’ eye-movements)
Web 3.0: The Internet Of Value (Read-Write-Own)
Web 3.0 has not yet been fully defined and no doubt will embrace the best of all technologies available to create new and immersive experiences for users. It is taken as read that VR, Gaming, and ultimately AR will be in the core of web 3.0 giving a richer immersive 3-dimensional experience.
It is when we get deep into the granularity of the VR and AR-based worlds, however, that we realize how VR and AR worlds are all just collections of digital files. So, let’s consider the core features of emerging blockchain technology that has the power to be a further step-change by creating:
- The internet of ownership
- The internet of value
- The programming of funds
- Changes in privacy and data ownership
The internet of Ownership
Blockchain has the power to create and confirm the digital ownership of an individual digital file. Tokenization enables the transparent, and unique digital ownership of a digital file through the creation of a unique digital fingerprint. Without getting too deep into the technology a digital file can be “cryptographically hashed” using SHA-256 cryptography (hence the “crypto” in cryptocurrencies). This technology creates a series of letters and numbers as a string of text that represents the original digital file:
This image shows how SHA-256 works in real time. We have inserted the text “We love USPC coin!”. When we hit the “submit” button it generates a unique hash, shown in the result box.
This can be extended to any digital file – eg the title deeds of a property, which can even extend to a pool of real estate assets as a securitized fund.
The digital assets that represent the securitized fund can be tokenized and broken down into a limited number of units of through ownership tokens that can be made available and transparently viewed on the Ethereum public blockchain (the public data will typically only show the transaction and wallet details but not any personally identifiable information).
So, for example, if you wanted to own 1% of the securitized pool of real estate assets you would purchase 1% of UPSC’s tokens that represent 1% of the securitized assets.
This becomes very powerful. Imagine in the future owning a percentage of international assets in a securitized fund – with 0.5% of an apartment in New York, 2% of a house in Sydney, and 0.75% of a commercial property in London.
You could diversify your investment portfolio through tokenization easily and quickly across different global markets.
If you want more information on how USPC’s security tokens work please check out our introduction to security tokens
The Internet of Value
Cryptocurrencies are transforming the internet of information into the internet of value. Cryptocurrencies are embedded into internet-based technologies and do not require that the user use external banking systems. Transactions happen in real-time using the payment rails associated with cryptocurrencies. This is especially powerful for international transactions.
International transactions within the banking system can take 1 to 3 days to transmit funds internationally via the banking system. With cryptocurrencies, these are transmitted in minutes and in many cases near-instantaneous time. This is the same for the security tokens issued for USPC.
The Programming of funds
You can also program funds through smart contracts. Smart contracts are like a very powerful vending machine. With a vending machine you:
- insert your money
- choose your candy and
- pick up your candy and change
The vending machine does all the calculations in the background. Smart contracts are similar but very flexible with the power to match by enabling the programming of funds. Let’s say you want to buy another 1% of USPC’s securitized pool of real estate assets. As soon as you release cryptocurrency funds there is a smart contract behind the scenes that automatically defines your ownership and allocates tokens to your nominated wallet. The power of smart contracts is limited only by your imagination.
Changes in privacy and data ownership
Web 3.0 also has a new potential model for data. Using blockchain-based technologies, it is possible to enable users to retain their own personal data – and to sell that data without revealing their personally identifiable data.
For example, if users have a smartwatch that has their basic biometric data stored for health purposes, an insurance company may pay for the data across a manufacturer’s customer base to look at overall market trends without needing to know specific individualized data. That data could be sourced and paid for without the user having to release identifiable data. This is just the tip of the iceberg as to where data privacy could go with web3.0 – but the models could transform the way data is transacted.
While web 3.0 is still yet to be formally defined, it is evolving and changing. It has the potential to change so many different interactions we will have within a totally digital environment. The internet of ownership can be defined, and the release of tokens made easy for different asset classes internationally. The internet of value then eases international transactions – so in time, the trading of tokens internationally can be made very easy.
Overall web 3.0 will take the best of new technologies that continue to evolve and has the potential to remove the models that consumers hate It’s an exciting time to embrace the web 3.0 space. It won’t be perfect but it’s unfolding in front of our very eyes. So next time someone says web 3.0 – wtf? You can confidently say you now have a stronger grasp on where the future lies and how you are going to capitalize on it.