Web3: The good, the bad, and the ugly
Published on 2021/11/30
Over the course of the last year or two, there has been quite a bit of mainstream involvement in the concept of cryptocurrencies. Whether you understand what each coin aims to do or not, older ones such as Bitcoin went from being individually worth a pizza to a brand-new car. From projects with a legitimate purpose such as Ethereum to the infamous Dogecoin, it becomes clear over time that many of the projects gathered a following like no other.
While cryptocurrencies are nothing new, most of the technology that comes bundled in with the definition of Web3 are not inherently new concepts in terms of the development of the web. Concepts like P2P apps, crypto-based payments, NFTs, and Blockchain have been around, but over the course of the last year, have propelled us into the era of Web3.
What is Web3?
What exactly is Web3? This definition may be different depend on whom you ask that's utilizing aspects of it already. The most straight-forward explanation I can explain comes straight from the web3 foundation:
- Users own their own data, not corporations - Global digital transactions are secure - Online exchanges of information and value are decentralized
A common consensus I found when trying to understand what the true purpose of introducing web3 concepts tended to revolve around the devil's advocates of web2(What we consider the web as right now). Most of us consider companies such influences being Amazon, Google, Facebook, Apple, Spotify and Twitter to name a short few. While these platforms in retrospect may have brought advancement to the web over the years, many often find it discouraging how these companies keep a stranglehold on the web through:
- Continuous updates to ToS policies that further exploit personal information to sell to third parties
- Control over infrastructure platforms that are essential for pretty much any modern web app(Hosting, developer tools, CDNs, etc.)
- Content creators are at the mercy of their platform when it comes to exposure, advertisements, and ownership of digital assets
- Two-faced policies where censorship is commonplace yet at the same time is often poorly utilized to combat issues such as fake news and bot accounts.
The constant misconduct of these companies along with the fact that we are at the complete mercy of these centralized apps when data breaches occur, it begs the question, is there any hope for the plague of issues on the modern web?
Once it becomes clear how the problems of web2 came to be, it makes a little more sense why concepts introduced in web3 should sound like good news:
- Using tools like Metamask allows you log in using a crypto wallet directly into and DAPP(Decentralized app with MetaMask support) to make smart contract payments and store data on your local machine. No database sitting out there with your financial information, you own all of your own data.
- DAPPS such as OpenSea allow you to freely trade NFTs(Non-fungible tokens). This basically allows you to convert any digital asset(images, audio, videos, etc) into tangible goods with proof of ownership down to the blockchain(decentralized ledger) level.
- Overall drive for decentralization allows not only for web apps to throw away unnecessary complexities like the generic login form you see for literally any web app ever, in good faith it also gives a way for user information to be less accessible by hackers, possibly giving way a significant amount of web2 apps being able to find use cases in web3 concepts/tech.
For more on the benefits, see the Ethereum docs on more about why users will benefit the most from web3.
While there's more out there than what I've explained so far, hopefully it's starting to make sense how a lot of these tools, while not necessarily complex by any means offer solutions to many of the problems that plague the internet currently. Transparency along with security of personal data are concepts that might seem somewhat foreign to many of us now. As web3 continues to integrate into what we consider the web today, everyone should advocate for these concepts, regardless of the changing technology.
While the overall goals of web3 mean well, there is without a doubt drawbacks that come with anything new during initial adoption; web3 is no exception:
- Most transactions on web3 are not free. Upfront examples such as Ethereum's gas fee are likely initial roadblocks to many who use free services on web2. There are also some who are not very amused by what 'gas fees' equate to. Basically a computer is running somewhere, and chances are they are pulling crazy amounts of power to run. Some DAPPS like Opensea have found ways to significantly reduce such footprints however.
- Cryptocurrencies are typically not stable in value. They can fluctuate in price based on supply and demand. In comparison to other investment options like stocks, cryptocurrencies are not yet FDIC insured, making any investment you make in the current market come attached with significant risk.
- The anonymity of web3 makes it very easy to fall into very dangerous scams. While there are established projects out there for things such as cryptocurrencies and NFTs, there are alot of garbage projects that are rug pulls in disguise. While this technique is nothing new, it presents a very real danger in this new landscape that may actually work against those who are caught in the middle of these scams.
- Going back to my original point about how much of the technology of web3 is nothing new, while there are those on the hype train thinking web3 will be the end of everything that we know of the web as it is now is simply not true. Web3 is not some complete redesign of the web that will depreciate any current app, rather it's just an expansion of tools. These tools may work in some situations when developing apps, others they may not.
While I don't really consider any of the new tools introduced by web3 to be ugly, remember that a significant reason for the push of web3 was to combat big tech as we know of now. Problem is, big tech doesn't go away simply because these tools are out there. All the companies we talked about previously are multi-billion dollar conglomerates with literal armadas of researchers, programmers, and network architects(Meta is already engaging in some of these aspects such as NFTs within their Metaverse project). The ingenuity brought forth into web3 is not out of their realm of understanding and in all honesty, will probably such be a repeat of the cycle of how these giants produce tools that every developer uses in the current web. The fight for freedom of data and the prevalence of these platforms will not disappear overnight. While web3 does introduce tools that may circumvent existing platforms, you would be a fool to believe big tech doesn't plan for the future.
I apologize if there's any confusion over some material I explained. There's a lot of components that go into this subject that I left out both intentionally and not. I highly recommend diving into material on your own to learn more about tools individually being developed as a part of web3. A good chunk of concepts introduced by web3 may be a little hard to grasp at first. Here's a couple resources that I'd personally recommend starting out with:
- Web3 Foundation
- Web3.js: Example library for applications on web3
- Solidity: A object-oriented, high-level language for implementing smart contracts.
If you are personally interested in cryptocurrency, and the various projects that have sprung up behind giants like Bitcoin and Ethereum, I highly recommend Coinbase. Their platform gives users in-depth tutorials on various coin projects, and their overall purpose in addition to the platform being very user-friendly. Go check it out!