Since the invention of the World Wide Web (WWW) by Tim Berners-Lee in 1989, the world has been revolutionized by this technology combining computers, data networks and hypertext.
The first iteration of the WWW evolution — Web 1.0 is a “read-only” web that enables users to search and consume information. The second iteration, although deemed as a “passing fad” by many, has flourished and brought the adoption of the internet to a whole new level. Web 2.0 as a “read-write” web, has extended its functionality to highlight user-generated content, usability and interoperability for end users.
As time goes by, many people have grown tired of the data exploitation that major corporations have taken advantage of and wanted to regain control over their data and content. This is where Web3 comes in; the Semantic “read-write-own” Web that revolves around decentralization and token-based economics. Rather than compromising personal data in exchange for free services, users can become participants and shareholders by earning on the blockchain network, which in return allows you to impact decision-making over a network.
Competitions cultivates Innovation
Let’s be real, all of us are either still using or were using Facebook. The competitive social landscape cultivates innovation. We have moved from MySpace, a site known for bands’ pages and customizable profiles; onto Facebook, a place for text and image feeds; onto YouTube and Instagram, platforms for instant peer-to-peer audio and video sharing. We’ve witnessed constant technological advances and innovations from Tech Giants, and mainstream platforms made obsolete for failing to keep up.
Data Exploitation in exchange for free services
In Web 2.0, social media platforms provide end users with free services in exchange for their personal data. As the saying goes, “If you are not paying for the product, you are the product”. According to Clario, major social media apps collect up to 79.5% of personal data from users, including but not limited to name, addresses down to hobbies and interests. Let’s take the example of Facebook (recently renamed as Meta). Facebook with over 2.89 billion monthly active users is the most popular social media worldwide. With an audience base this big, there is no surprise that 98% of Facebook’s revenue is generated through advertising. Since these platforms own and store data in one single place, they can effectively manage and monetize through selling user data to third parties for marketing purposes. . End users have no control over who Facebook sells their data to and how these purchasers use their data.
Authoritarian Control and Propagandas
Despite Facebook’s overall success in past years, the use of personal data for ads targeting and operations have raised concerns as the social landscape has become more privacy-sensitive. In the 2010s, a data breach exposed over 530 million users to serious risk of harm. Personal information was collected by British consulting firm Cambridge Analytica for political manipulation. These data provided analytical assistance to the 2016 presidential campaigns of Ted Cruz and Donald Trump, and were used for propaganda on the Brexit referendum. Some even say these mediated press paved the way to Brexit.
Data Ownership and Decentralisation
Decentralization refers to the transfer of control and decision-making from a centralized entity to a distributed network. This is achieved by introducing a trustless environment where data is validated by consensus and shared between each member of the network so that no single member has the ability to exert authority or control over one another. One may question, does that imply my personal data is open to everyone on the internet? Just the opposite. Users do not need to reveal their real-world identities (e.g. name, addresses, bank accounts, etc.) on Web 3.0, making it difficult for third parties to follow and track users’ web-browsing behaviours using cookies.
This concept of decentralization is not new; in fact, many decentralized social platforms have emerged over the past few years;
Free Speech and Censorship Resistance
In conventional social media, corporate entities control contents of major media, suppressing free speech and inducing censorship based on their regulations and standards. Infamous examples include Twitter taking down the account of then-President of the United States; Facebook temporarily prohibiting users from sharing Australian media in early 2021; Chinese media banning users who post about the president; the list goes on.
In the world of decentralization, platforms are governed by rules set out by the community itself, not one single entity can deem specific content inappropriate. Actions are carried out if consensus is reached between the network.
Web 3.0 seems to be the perfect solution, but is the world ready for Web 3.0 social? Below are a few points yet to be addressed before Web 3.0 can take over the world.
- Web 3.0 Infrastructure. We can romanticize Web 3.0 all we want, and explore its potential applications across all industries ranging from Fintech, to games, and of course to social. The concept of true digital ownership, removal of middleman, and trustlessness are very attractive. But is the technology ready for mass adoption right now? Web 3.0 today is but an infant similar to web 2.0 when the concept of email just came out. We need more scalability when it comes to transaction throughput, simplify the user experience of wallet management, allow for easy bridging and composability between chains, and trustless data transfer that doesn’t just limit to price feeds.
- Users Acquisition. For decentralization to work, a network needs users, lots of users to reach a statistically unbiased consensus. Like all other new platforms, user acquisition and retention remains the first and utmost priority. . Users are only motivated to explore new social platforms if their peers, family or colleagues are already socializing on those platforms. Setting up social accounts and presence require time and effort, so ensuring an easy and seamless on-boarding journey is vital.
- Education and knowledge barrier. Blockchain and decentralization are not rocket science but there is a whole education and understanding part of the security issues that are important to both creators and users. Users that are less tech-savvy may be repelled and put off by the whole ideology of this technology. Education is needed for broad adoption.
- Scalability. Social interactions are supposed to be instant and frequent. Is the blockchain technology scalable enough to support such operations to provide the equivalent quality as Web 2.0 social platforms?
- Legality. Decentralised social networks face regulatory and legal uncertainties as they are not “governed” by any pre-set or clearly written rules. Decisions are made and agreed by consensus, penalties across different platforms will differ. How can platforms ensure morality and justice are upheld and that their consensus induces no legal liability?
Thank you for reading until the end, share in the comment section below if you have any thought about Web 3.0 social.