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What Does Web 3.0 Mean For Social Media?

by Sangita Iyer | 29.04.2022

What is your Web 3.0 avatar going to look like? Madhura at MarTech has listed a vision for hers, and it’s got us thinking: how might everyone customise theirs?

The highly anticipated arrival of Web 3.0 is here, and we are excited to know more. But for those who didn’t know it was coming, what is Web 3.0 though? Furthermore, if you missed them, what were Web 1.0 and Web 2.0?

Web 1.0 refers to the static web. There was minimal scope for user interaction, no comprehensive search module, and little to no space for creators to contribute to the web. It was a one-way street for users to receive information. Simple!

Web 2.0 is the name given to the social web. This is the current web – the one we all use. In this derivative, we got an upgrade – namely, more space to become ‘expressive’. The social web is all about creators. It is predominantly still a 2-dimensional platform – meaning you can only engage in it through a flat-screen device. Web 2.0 is also heavily centralised. This means that the servers running the show are concentrated under one company – just like Meta for Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp. There is a minimal possibility for cross-posting content from one platform to another. For example, you can still send an email from a Yahoo ID to a Gmail one but you cannot expect a Tweet to show up as a tweet on Facebook. 

The decentralised social media platforms are a part of the federated networks. In the fediverse, networks allow users to engage across platforms. The federated network is where Web 3.0 shines. You can find a more detailed understanding of the flaws of Web 2.0 in Jeffrey Zeldman’s blog from 2006, which offers background and highlights on the workings of the update.

In Web 2.0 the platforms are entirely decentralised. When we talk about decentralisation, what does this actually mean? One key point of note is that it means fewer to no server breakdowns – crucial if managing web servers is your thing.

Web 2.0 was made possible by CSS, XML, XHTML, JavaScript, Python, and the DOM. 

Web 3.0 will enable websites and apps to process information in an intelligent human-like way through technologies such as machine learning (ML), Big Data, decentralised ledger technology (DLT), etc. Web 3.0 was initially called the Semantic Web by World Wide Web inventor Tim Berners-Lee. Among its aims, Web 3.0 claims it will be:  

Web 3.0 will be powered through blockchain technology. This technology does not give data ownership to a few sets of individuals or organisations. Instead, it is held across multiple computers and has very limited to no scope of data manipulation. Data, once stored, is also not easily erasable. 

What does ‘Semantic Web’ mean?

The Semantic Web is an extension of the world wide web where the internet data is machine-readable. For example, the current algorithm won’t be able to attest data from different sources. So if you are searching ‘Which is the biggest planet in the solar system?’ the current algorithm will show you all the websites which have articles about the solar system. Google currently shows the correct answer on top of the feed. This feature is the closest example of how the machine will read the articles and dispense the answer on the top. 

We can see that these algorithm developments are moving towards giving us the correct answer the first time. But the algorithm is still not designed to differentiate between more complicated facts which could be sensitive in nature.

Web 3.0 will be the ‘Semantic Web’; in a sense, the internet will be able to trawl through web pages and directly read the content to derive the correct information for you. So, will that mean no more clicking through links on page 11 of your Google search? Only time will tell. 

You may be wondering, how could this be made possible? It would require the tech world to create concepts and build taxonomies for every word. Creating this database could be a monumental task, and IBM’s Watson spent billions of dollars on this very technology. Sadly, it never really came to completion, thus demonstrating the enormity of the task.

One question for consideration is, how might Web 3.0 change the world of social media?

A decentralised web will put the ownership of the channels through the entire community. Integrating with cryptocurrency will allow creators to monetise their content more seamlessly and reduce the reliance on ads for content. In other words, your data wouldn’t be sold for ads by big social media corporations. This is something many people are keen to see more of and could be a positive step to better data practices by organisations.

NFTs will also increase sales and ownership of digital assets by integrating games and metaverses. Creators could have more means to reach out to their audiences with multiple avenues to generate income. With this in mind, are there decentralised social media platforms? The answer is yes, and even the centralised ones are looking to convert. Ever since the data controversies like Facebook-Cambridge Analytica data scandal, we have seen many platforms looking to become more transparent and audiences hunting out decentralised channels. 

Some of the decentralised platforms you may wish to know about include:

Minds: This platform also has a chat feature. Here you can join public rooms and even private rooms. 

Subsocial: This platform looks and feels a bit like Twitter. They have detailed instructions on how you can sign up to their platform.

Mastodon: This platform also looks very similar to Twitter and Discord. The signup process for this channel is a lot easier.

There are many more platforms online. We suggest testing them out to see which one works the best for your brand. 

One of the common misconceptions is that Discord is a decentralised network. However, this is not true, as Discord Inc. owns the channel. Importantly, it is still one of the most popular platforms for NFTs. 

With all these features and benefits, there are still several critical questions to be asked:

Data permanency: If users cannot delete data, will this mean an ‘embarrassing’ picture or personal information cannot be removed?

The unregulated social media: who do we report the problems to? We have a more systematic way of reporting spam, harassment, etc. In the unregulated world, who would be responsible for making sure the internet is a ‘clean’ and safe space?

Accessibility: If Web 3.0 is heavily reliant on metaverses we might not reach the broader audiences. Right now, you can conveniently access the web while doing a chore on the side. If you have to access the metaverse, you need to gear up with a VR headset and immerse yourself into the space. Does this make being more immersive better? These questions are pertinent, especially when more and more of us are looking to reduce our ‘screen’ time. Another question to ask is, will this immersive experience amplify mental health issues that are associated with the higher usage of online media? At a time when we are becoming more conscious of our well-being and screen time, these are themes the people in charge ought to consider.

Safety: We are already hearing unsettling stories of metaverses being abusive, unsafe spaces for many women and marginalised groups. Some of the examples in the news read as terrifying. Again, critically, who would regulate the laws if the arena is to operate unchecked? 

While we will always have concerns about newer forms of technology – and rightly so, Web 3.0 shows more promise, and it has the potential to be the disruptive technology we are waiting for.