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Wednesday, January 19, 2022

Not Ready for Web 3.0 and Why

Good piece by Tim O'Reilly, intro below, more at the link.

Why it’s too early to get excited about Web3   By Tim O’Reilly

There’s been a lot of talk about Web3 lately, and as the person who defined “Web 2.0” 17 years ago, I’m often asked to comment. I’ve generally avoided doing so because most prognostications about the future turn out to be wrong. What we can do, though, is to ask ourselves questions that help us see more deeply into the present, the soil in which the future is rooted. As William Gibson famously said, “The future is already here. It’s just not evenly distributed yet.” We can also look at economic and social patterns and cycles, using as a lens the observation ascribed to Mark Twain that “history doesn’t repeat itself, but it rhymes.”

Using those filters, what can we say about Web3?

Decentralization versus centralization

The term Web 3.0 was used in 2006 by Tim Berners-Lee, the creator of the World Wide Web, as a look forward to the next stage of the web beyond Web 2.0. He thought that the “Semantic Web” was going to be central to that evolution. It didn’t turn out that way. Now people make the case that the next generation of the web will be based on crypto.

“Web3” as we think of it today was introduced in 2014 by Gavin Wood, one of the cocreators of Ethereum. Wood’s compact definition of Web3, as he put it in a recent Wired interview, is simple: “Less trust, more truth.”

In making this assertion, Wood was contrasting Web3 with the original internet protocol, whose ethos was perhaps best summed up by Jon Postel’s “robustness principle”: “TCP implementations should follow a general principle of robustness: be conservative in what you do, be liberal in what you accept from others.” This ethos became the foundation of a global decentralized computer network in which no one need be in charge as long as everyone did their best to follow the same protocols and was tolerant of deviations. This system rapidly outcompeted all proprietary networks and changed the world. Unfortunately, time proved that the creators of this system were too idealistic, failing to take into account bad actors and, perhaps more importantly, failing to anticipate the enormous centralization of power that would be made possible by big data, even on top of a decentralized network.

Wood’s point is that the blockchain replaces trust in the good intentions of others with transparency and irrevocability built into the technology. As explained on Ethereum.org:

Cryptographic mechanisms ensure that once transactions are verified as valid and added to the blockchain, they can’t be tampered with later. The same mechanisms also ensure that all transactions are signed and executed with appropriate “permissions” (no one should be able to send digital assets from Alice’s account, except for Alice herself).

Ethereum.org’s documentation continues:

Web2 refers to the version of the internet most of us know today. An internet dominated by companies that provide services in exchange for your personal data. Web3, in the context of Ethereum, refers to decentralized apps that run on the blockchain. These are apps that allow anyone to participate without monetising their personal data.

Crypto enthusiast Sal Delle Palme puts it even more boldly:

We’re witnessing the birth of a new economic system. Its features and tenets are just now being devised and refined in transparent ways by millions of people around the world. Everyone is welcome to participate.   .... ' 

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