Your guide to the future of the internet – easy as 1, 2, Web 3.0
In the world of new media art, the tools of engagement are always changing. Since the boom in decentralised finance – cryptocurrency – all kinds of decentralised transactions followed. And by decentralised – distributed authority is meant, instead of one centre of power. One such decentralised system is blockchain technology, which has been a game changer for various industries apart from the financial sector.
“What happened to Web 1.0 and Web 2.0 and where is the spider?”
The gaming world was one of the first to adopt decentralised peer-to-peer sale of custom items. Soon decentralised music streaming platforms emerged, and self-governed scientific research was conducted. In the art world blockchain technology allowed for the creation of smart contracts that enabled the ownership of digital art. Through a file format now known as NFTs (Non Fungible Tokens), and the rise of autonomously built virtual spaces like metaverses – the movement away from central power structures online is spinning into the next version of the internet – Web 3.0. If right now you’re thinking – what happened to Web 1.0 and Web 2.0 and where is the spider?
Allow us to explain what’s been happening in the world of progressive tech, and what this means for you, and for us in the very near future.
So, what is Web 3.0?
Web 3.0 is a vision for the future of the internet. Currently, its evolving towards shifting agency from centralised institutions to individual users – using blockchain infrastructure for decentralised services. That’s a mouth full, so let’s start at the beginning:
1995 – 2004: Before Web 3.0, there was Web 1.0
When the World Wide Web was a new concept in the mid 90’s it was hard to imagine having access to the majority of the world’s information in our pockets. Even Bill Gates’ vision was limited to the following in an interview with David Letterman in 1995
‘So what about this internet thing?’ says Letterman, to which Bill replies, ‘Well Dave, it’s become a place where people are publishing information.’ And that’s all it was at the time – a place where we could visit web pages and read information, but not interact with it in the way that is built into the internet of today. More like an online library, the pages were generally static.
Circa 2004 – now: Then we moved to Web 2.0
The evolution from Web 1.0, was one that was brought to life by our interactions. Social media platforms connected the world and allowed us to leave comments, update Wikipedia pages, and even be liked. But back in ‘95 this was not yet so commonplace, as illustrated by Letterman’s follow up question to Bill, ‘Why don’t I (yet) have a computer?’ ‘Well we need to find an application for you…you probably have too many assistants’ answers Bill, foreshadowing our increased reliance on the web for daily tasks. This interplay between users and online platforms characterises Web 2.0 – on the one hand it revolutionised global connectivity, including the invention of the smartphone, and unprecedented access to online education. However, the catch of connecting later revealed itself to be the centralised ownership of vital platforms by big tech companies. As we connected on Facebook, commented on YouTube and conducted our Google searches – these companies collected our data (without asking permission), creating the large centres of power that now still compromise our privacy, and dominate our personal data by selling it to 3rd parties.. A rebellion had started to brew.
Then came 2020,
an accelerator for Web 3.0
In 2014, the co-founder of Ethereum cryptocurrency, Gavin Wood, coined the term Web 3.0 and described its potential to be a ‘peer-to-peer internet that lets you do everything you can now, except there would be no servers and no authorities to manage the flow of information.’ With decentralised services developing under the mass market radar, digital dealings were in effect but not yet widespread. Then 2020 came, we were all locked down at home and lived out more of our lives online. We embraced cryptocurrencies, tokenised ownership of NFTs, and visions of metaverses. The movement away from centralised power sped up, and with that the evolution of Web 3.0. So far blockchain technology has proven that (for the most part) decentralising power can work. Cryptocurrencies operate without banks, artists sell art without galleries, and ownership can be proven by a network of computers instead of verified by humans. The first Web 3.0 actions are underway however, the question is whether it will stay this way with big money brands entering the space with traditional ideas of centralised power.
So what do we know about Web 3.0 so far?
- It is based on the decentralised structures of blockchain technology
- It is developing out of Web 2.0, which made the internet interactive, but only via centralised middle man powers
- It challenged the status quo in several industries from finance, to music, to scientific research to The Arts.
- The pandemic accelerated the adoption and development of the technology, encouraging the agency of users
From this we can tell a few things for sure about how Web 3.0 will continue to evolve. We, the users, will become central to operations in a variety of ways that foster ownership over our own data and movements facilitated by decentralised structures.
Nxt Museum and Web 3.0
As Nxt Museum, an incubator and platform for art made with technology, the ideology of Web 3.0 offers a fresh well of inspiration and new wave of research, creation and collaboration. Below, our explorations so far:
POAPS: incorporated into the museum journey are QR-scannable digital mementos ready to be collected to an e-wallet.
NFT minting: During Amsterdam Dance Event we collaborated with Vertical Cryptoart, and the participating DJs and digital artists to produce free, and limited edition NFTs for live minting to the blockchain (you can explore more via our ADE AiR article here)
Virtual gallery: our first non-physical space for archiving digital artworks and collecting them (check it out for yourself here)
Growing this movement of user autonomy with decentralised technologies informs and engages our visitors with the art and digital terrain of the future – which has always been driven by a sense of rebellion. It is a logical progression from our times to rebel against central powers and seek control of our own creations, actions and information. The idea of a single central power does not fit with our fluid times, and new technology is a tool that reflects that.
In our current exhibition, UFO – Unidentified Fluid Other the evolution of this autonomous spirit is embodied by custom designed avatars expressing digital identity. Examined through the lenses of diverse creators using new tech in unique ways, the curation explores who we might be in increasingly digital futures.
If you remember one thing from this article, let it be this:
In Web 3.0 individuals each become their own spider spinning a world wide web that connects us all. As a digital art museum we are dedicated to continuing to show the art that reflects that process.
Keen to dive deeper into Web 3.0? Our podcast on all things Nxt and New Media, ‘But is I.T. Art?’ goes in. Listen to episode 1, series 2 and stay tuned to what’s Nxt.