Discover the key differences between Web 1.0 vs Web 2.0 vs Web 3.0 in this comparison.
It’s easy to poke fun at Web 3.0 concepts and technologies like cryptocurrency and non-fungible tokens or NFTs.
About cryptocurrency, bitcoin critics say, “That weird type of internet money is nothing more than gambling. It’s not worth anything.”
About NFTs, critics say, “That’s nothing more than an overpriced JPEG, meme, or GIF that people are wasting hundreds if not thousands of dollars on.”
Critics poked fun at Web 1.0 and the internet in the early 1990s too. Check out this interview with Bill Gates on David Letterman.
Web 1.0, Web 2.0, and Web 3.0 are concepts about the evolution of the web rather than prescriptions about what it should and shouldn’t do. Like any concept, these shift and evolve.
What Is Web 1.0?
Web 1.0 describes the early internet from 1991 to 2004. We mostly read or consumed static content published by businesses and some savvy website owners as users. Think of Web 1.0 as read-only.
Websites were little more than a series of static HTML pages or a type of public-facing wiki, with a few hyperlinks between each other.
Slow internet speeds and a lack of connected mobile devices meant Web 1.0 wasn’t integrated neatly into everyday life. Images on HTML web pages were pixelated and of poor quality. The video was a low-quality rarity due to dial-up broadband. Think of early Altavista or About.com
Web 1.0 was frustrating for many casual internet users as most websites were poorly designed or devoid of meaningful content. They were reluctant to buy goods and services online. Users didn’t see much, if any, advertising back then. Analytics was unavailable for creators and website publishers.
The primary key web 1.0 activities were searching for information about a company or product, creating wikis, emails, chat, message boards, and pornography.
What Is Web 2.0?
Web 2.0 describes the internet from 2004 to the current day. Consumers access personalized information online on interactive sites, platforms, and communities. Think of Web 2.0 as read-write.
We send and receive information about our preferences, and in return, algorithms surface tailored content, products, and services.
In Web 2.0, all data is a commodity. Companies collect data about us to create more meaningful dynamic content and provide a better user experience. But harvesting data is also part of their business model. They also either serve targeted advertising or products or sell space to advertisers.
Erosion of privacy is one of the big issues with Web 2.0. We willingly give away information and personal data in exchange for dynamic and tailored content. But, sometimes, we unknowingly give away more than we bargained for. Consider if you’ve ever seen a creepy yet prescient Facebook ad about birth control or baby equipment.
Big Web 2.0 platforms reward everyday content creators by paying them scraps from the table, mainly in the form of likes and shares. In many cases, content creators also must pay Web 2.0 platforms like Facebook or Amazon to run ads and appear at the top of search engine results.
Web 2.0 platforms like Facebook enable the distribution of false and biased information online. They’ve also facilitated the rise of a toxic cancel culture.
In Web 2.0, end users can be easily canceled, de-platformed, or doxxed. A hosting provider can shut down your account. A platform can tweak its algorithm, so content stops surfacing. A social media mob can pass judgment on someone they dislike or take exception to.
We typically pay for goods and services using PayPal and traditional means of payment like a Visa, Mastercard, or debit card.
Key Web 2.0 activities include blogging, podcasting, vlogging, and sharing on social media platforms.
What Is Web 3.0?
Web 3.0 is a concept describing the future of the internet. Every individual owns what they create and share online. Their valuable data is decentralized rather than controlled by a big technology company like Facebook or Google. It’s distributed via blockchain technology rather than by a commercial, sometimes pay-for-play, algorithm. Think of Web 3.0 as read, write and own.
Web 3.0 is also known as the semantic web. That’s a technical standard set by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) whereby our online data is processed by machines talking to machines.
For example, using Web 3.0, you could potentially take out a loan via a decentralized finance platform like Aave. The underlying technology or smart contract determines your eligibility rather than a human assessor: machines talking to machines.
The inventor of the World Wide Web, Tim Berners-Lee, expressed his vision of the Semantic Web back in 1999 when he said:
I have a dream for the Web in which computers become capable of analyzing all the data on the Web – the content, links, and transactions between people and computers. A “Semantic Web”, which makes this possible, has yet to emerge, but when it does, the day-to-day mechanisms of trade, bureaucracy and our daily lives will be handled by machines talking to machines. The “intelligent agents” people have touted for ages will finally materialize.Tim Berners-Lee
Check out my video guide to CeFi vs DeFi loans on Web 3.0
In the real world, people face discrimination because of skin colour, background, ethnicity, sex, political beliefs, religion, and how they speak. With Web 3.0, it’s much harder for the mob or an algorithm to cancel an individual.
We can create a digital identity or pseudonym associated with a digital avatar or NFT. This virtual identity can accumulate reputation and a following. This step protects a real-world identity from unintended consequences of what we do or say online. Followers can provide support by buying associated NFTs or sending crypto payments or tips to their addresses.
In theory, pseudonyms could protect and enable whistleblowers, journalists, and dissidents. In reality, expect anonymous trolls and malicious actors to manipulate the tech behind Web 3.0. It’s difficult if not impossible to remove harmful, toxic, and fake content and enforce copyright because of the nature of blockchain technology.
If the current vision for Web 3.0 manifests, it’ll become much more common to use a digital wallet to buy goods and services. For example, you could potentially buy some Bitcoin, Ethereum, or some other cryptocurrency, transfer it to software or MetaMask wallet and use it to pay for goods and services securely on traditional sites like Amazon as well as on Web 3.0 platforms and stores.
As a content creator working in Web 3.0, you can use artificial intelligence to help create content. AI can, for example, help you write headlines for web pages or produce article outlines.
You also don’t have to rely on scraps from Facebook, Google, or YouTube or pay-to-play. Instead, you can control what you publish and where and distribute it accordingly. You can potentially monetize said content using cryptocurrency or NFTs or simply let the blockchain distribute it directly to followers.
Examples of emerging Web 3.0 platforms include:
- Mirror.xyz and Bitclout for content creators
- OpenSea and LooksRare for NFT buyers
- Aave and Compound for staking and borrowing cryptocurrency
- The ENS domain name service
Learn about ENS domain name use cases.
Don’t expect Web 2.0 platforms to retreat quietly into the night. Facebook’s rebrand to Meta represents its multibillion-dollar play to dominate the space.
Non-fungible tokens or NFTs are a key part of Web 3.0 too. Hold one, and you potentially gain voting rights for decentralized autonomous organizations or DAOs.
Learn more about fungible vs non-fungible tokens.
In short, you can help shape the direction of your favorite Web 3.0 projects. You can evaluate ideas from creators based on their merit with other verified holders. This type of decentralization, in theory, replaces the top-down model of traditional tech companies and media organizations.
Some key activities for Web 3.0 include creating non-fungible tokens, contributing to decentralized autonomous organizations (DAOs), using AI and decentralized finance.
Web 1.0 Vs Web 2.0 Vs Web 3.0: The Final Word
The future of the world wide web is hardly set in stone, and it’s not for tech titans like Mark Zuckerberg to dictate either. Over the coming years, big tech companies and operators of social networks will work hard to deliver on their vision and find a business model for Web 3.0.
Still, Web 3.0 means big tech may no longer dominate the shape of the internet. Thanks to blockchain technology, cryptocurrency, and NFTs, content creators and casual internet users get a fairer say about how their data is used, shared, and potentially monetized.