In its early days, the internet mostly consisted of static websites. Web1 is often referred to as the “read-only web” because there was minimal interaction between users and online content. The purpose of web1 was simply to provide information to its users; it can be thought of as a digital encyclopedia where a few people were providing content for a large audience of content consumers (users). On web1, it was difficult for creators to publish and monetize content, and difficult for users to find the content they were looking for.
The internet is no longer a place users go just to consume content; nowadays most internet users both create and consume content. Web2 drastically improved the experience for internet users by making it incredibly easy to create and interact with online content. The shift to a more user-focused internet happened when companies realized how difficult it was to monetize content on web1.
While web2 made it easier for anyone to access or share information on the internet, it also made it easier for companies to collect and monetize information on their users. Internet giants like Google and Facebook collect and store information on their users (often without the users’ knowledge) and sell this data to advertisers for massive profits. Many web2 services are “free” not because the founders are philanthropists, but rather because the users are the product. Data has become the most valuable resource on earth, yet most internet users don’t earn anything for the value they provide; as soon as they share their content online they grant ownership of the content to the platform it is shared on. This is what allows web2 platforms to monetize creators’ work without sharing profits.
Web2 platforms also act as gatekeepers to the internet and have full control over who can and cannot access their services, and how their services can be used. Using online services is not a right, but rather a privilege that can be revoked at any time with or without reason. This presents a huge threat in a world where humans are increasingly relying on tools like social media to communicate, online retailers to shop, and digital banking services to transact. Many people’s livelihoods rely on trusting private web2 companies to act in the best interest of the public.
Developers around the world are currently working to build an improved version of the internet that empowers its users, commonly referred to as web3. In addition to all of the benefits provided by web1 and web2, web3 will give users the sovereignty needed to capture the value they generate. Web3 will utilize both blockchain technology and crypto to provide a decentralized, trustless, and accessible internet for all users.
While web2 is largely controlled by a handful of private companies, web3 will be owned by those who build and use it. Since web3 will be powered by blockchain technology, data will not be maintained by a single organization but rather by an entire decentralized network of participants.
Web3 users won’t need to trust each other or a third party in order to access the services they need. Web3 network participants will be properly incentivized to publish data accurately so their interests are aligned with the interests of users.
Web3 users won’t be discriminated against based on things like their location or background. Everyone with an internet connection will be able to experience the benefits provided by web3.
Giving internet users full sovereignty over their digital assets and online presence has huge implications. Web3 will empower internet users to do things like:
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