Web3 is the term used to describe the “next level” of the internet – following on from web 1 (HTML, or the “world wide web”) and web 2 (social media, and the user-generated web).
Although exactly what defines a web3 site, service or application is still the subject of some debate, it’s generally agreed that it will be decentralized, with infrastructure that is owned by the users and creators. It will also be deeply linked to the real world due to being built on Internet of Things (IoT) technology and to the concept of immersive, connected environments (aka the “metaverse”).
It’s fair to say that, as I am writing this post, web3 is very much a work-in-progress, and different people have some very different ideas about what it will end up looking like. However, the fundamental principles are very much operational today and are being used to create a new generation of digital platforms and services that are already pioneering the concepts. Here’s a look at some of the most interesting and innovative that you can try out today:
Some people might be surprised to see Bitcoin make a list like this, but the fact is that despite being over a decade old (far older than the term web3), it was the first decentralized digital currency, the first application to popularize the use of blockchain and is still the most widely used. Newer cryptocurrencies and blockchain platforms like Ethereum or Solana may be more sophisticated and geared towards web3 use cases like powering metaverse e-commerce, but Bitcoin itself still fits the definition of web3. Today, 36% of small businesses in the US are said to accept Bitcoin payments, and it is even recognized as legal tender in one country - El Salvador.
The blockchain network that powers the world’s second most popular cryptocurrency – Ether – and, beyond that, works as a platform for many of the decentralized applications that make up today’s iteration of web3. The Ethereum network is built on the work done by Bitcoin in creating a decentralized, encrypted digital ledger, adding the ability to run software code, known as decentralized apps (dapps), and even groups, companies, or corporations – known as distributed autonomous organizations (DAOs).
Pancakeswap is a popular exchange for trading and investing in cryptocurrencies and other decentralized tokens. It is built on the Binance smart chain – a smart blockchain network similar to the Ethereum network that can be used to build, launch and host other decentralized applications. As cryptocurrencies and blockchain tokens are themselves decentralized, web3 apps, it makes sense that users would want to trade them over networks that are decentralized themselves, rather than the original cryptocurrency exchanges, which were centralized and prone to vanishing overnight and taking the users’ funds with them. In theory, no one person or organization has control over a decentralized exchange, making it impossible for something similar to happen.
This is a decentralized messaging app aiming to become the web3 version of WhatsApp or WeChat. It aims to prioritize privacy and security by allowing users to connect without an email address or phone number, both of which can generally be traced back to individuals due to the centralized nature of the service providers which host them. It also has built-in trading functionality for secure trading of cryptocurrencies and blockchain tokens such as NFTs.
This is an online virtual world – commonly referred to these days as a metaverse – where users can meet, chat, play games, socialize and attend events. Users can buy or rent plots of virtual land using the platform’s own cryptocurrency, called MANA. In recent years it has become popular with global brands and celebrities, including Samsung, Morgan Stanley, PwC, Adidas, and Snoop Dogg, all keen to have their own stake in the metaverse. Decentraland is governed by a DAO comprised of users and owners of land within the platform, which implements rules and regulations via a democratic process.
Essentially a decentralized Youtube-style video streaming platform. Rather than a centralized corporation (in this case, Youtube owner Alphabet) controlling which videos can be seen and when they appear in users' feeds. Importantly, they also decide which videos can be monetized and, therefore, which users can earn money from their videos. This is all done according to a set of rules and regulations over which the site owners hold total control. DTube attempts to put this power in the hands of its users, with all decisions on video visibility governed by views, shares, and likes. There are no "owners," in the traditional sense, who can censor content uploaded by simply removing it from their servers.
This is decentralized cloud storage for personal files – like a decentralized Google Drive or OneDrive. It is fully open-source, so anyone can examine the source code to determine that it is actually doing what it says it is doing and that there are no potential security holes that attackers could use to get at the data being stored. Users can offer up their own spare storage space to the network and get paid for doing so in the service's own cryptocurrency.
A decentralized social blogging site, similar to Reddit, where users can get paid for their content based on community voting. Steemit is built on its own blockchain, called Steem, and uses its own cryptocurrency with the same name. As of writing, 1.7 million accounts are registered with the platform.
Everledger is a private, centralized company that offers a number of decentralized solutions operating on private blockchains. These are aimed at providing transparency, accountability, and provenance in supply chains across various industries, including art, luxury goods, diamonds, and fashion. It is somewhat different from other examples of web3 applications in that it is built on Hyperledger Fabric, originally developed by IBM, and its focus is on creating proprietary, industry-specific solutions. This demonstrates the fact that there are many different views on what constitutes web3 and where the future of the decentralized internet is heading.