Blockchain, NFT, metaverse: what is “web3”, the new age of the internet?

Coins marked with the logos of the cryptocurrencies Tether, Bitcoin and Ethereum, on May 8, 2022 in London (Justin TALLIS / AFP/Archives)

A fashionable concept that agitates both the tech sphere and communicators, the “web3” is presented by its supporters as the new version of the internet, more decentralized and based on the “blockchain”, the technology behind NFTs and cryptocurrencies.

“It seems to be more a marketing phrase than a reality at the moment”, however, criticized the boss of the car manufacturer Tesla, Elon Musk, at the end of December, for underlining the catch-all character of the “web3”, like other popular concepts such as the metaverse. Attempt to explain.

. What evolution of the Internet embodies the “web3”?

The “web3” would be the third age in the history of the Internet, successor, according to its defenders, of Web 1.0, which reigned from the beginning of the 1990s until the mid-2000s, and of Web 2.0, hegemonic since the 2010 decade.

The evolution of the web
The evolution of the web (Gal ROMA / AFP)

Embodied by actors like Yahoo! or AOL, Web 1.0 refers to the first uses of the Internet with its static pages allowing information to be consulted essentially, or the sending of emails.

Web 2.0 marks the era of the social and interactive Internet, where users can produce and circulate multimedia content. It consecrates the reign of a handful of large centralized platforms like Google, Amazon, or Facebook.

A concept attributed to Gavin Wood, co-founder of the Ethereum “blockchain”, “web3” refers to the idea of ​​a decentralized internet, where users would control their own data, without the help of intermediaries.

To the number three (“three” in English) is thus added the meaning of “free”, evoking the return of an Internet more independent of States as of the giants of the net, as was the case in the ‘origin.

What technology allows this evolution?

The “web3” is closely linked to the technology of the “blockchain”, a sort of huge digital register shared between a multitude of users, without central authority and deemed unfalsifiable, listing the entire history of transactions.

Stamped projects and applications
Projects and applications branded “web3” rely on “blockchains” like non-fungible tokens (NFT), non-reproducible digital certificates of authenticity ( Justin TALLIS / AFP/Archives )

Born after the financial crisis of 2008, the most famous “blockchain” is Bitcoin and its associated cryptocurrency, which is totally virtual. Many others have since been launched such as Ethereum, Solana or Polygon.

It is on these “blockchains” that projects and applications stamped “web3” are based, such as non-fungible tokens (NFT), non-reproducible digital certificates of authenticity that derive their value from the real or virtual object to which they are attached. .

Enough to give the Internet user as much decision-making power as ownership over what he creates or consumes on the network.

“With the +web3+, people create value but also capture some of it, which changes everything for artists, for example. It’s a web that belongs to them, where they regain control over creation and what ‘they own’, explains to AFP Nicolas Julia, founder of Sorare, a French start-up of online game exchanges of vignettes in the form of NFT.

“That’s what will make it possible to reinvent a whole bunch of industries, whether it’s art, music or sport,” he adds.

Is the metaverse part of “web3”?

Although they are linked, in particular by the technology of “blockchain” and the possibility of holding digital assets such as NFTs within them, “web3” and metaverse describe two different concepts.

The essentials to know about the metaverse
The essentials to know about the metaverse (John SAEKI / AFP/Archives)

Propelled to the front of the stage in the summer of 2021, the metaverse designates a digital and social universe, supposed to extend physical reality via augmented or virtual reality, and to move the internet from 2D to 3D.

Is its promise enough to amalgamate it with the “web3” revolution, while the metaverse is carried in particular by Meta (Facebook), one of the flagship companies of Web 2.0 and symbol of a centralized vision of the Internet?

“The answer will be given in several years because, today, the + web3 +, we still do not know what it is”, summarizes with AFP Julien Pillot, specialist in digital and cultural industries.

“Either we are on the purist vision” of a completely decentralized internet, or on a definition based solely on “the capacity for immersion”, he adds, predicting “an inevitable controversy” in the future between the two visions.

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Blockchain, NFT, metaverse: what is “web3”, the new age of the internet?

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