The Malta Independent 15 August 2022, Monday

The web revolution

Mark Said Sunday, 3 July 2022, 09:13 Last update: about 2 months ago

It started off with the web in 1989 when Tim Berners-Lee, a British scientist, invented it and was originally conceived and developed to meet the demand for automated information-sharing between scientists in universities and institutes around the world. The basic idea of the World Wide Web was to merge the evolving technologies of computers, data networks and hypertext into a powerful and easy to use global information system.

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It was the Web 1.0 in which developed web pages were static and were not changing frequently. Producers and service providers started publishing online catalogues for the advertisement of their products or services. The main goal of the websites was to publish the information for anyone at any time and establish an online presence. People could only view the information provided by the web pages hence this era is also called as “Read-Only Web”. The information dissemination to the customers was done through “Push Model” because customers could not interact or contribute to the content creation by giving their valuable feedback. Web 1.0 pages were developed in HTML and the basic communication protocol was HTTP.

Then came Web 2.0, a concept coined by Dale Dougherty, web pioneer and O'Reilly VP in 2004 with a conference brainstorming session between O'Reilly and Media Live International. Web 2.0 is also called the wisdom web, people-centric web, participative web, and read/write web.  We all know that internet is the most valuable and time-saving source for all works in today’s world. There is nothing out there that internet cannot provide information for. And though through the years the internet has evolved a lot, Web 1.0 and Web 2.0 are the byproducts of this evolution. They both are just different versions of the web browser. Differentiating the two is a rough act, as there are not many discrete differences between the two.

With Web 2.0 we moved away from a traditional model of publishers making content available to consumers, to a much more dynamic participatory model where the majority of web page developers had the opportunity to update their own media-rich websites as often as they liked. Information began to flow in both directions between content providers and viewers. For example, hit counters roughly indicate web sites relative popularity, while the volume of user comments provides a measure of user participation. This was an era of user-generated content and huge social media interaction, blogging, video-sharing, chatting, hosted services, web applications, voice over IP, emails, instant messages, social bookmarking, podcasting, picture-sharing, weblogs, mash-ups and all kinds of online interactivity became possible and has proved to be a great success. Web 2.0 encourages participation, collaboration and information-sharing. Examples of Web 2.0 applications are Youtube, Wiki, Flickr, Facebook, and so on.

The internet is a global platform, a tool used by millions all around the world to fulfil their necessary needs. The evolution of the internet has also been very interesting since the beginning of the internet area. The progress the internet has made is incredible, and Web 1.0 and Web 2.0 are the visible comparative progress. Web 1.0 reigned the years between 1999 to 2003 and from 2003 Web 2.0 has taken over the undone works of Web 1.0. The dynamics of the versions are very much apart from each otherWeb 1.0 catering to the needs of status websites, while Web 2.0 catering to the needs of social media.

Of course, like any other series, Web 2.0 had to be followed by Web 3.0. The journey to Web 3.0 was embarked upon by Web3 Foundation founder and president Dr Gavin Wood who discusses the ethos and vision behind Web 3.0 and proposes the Web 3.0 Technology Stack as a way to measure our progress. The idea is to nurture cutting-edge applications for decentralised web software protocols and a decentralised and fair internet where users control their own data, identity and destiny. Web3 has become the latest buzzword to get tech and cryptocurrency enthusiasts talking. But what is Web3 and can this decentralised vision of the internet work? Put simply, Web3 is an umbrella term for an online ecosystem that cuts out the big middlemen on the internet. So, platforms on Web3 are not owned by central gatekeepers and you can navigate the internet without the need for search engines such as Google. It uses blockchain, the same system used by cryptocurrencies and non-fungible tokens (NFTs).

We all know that certain free tools, such as Google, Twitter and Facebook (now Meta), supplied by the tech giant companies, that allows everyone to become publishers, also harvests our personal data to be used for tailored advertisements and marketing campaigns. In theory, Web3 will be a combination of the two earlier versions of the internet but will take the power away from the tech giants and corporations and put it back into the people’s hands. And instead of exchanging our data to upload content online, users can become participants and shareholders by earning tokens on the blockchain system, which will allow you to have a say over a network. It will be possible to control your own data and have a single personalised account where you could flit from your emails to online shopping and social media, creating a public record of your activity on the blockchain system in the process. Web 2.0 enabled the transmission of information whereas Web 3.0 will enable the transmission of values.

To be expected, Web 3.0 will soon be followed by Web 4.0 – still a revolutionary thought in process but is sure to become a reality soon. It will be devised to be an "always-on" world where humans can "self-upgrade" through technology extensions. It will be the time where the Operating System will reside in the cloud and web participation would be a necessity. We will have multiple choices for getting the data: desktops, laptops, notebooks, mobile phones, tablets and even iTV. The symbiotic nature of Web 4.0 will bring a new era of “human social engagement” with the web.

 

Dr Mark Said is an advocate

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