Sunday, June 4

Web3 ▷ What is and how crypto can change the Internet (or not)

This 2021 has served to consolidate within the technology sector an idea that will have more and more echo around the world: the web3. And it is that, although the term does not become popular beyond specialized circles, what it means tries to transform Internet and light a new world digital that conquers our lives even more. Its potential may be revolutionary, but it also raises many doubts, so we go in parts.

The Internet is one of the greatest technological advances in history. In 1989, 32 long years ago, the World Wide Web, whose three initials would change the way we observe and understand the world. In its pioneering stage, the network was “a collaborative medium, a place to read”, as defined by its inventor, the British scientist Tim Berners-Lee. Most of the users were simple consumers of static web pages and personal blogs in a decentralized ecosystem with open protocols where those who had the knowledge could host servers and create applications, as happened with Emule, Napster or BitTorrent.

That period became known as Web 1.0 and ended in 2004, when the rise of the social networks inaugurated the so-called Web 2.0. These platforms opened the door to the current Internet of social interaction and democratized the publication of content. However, in return, decision-making was centralized in companies such as Google The Facebook, who have exploited our data and our privacy to become tech giants with more power than entire states. Everything we do passes through your hands first.

Revolution on the Internet?

It is at this point that different voices in the sector have prophesied the change towards a new phase of the Internet that mixes current functionality with the character decentralized of the early years. This idea is known as Web3 and it is intended to be a virtual space in which users can connect and exchange goods without the need for intermediaries. This is exactly what the Blockchain technology, a network where information is stored securely between all its parts.

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This may all sound too theoretical, but surely you have heard a lot more about the practical applications of this phase. All this infrastructure is what sustains the cryptocurrencies what, how Bitcoin The Ethereum, allow transfers between parties without the need for a bank or regulatory body. It also supports the so-called Non-fungible tokens (NFT), which allow certifying ownership of digital assets.

All of this has become the mantra preached by large technology companies, investors in venture capital and other enthusiasts from the crypto world. That, they say, will be the backbone of the Internet that will unfold over the next 15 years and that will emerge a economy virtual billionaire that will influence multiple sectors and aspects of our lives. After two years in which the pandemic has forced us to digitize work and social relationships, the passion for this virtual gold rush It has exploded, going from the niche to being a global phenomenon (at the moment as much or more social than technical).

In its beginnings, many thought that the network should be in the hands of users, not large corporations, and operate in a more democratic way. Can you imagine being able to vote to modify the operation of Facebook or Google? Or have your own cryptocurrency with which to charge for the content you publish, instead of depending on the platforms and their advertising? Now, the prophets of Web3 have picked up that idealistic, cooperative and libertarian foundational vision. And his promise has excited many. In 2021, global investment in Blockchain technologies has increased fivefold and in September it already exceeded 13,342 million euros. The NFTs have moved about 24,000 million, according to Chainalysis.

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Scams, cyberattacks and ecological impact

However, there is also a lot of mistrust surrounding those promises. Critical voices against the crypto movement denounce that it is a ponzi scheme, a pyramid scam in which few profit by deceiving a large number of small investors. Among the biggest promoters of Web3 are members of the tech elite such as Jack Dorsey, who recently left the management of Twitter to dedicate to the Blockchain ecosystem, or the venture capitalist Marc Andreessen. Other hierarchs of Silicon Valley. The fact that these characters promote a world in which they have part of their fortune invested raises their eyebrows.

Whether or not a scam, what is clear is that there are opportunists who see in that ‘boom‘an opportunity to seduce and fool the naive. In November, the authors of a cryptocurrency based on the series’The Squid Game‘they managed to shoot their courage for later steal almost three million euros from those who had invested in it.

Critics also warn that in an internet without mediators there are no guarantees of protection nor security for users. Parallel to the popularity of digital assets, the cyberattacks against this growing business. In August, cybercriminals broke into a Blockchain platform and stole $ 600 million. So far in December, three attacks on Web3 companies have served to steal another $ 400 million.

Other critics like the programmer Stephen Diehl They claim that, for the moment, decentralized systems – which require thousands of computers connected and working permanently – are too slow, expensive and not very functional. In addition, they also point out that they are a energy expenditure Useless. And it is that the most popular virtual currency, Bitcoin, consumes more energy than entire countries like Argentina.

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The promoters of Web3 do not see it that way, as they assure that their alternative is more sustainable than the Finance system current and that, although unfortunate, these scams are part of their first phase of technological development. Whether it is the future of the Internet or a mere mirage, that debate illustrates concern about the current state of the Internet.

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