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Blockchain-Powered Web 3.0: A User-Centric Internet Revolution

3 Oct. 2023

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Web 3.0. Shurtterstock

Sonny Kwon, Founder CEO of PUBLISH Inc.

The internet, often referred to as the web (Web), is a global information space that allows people to share information through computers connected to the internet.

While the definition of the web may sound unfamiliar, the reality is that we are immersed in the online world with a simple click. The web first emerged in the early 1990s as an internet service designed to facilitate efficient information sharing and searching. In its initial form, the web operated as a one-way system, with web operators providing information and users merely "reading" it. This represented the era of the "Read-Only" web, or "Web 1.0," where web operators were the sole providers of information, and users were passive consumers.

The turning point arrived in 2005 with the advent of "Web 2.0," ushering in an era where regular users could contribute information and engage with content. Think of popular platforms like Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube. Now, not only web operators but also ordinary users could contribute to the web. Web 2.0 empowered users with the ability to "write," marking the beginning of a brilliant internet era that surpassed Web 1.0 in every way. Users, who were once mere consumers of information, began generating content themselves, leading to an exponential increase in online information and value. Companies like Facebook, Google, Apple, and Amazon offered free and convenient platforms to hundreds of millions of users, evolving into powerful internet giants.

  • Web 1.0: Read-Only
  • Web 2.0: Read-Write
  • Web 3.0: Read-Write-Own

Now, the web is poised for the next evolutionary leap, one that grants even more authority to users. The excessive concentration of power within big tech companies operating platforms has been recognized as a limitation of Web 2.0, prompting calls for change. These companies control the personal information and content of users on their platforms, monetizing them for substantial profits. However, the users who actually produce and provide information, thereby increasing the value of the platform, are excluded from value sharing. Issues such as content control, censorship, closed web environments, unilateral rule changes, and incidents of personal information leakage from central servers have all been attributed to the centralization of Web 2.0.

A recent report by prominent venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz (a16z) highlighted the income gap between Web 2.0 and Web 3.0 platforms. Large platforms like Facebook (~100%), Apple's App Store (~30%), and YouTube (~45%) capture a significant portion of the value. In contrast, the Web 3.0 NFT platform 'OpenSea' charges a much lower commission, only 2.5%. Estimated average earnings for creators on different platforms are $170,000 for OpenSea, $630 for Spotify, $2.47 for YouTube channels, and $0.1 for Facebook (details omitted).

Web 3.0 is gaining attention as the solution to Web 2.0's problems and the catalyst for further growth. Web 3.0 aims to distribute power from platform-dominant corporations to users, fostering a user-centric internet. Beyond reading and writing, it grants users the authority to "own," enabling them to co-create the web space and share its value.

Blockchain technology is at the core of enabling this Web 3.0 transformation. While cryptocurrencies were the initial use case for blockchain, Goldman Sachs, a prominent investment bank, anticipates that blockchain will lead to technological advancements in internet technology, similar to how protocols and web languages advanced the internet in the 1990s. Blockchain is unique in identifying digital assets and decentralizing authority, reducing central control. Its data identification, ownership, and tracking capabilities are seen as essential for Web 3.0.

Chris Dixon, a partner at a16z, defines Web 3.0 as an "internet operated under a token economy where operators and users jointly own it." He believes that Web 3.0 will be a fusion of blockchain, cryptocurrency, and their underlying principles.

Here are the specific blockchain technology features and functions that will enable Web 3.0 to become a user-centered space:

Token Economy

Blockchain is called the "internet of value" because it can transmit financial value globally, similar to how emails and chat messages are sent on the internet. Developing token economic systems using blockchain enables easier online payments, payments, transfers, and rewards. This allows users to become economic agents, sharing the value created in the web space with creators and developers like ordinary users. It can lead to a more automated, frictionless, and efficient economic system, fostering a more open digital financial environment.

Distributed Data

Information recorded on blockchain is tamper-proof, ensuring data integrity. It maintains an open internet environment that anyone can participate in while handling information in an "encrypted" state, enhancing anonymity and security. This mitigates concerns about information misuse, leaks, and alterations. Encrypted information is stored in a decentralized manner, with individuals having control over access and handling rights, instead of third-party central administrators. Individuals have direct control over their data, becoming more self-determined in the web.

Non-Fungible Tokens (NFTs)

NFTs assign unique identifiers (names) to specific information, making it impossible to replace with anything else. It transforms digitally replicable objects such as images, music, videos, and games into unique and identifiable entities. Users can identify, track, prove ownership, and claim rights and derivative values for content, items, spaces, etc., created directly on the web.

Decentralized Autonomous Organizations (DAOs)

DAOs are organizations that operate on the blockchain. Members have decision-making power and receive rewards proportional to their participation and contributions, creating a democratic and horizontal structure. In DAOs, tokens serve not only as rewards but also as "voting rights." Members can exercise their voting rights to collectively decide on objectives, strategies, and operating rules. Blockchain ensures transparent and efficient operations. It is expected that DAOs will become more autonomous and cooperative organizations than centralized ones.

The transition to Web 3.0 is reshaping all industries and operating methods. The media industry, in particular (the industry I am involved in), faces the challenge of adapting quickly to the changes of Web 3.0 to overcome its current limitations and remain competitive in the enhanced digital era.

The media industry is evaluated as an institution that shapes the perspective and sensibility of "understanding the world." However, it has experienced a decline in roles and positions due to complacency when the new landscape of the web opened in the past, leading to the weakening of its role and status.

In the transition to Web 3.0, the focus of the media is on users, or readers. Media outlets are exploring ways to empower readers by granting them more roles and authority, strengthening the bond between the media and readers. Blockchain technology can connect media companies and readers in various ways.

Firstly, readers who were once passive observers can now react to and participate in the media, reviving the essential function of the media as a "public forum." They can be rewarded for valuable actions such as reading articles, sharing them, and leaving comments. By offering tokens for these actions, the media ecosystem can create value shared between readers and the media. This increased reader engagement can generate new sources of income, reducing dependence on advertisements and promoting a more stable journalism-based article production structure.

Currently, 'PUBLISH,' the platform I operate, is a tech media company established to build a Web 3.0-based media ecosystem using blockchain technology. We believed that to produce practical and reader-respecting "good news," a better media environment was needed, and blockchain was considered a suitable technological solution for the future of "reader-centered Web 3.0."

Blockchain can be used not only for token support but also for enhancing reader authority over personal information and content, improving data integrity, enabling identity verification, and developing NFT content. The possibilities for blockchain to strengthen reader rights and encourage voluntary and proactive involvement are limitless. Traditional media outlets are actively experimenting with blockchain.

For instance, AP has recorded the results of the U.S. presidential election on the blockchain to prevent the spread of false information. The New York Times is exploring technical solutions to ensure trust, such as storing metadata for reporting photos and videos, including their creation time, location, source, and editing methods.

Time magazine, a renowned weekly publication, issued an NFT called "TimePieces" to commemorate its 100th anniversary. Holders received an "unlimited access subscription" to Time magazine's online content without the need for personal information. Innovative subscription models using blockchain have had a significant impact on attracting new subscribers and generating revenue. Forbes, The New Yorker, The Economist, and AP have also issued covers, articles, and reporting photos as NFTs. A New York Times journalist earned $5.4 million by issuing a column as an NFT, offering a new revenue model for journalism.

The future of Web 3.0 and blockchain, which will transform journalism and all industries, is still in its early stages. There is much work to be done, from technology refinement to improving user experiences and awareness, to ensure that anyone can naturally enjoy the benefits of the Web 3.0 transformation without technical barriers. However, in an era where the online world carries as much weight and importance as the real world, and where democratic participation and fair value distribution are increasingly important, Web 3.0 is an inevitable trend. We look forward to opening a prosperous Web 3.0 era where the openness and community spirit of Web 1.0 meet the modern and advanced features of Web 2.0, making users the true protagonists.

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