What is the future of the internet? The internet changes so quickly and constantly that we often fail to notice the huge changes that occur every day, which drastically change the landscape over time. For example, a little over a decade ago, most Americans used a personal computer to interact online, today, most internet usage occurs on mobile devices.

Many innovators think the future of the internet is something known as “Web3”, but this of course begs the question of what is or was Web1 and Web2?

A Brief History of the Internet

Web1 wasn’t called Web1 at the time but was simply known as the internet or World Wide Web. You might remember the famous clip from the Today Show in 1995 where hosts struggled to understand what was the internet. This early version of the internet relied on message boards, portals for browsing the internet such as AOL, and hyperlinks to other web content. Very few people used email for daily communications and the “You got mail” sound was an exciting part of people’s day.

This was a very decentralized period of the internet where webpages would go up and down on a regular basis and finding what you were looking for could be difficult. Then, entrepreneurs embarked on a journey to make the internet more navigable and convenient, and thus more profitable for businesses to offer their services online.

Web2 or the Platform Internet

In the early 2000’s, tech companies started offering platforms that offered more curated experiences for people online. Services like Google search helped people navigate the internet easily from their web browser, Wikipedia contained crowdsourced information on millions of subjects, and services like Myspace brought millions together and brought the phrase “social media” to the mainstream. .

Rather than simply browse the internet, consumers would instead go to platforms for specific tasks such as finding information, connecting with friends, or buying products.

This type of online interaction flourished with the smartphone revolution, specifically after the invention of the iPhone. Rather than browse the web to find the content they were looking for, people instead used applications on their smartphones to perform specific tasks.

Users could now open the YouTube app to watch user-created videos or online shop with eBay and Amazon. This technology gave rise to tens of thousands of apps, many of which have gone on to be enormously successful.

But with larger platforms came tradeoffs. In the early days of the internet, being banned from a message board for an opinion had very little cost as there were still hundreds of communities to interact with. With larger platforms, being unable to upload content to services like YouTube means that you lose the ability to interact with hundreds of millions of people across the world.

Although platforms are larger, there is still competition. For example, Snapchat, TikTok, and Instagram all compete with similar platforms. However, the power over the platforms was increasingly in the hands of larger companies rather than the websites that were springing up in the 1990s.

So how is the newest “version” of the internet going to address these concerns? 

What is Web3?

2008 was an important year in world history as the world economy was dealing with an economic crash. Seemingly less consequential at the time was an 8-page paper that went mostly unnoticed. The paper described how electronic money known as “Bitcoin” could be created in a decentralized fashion. Rather than a large company running this project, people across the world would use their computers to run the program, opening it up to anyone and everyone.

It’s these computers working together to create something known as the “blockchain” that makes Web3 possible. Rather than large companies with centralized data servers running the platforms and applications we use today, blockchain can give the power directly to the users.

Web3 is still taking shape as well as the technology that will make it possible. Further blog posts will expand on this technology, but the exciting promise of Web3 will return the internet back to its decentralized roots while making it easier for users to access.