Source: De Tijd, Roland Legrand, Translated
Anthropologist and futurist of the digital world Brian Solis is optimistic about attempts to reform the web, make it more decentralised and give users more power. He warns, however, that this so-called web3 must first pass through a ‘valley of disillusionment’.
The web is now ready for a third version, web3, a movement that aims to decentralise the internet and give users more control over their data and possessions. The blockchain plays an important role in this, the technology that keeps track of property and transactions in a digital register.
It is a response to Web 2.0, the web of social media and the large internet companies that collect and control vast amounts of data about their users. When it emerged, the promise was that everyone could express themselves on the web. Solis was decidedly positive then, but that assessment has changed. I believed that Web 2.0 would democratise information and give everyone a voice, says anthropologist and futurist Brian Solis, who is Global Innovation Evangelist at US software company Salesforce.
The good side of social media is that it did give us a voice, but that is also the bad side. It also led to sowing discord. I didn’t expect society to be so vulnerable to manipulation and disinformation,’ says Solis.
The social media also foster addiction by encouraging you to do more and more on their websites and apps based on the number of likes and followers. That is an
That’s an unhealthy relationship with technology and it gives a wrong idea of what the meaning of life is. Nobody likes to hear that they are addicted, but we need to do much more about the problem and we need help from our government to do that,’ says Solis.
Web3 is supposed to be an alternative to that. The promise of web3 is that you will have control over your data and how it is used, instead of that data being in the hands of a few large companies who control all that information,’ says Solis. But, he goes on to say, ‘that’s the promise, we just don’t see it yet.
At the moment, a great disparity is striking in the web3 system, notes Solis. 80 per cent of the market value of non-fungible tokens (NFTs) is concentrated in 9 per cent of accounts. Such tokens are proofs of ownership on a blockchain of digital objects and grew into a real hype last year. The strong concentration of ownership is also noticeable in the production of crypto currencies. 0.1 percent of bitcoin miners account for half of the “production” of the currency.
‘In addition, it is very difficult to start using web3,’ says the futurist. ‘You have to have a digital wallet, buy crypto coins like bitcoin or ethereum and then use that to purchase an NFT, and then that NFT has to be stored securely. We can complain about the traditional banks, but they offer a reliable experience. The user experience of web3 will improve, but is currently a big hurdle.’
Meanwhile, crypto currencies are under severe pressure, with several coins worth significantly less (in dollars) since the beginning of this year. According to US venture entrepreneur Kevin Rose, this will discourage projects that are solely focused on making money.
Rose is focused on the substructure of web3 that turns us from ordinary users into stakeholders,’ says Solis. The digital anthropologist cites research firm Gartner’s hype cycle, which describes how a technology descends from a peak of exaggerated expectations to the ‘valley of disillusionment’, then up a slope of understanding, and finally ending up in productive use.
For web3, Solis thinks ‘we are at the beginning of the journey to the valley of disillusionment. Crashes, loss of trust and scams can be part of it’. But eventually, useful projects will emerge and provide better user experiences. ‘We’re not going to see that tomorrow or next year, but over the next five years. It will lead to experiences we can’t imagine yet.’
People already understand that there is a certain value associated with crypto currencies and that you can own NFTs, but that doesn’t tell them the importance of having a digital wallet to manage your own data. That data can also include your social contacts, which is a whole new thing. In other words, understanding and using web3 involves some effort. Entrepreneurs, users and politicians are going to have work to do to exploit the new possibilities and combat the ills of web 2.0.