We’re witnessing the initial days of a new era of the Internet, and each of the previous ones has brought a revolution under its arm.
The first era of the Internet (Web1) roughly lasted until the first half of the 2000s. During this phase there were few content creators and a large number of consumers. Web pages basically consisted of static text; although they may have contained useful information, they offered no incentive to the consumer to go back to them on further occasions.
The second phase (Web2) is the one that dominates the Internet as we know it today, with technology companies as vendors of digital services. With this kind of web, the information is dynamic and anyone can interact with it and become a content creator. Web2 was initially a clear improvement on Web1, as it provided access to innovative services that were usually free of charge. We’ve recently seen how the interests of companies can diverge from those of users, as is the case of the use of the data that we generate. Another problem is the centralisation of services. Everything we do and buy is owned by the platform. The songs we buy on iTunes still belong to Apple. Items purchased in an online game that can only be used with it lose all their value when we stop playing and they remain the property of the company that develops the game.
Web3, based on blockchain, seeks to resolve the problems created by its predecessor by decentralising the control and ownership of the platforms and distributing it among the users, allowing them to own parts of the Internet by means of tokens. The NFTs (non-fungible tokens) we’ve all heard about confer royalty rights on art, songs, online gaming items and anything else that you care to imagine. Other tokens provide governance control over the decentralised applications (dApps) that make up the new Web3. Throughout its short existence, we’ve already seen cases in which the developers of the new platforms have given these tokens to the users who’ve used them. The latter thus have the decision-making power over the maintenance and evolution of the platform, aligning the interests of the product and the end consumers.
From the user’s standpoint, being able to truly own what’s purchased on the Internet and sell digital assets entails clear differentiation in comparison with the current situation, particularly in an increasingly digital world. What’s uncertain is whether or when the large companies will move on to this mechanism, as their business models would change radically. For the time being, it’s the new organisations that are implementing this innovation.