The landscape of Silicon Valley startups is ever-changing. New companies are funded to leverage advancing technologies in innovative ways–every day. Their goal is always to disrupt, revolutionize, or supplant. Yet, only occasionally do these regular perturbations represent earth-shaking changes. Such an event deserves a new moniker. The word of the day here lately is “Web3”.
As with any nascent idea, a single, precise definition is elusive. The most straightforward approach for many people is to describe the technology by example. To them, Blockchain is Web3. However, the import of such a new model requires that we avoid assuming that statement is reflexive. That is to say, we must acknowledge that Web3 is not Blockchain.
In 2014, Gavin Wood coined the concept “Web3”. Mr.Wood included several principles in this description, not the least of which was the need for decentralization. Whereas the world of Web 2.0 facilitated the creation of giant companies operating independently of one another to be more fair and inclusive, the future, it seemed, should abhor centralization in favor of democratization.
The blockchain, on the other hand, was first described in 1982. David Chaum envisioned a world where systems were “Established, Maintained, and Trusted by Mutually Suspicious Groups”. Our Web3 vision borrows many of the same underlying principles for establishing and maintaining trust in its distributed world. But, while the Blockchain of 2008 Bitcoin fame adheres to these principles, its specificity and application now serve only as an example of the principles of Web3.
That is to say, Web3 is a superset of ideas that encapsulate today’s Blockchains, but those Blockchains are not the only technology that qualifies as Web3. Indeed, before we can solidify a definition, the world of Web3 will include a multitude of new technologies which are interoperable, decentralized, private, secure, and trustworthy. Proposed artifacts of this future exist in Requests for Comments [RFCs] from the World Wide Web Consortium [W3C] including Decentralized Identifiers [DIDs] and Verifiable Credentials [VCs].
Blockchain may be a Web3 technology, but the concept of Web3 is not limited to Blockchain technology. Instead, it refers to a set of principles that represent a fundamental paradigm shift in how we conceive of the internet, privacy, and data sovereignty. As the future of the internet passes through the present, it is we stewards of these ideas who will define what exactly Web3 means by constructing a lasting legacy of fundamental standards and lasting principles.