What is the difference between Web1, Web 2.0 and Web 3.0?

Since its appearance, the Web has undergone several versions. Web1 disseminated information to the Internet user. Web 2.0 has given it a more active role as with social networks. Web 3.0, for its part, would like to impose a new model potentially independent of large structures like Google or Facebook. Let’s discover in more detail these three forms of the Web which, in reality, are called upon to coexist for a long time…

We don’t always know it, but the Internet existed long before the Web. It was conceptualized in 1969, took various forms before officially seeing the light of day in 1983 with the advent of TCP/IP, a communication protocol between disparate systems.

For its part, the Web was born in 1991 under the impetus of researcher Tim Berners-Lee (at Cern in Geneva). This system proposed to be able to easily create pages of information, and to establish links between various Internet servers.

The Web really took off in 1993 thanks to software developed by Marc Andreessen. Thanks to Mosaic, it has become possible to “navigate” easily on the Web through a graphical interface/mouse. Mosaic was the ancestor of Google Chrome, Firefox, Microsoft Edge and other software such as Safari or Opera.

The Web1

The first version of the Web is today called the Web1 and it is common to consider that its reign extended from 1993 until the early 2000s.

Mosaic quickly became very popular software with the university community. In September 1994, an improved version, Netscape Navigator opened the Web to the general public. From the beginning of 1995, there were about ten thousand websites: the White House, NASA, the Encyclopedia Britannica, the Louvre… A first directory was imposed, Yahoo!

What characterizes Web1 is that we are dealing with static pages. Internet users back then were essentially consumers of information, they read the content of the pages and discovered the magic of hypertext: you click on a link and you are sent to a page on another site.

Overall, this original Web has the essential goal of helping everyone to find information more easily. Servers just send pages to users. Internet users are above all readers and the pages do not usually ask them to provide additional content to what is offered to them.

It should be noted that in this pioneering era, advertising is absent from the Web, and attempts to monetize the Web are even perceived negatively.

The flagship application of the Web1 is the browser, which allows access to pages and the use of hypertext links. As Google offers the most powerful algorithm to analyze these pages, it will gradually become the dominant company in this first phase.

Web 2.0

It was a Web designer, Darcy DiNucci, who coined the term Web 2.0 in 1999. The term itself became famous with the 1D Web 2.0 conference in October 2004, organized by Tim O’Reilly, John Battelle and Dale Dougherty. The key point of this new Web is that the user becomes a content provider and not just a reader/viewer.

Web 2.0 is sometimes referred to as the “participatory social web”. Tools available to users allow them to interact with websites and create or contribute content. This content is no longer static, but dynamic. Thereby :

  • the Wikipedia encyclopedia is maintained by its users who write articles, which can be amended/completed by other users;
  • video sites like Youtube or Dailymotion host videos posted by Internet users themselves;
  • blogs are created by all kinds of columnists who believe they have something to say about a subject. Their texts can be the subject of comments/answers from their readers;
  • social networks such as MySpace or Facebook present information posted by their users. Everyone can create their own content and mobilize their own network. Those who view this content can contribute by indicating their sentiment (a click on the “Like” button), or a rating/vote. Communities form and evolve according to their own agenda.

In parallel with the rise of this Web 2.0, the arrival of the mobile Internet facilitates this interaction of users with the sites.

Web 2.0 took off around 2004 and is still the most widely used today.

Web 3.0

The term Web 3.0 (Web3) was coined in 2014 by Gavin Wood, co-founder of Ethereum and promoter of the Polkadot cryptocurrency. At the base of this new model are:

  • the blockchain, a type of decentralized register inaugurated by cryptocurrencies, but usable in other forms of applications;
  • independent applications based on these blockchains (the smart contracts).

At the origin of Web3, there is an observation: both Web1 and Web 2.0 are based on the same centralized architecture: that of the servers of the giants of Silicon Valley, Google, Amazon, Facebook, Apple and Microsoft, i.e. GAFAM, which manage their users’ data. These companies have thus reproduced the classic computer model in the world of the Internet. This results in various situations that can be judged to be non-optimal. Web giants store myriads of information about their users, in order to be able to monetize them. Competition is stifled because the more wealth an operator accumulates, the more difficult it can make the emergence of new competitors.

Gavin Wood and the other Web3 proponents support the vision of a new decentralized architecture with user-to-user exchanges stored on a series of blockchains. In other words, with Web 3.0, the network of computers connected to each other becomes the server.

Technically, Web 3.0 is characterized by three criteria:

  • it is based on smart contracts, either “Open Source” code that can be improved by everyone without having to pay royalties to companies like Microsoft;
  • as the creator of Bitcoin wanted, it is the network itself that guarantees the integrity of communications, which are stored on a shared blockchain that can be consulted by everyone;
  • all users can benefit from network applications without obtaining permission from a central organization that controls the services.

In its optimal mode, Web 3.0 relies on a Semantic Web that involves getting computers to decode human language and attempt to understand it. The artificial intelligence integrated in parallel with the decentralized structure makes it possible to accumulate a wealth of data and thus feed machine learning. Web 3.0 also assumes 3D graphics as in current metaverse projects or in a large number of video games. Finally, it is accessible by all kinds of connected devices, which includes the IoT – Internet of Things.

While some elements of Web 3.0 are already available, others are still under development. Thus, speech recognition still needs to make great progress before it can be considered reliable.

A part of utopia seems to rest on this Web 3.0 and it is reminiscent of the beginnings of the Internet where some wanted to believe that the Web was destined to be free or that it was going to help bring people together. It is therefore likely that the reality of Web 3.0 is less extraordinary than the predictions.

Significant obstacles do indeed stand in the way of Web 3.0. It turns out that the performance of blockchains is structurally weak compared to the server-based architecture. Enormous resources are spent trying to find solutions to this problem – like the Lightning Network for the Bitcoin network. In addition, the decentralization of applications is rather badly perceived at the level of governments because it raises a thousand questions:

  • How to control the information that circulates on a Web that is governed only by smart contracts and therefore autonomous programs?
  • How can you be sure that the artificial intelligence that is the basis of smart contracts does not contain flaws that some could exploit to the detriment of Internet users, as has already often happened in the world of cryptocurrency?
  • How to repress offenses committed by misappropriation of a code which a priori no one claims to possess?

Jack Dorsey, the co-founder of Twitter has a more down to earth vision: he wants to believe that Web 3.0, far from democratizing the Internet, will shift the power of companies like Facebook to venture capital funds, because it still remains necessary to financially support the experiments made possible by this new model.

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What is the difference between Web1, Web 2.0 and Web 3.0?


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