Web 3.0: what is it?

March 8, 2022

ASU Engineering Expert on the Next Wave of the Internet

The latest tech buzzword we’re talking about: Web 3.0.

but what is it exactly?

In a nutshell, it will be your future Internet.

Let’s go back a bit. Web 1.0 was the beginning of the Internet. The goal was to bring digital information to end users and make it searchable. You could do some basic shopping. This is when Amazon only sold books. It was rude, awkward, and often ended with you throwing your hands up in the air and just going to the library.

Web 2.0 — what we have now — is characterized by interactivity. You can stream content, choose the subtitles you want, pause it, and fast forward. You can comment on Google documents and circulate them. You can play games with someone halfway around the world.

ASU News spoke Dragan Boscovicresearch professor at the School of Computing and Augmented Intelligence of the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering at Arizona State University, on Web 3.0.

Boscovic is an expert in machine learning, cognitive networks and symbiotic relationships. He is also Director of ASU’s Blockchain Research Lab and Technical Director of ASU’s Center for Assured and Scalable Data Engineering.

Question: What is Web 3.0?

To respond: Web 3.0 is about data ownership. If you’re thinking 1.0 or 2.0, all information about how you interact with content is stored by the provider. Is it Google or Netflix or Facebook? Thus, as a consumer, you are not the owner of the data collected during your Internet session. So Web 3.0 is basically about how all of these different stakeholders participating in a given Internet business ecosystem maintain control of their data and how I’m essentially creating a new business model centered around real data monitoring.

I’m going to give you an example. For example, you are interested in your line of ancestry. You swab your mouth or your nose or whatever, and you send that to the company that analyzes it. You pay $50, and after a few weeks you get information that Scott is half Irish, 25% German and so on. … This information now belongs to that company that did your genetic profiling. They’re probably going to monetize this in different ways, okay? So they’re going to wholesale that to a pharmaceutical company because the pharmaceutical company will have to test the effectiveness of their new drug designed on different genetics. And rather than having tests, they can do it today thanks to very sophisticated simulations. You gave up your essential data, your genetic makeup, simply because you wanted to know your line of ancestry, and other people take advantage of it.

So with Web 3.0, I now have a marketplace of data, and that data is not the data from the genetic testing company. It’s still Scott’s data, okay? And Scott is able to basically enumerate that as a NFTThe non-fungible token (NFT) is a non-interchangeable unit of data stored on a blockchain, a form of digital ledger, that can be sold and traded.. As a data packet, it can be divided or its access can be controlled. So that means you can give access to a certain part of your genetics. And you can only give that to the people or company that you think fits the profile you like to work with, and every time someone accesses or uses that data, you’re going to get paid yourself. And you can basically dictate how that data is used, or how long, for what application, by whom and all that. It’s essentially Web 3.0. It’s about data tokenization and building the data economy.

Q: Will this be done by legislation?

A: This must go through legislation, but it will also go through the simple pressure of competition. Now that we have the technology, you would have companies offering that to you on a smaller scale. Sooner or later, Amazon or Facebook will see that the subscriber base starts to erode because people find better deals or they like to keep control of their data. They should therefore also offer similar services to these new Web 3.0 service providers. But you’re right – at some point, to speed this up, we would need some kind of regulation that would basically encourage this transition and make things, I would say, more structured, so that you don’t have all these players who don’t necessarily have the best intentions. They’re just trying to get the data or get some benefit while we have these gray areas and they can play all kinds of games.

Q: Right now, it seems to me that there would be no incentive for big tech to adopt this. Rather the opposite.

A: I think big tech is starting to lean into that. They are definitely starting to look into this in order to protect existing business models. Web 3.0 is about retaining ownership of data and inventing or innovating new business models. How would you tokenize services? How would you and I become shareholders of Amazon, simply on the basis of having used it for the past 15 years?

Q: I guess cryptocurrency comes into play because it will be the currency of Web 3.0, how you get paid for your data, that sort of thing.

A: Yes. I think cryptocurrency is becoming native to Web 3.0. It can automate payments between different services. If you want to participate in one of these Web 3.0 businesses, you must also ensure that it must be automated. This business needs to happen even while you sleep. So your data can be monetized, even if you are not online, you would have your policies and you would be able to buy or sell data even via smart contracts, okay? And smart contracts using this cryptocurrency to settle accounts between who owes whom. That’s where cryptocurrency comes in, because the blockchain has all these protocols for building consensus and validating transactions without a Scott needing to receive a code on his cell phone and then type it into a web application to confirm that Scott initiated the transaction.

Q: When do you think this will start to manifest? Is it far in the future, or in 10 years?

A: I think the best question isn’t when it’s going to start, because I think it’s already started. The better question is when will it evolve to levels to be noticed and talked about by ordinary people. … What I would say is that in the next 10 years this will be the predominant wave of the Internet business model, where business is based on data ownership, services are tokenized and accounts are settled directly between these Internet services by means of smart contracts and cryptocurrencies. We just have to wait until these people who are 20, 25 right now are 35 and are decision makers or become decision makers, and are the main proponents of a new data-driven economy.

Top image: Courtesy Tamim Taban/Pixabay

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