Web 3.0

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Web 3.0 (AKA #web3) is a phrase used to pitch visionary sequels to the popularity of "Web 2.0" to advocate for particular plumbing solutions looking for problems, starting with the "Semantic Web" in the late 2000s, decentralization in the 2010s, and now mostly blockchains & cryptocurrencies; the IndieWeb instead focuses directly on user-centric goals, with technologies only as a means.

Web 3.0 as Semantic Web

The first occurrences of "Web 3.0", occurred during the rise of "Web 2.0" in the mid-2000s, as early as May of 2006, e.g NYT: A 'more revolutionary' Web

Just when the ideas behind "Web 2.0" are starting to enter into the mainstream, the mass of brains behind the World Wide Web is introducing pieces of what may end up being called Web 3.0.

A conceptual graph of evolution of Web 1.0, Web 2.0, Web 3.0, Web 4.0 along a diagonal with a horizontal time axis, with keywords and technologies sprinkled at each point along the diagonal

as SVG + Web 2.0 + "Semantic Web":

"… asking what Web 3.0 is," Berners-Lee said. "… maybe when you've got an overlay of scalable vector graphics […] on Web 2.0 and access to a semantic Web integrated across a huge space of data …"

Later in 2007 it was documented as equivalent to "Semantic Web" on various roadmaps, graphs, and articles e.g.:

Web 3.0 as Mobile

The "Mobile Web" was briefly pitched as Web 3.0:

  • 2012-08-11 TechCrunch: Web 3.0: The Mobile Era

    Now we’re entering Web 3.0, which is mobile, and we are in the thick of it.

Although other sources asserted "mobile" as part of the "Web 2.0" era, e.g.:

Web 3.0 as Artificial Intelligence

Web 3.0 as A.I. has two variants:

Web 3.0 as ML AI

A.I. meaning Machine Learning (ML): the buzzword hype of Machine Learning in the mid to late 2010s made it sound attractive to lump it into Web 3.0 definitions:

  • https://medium.com/fabric-ventures/what-is-web-3-0-why-it-matters-934eb07f3d2b

    Web 3.0 is built largely on three new layers of technological innovation: edge computing, decentralised data networks and artificial intelligence

    Artificial intelligence & Machine learning algorithms have become powerful enough to create useful, indeed sometimes life-saving, predictions and actions.

    Emphasis added.

Web 3.0 as Symbolic AI

A.I. meaning machine "understanding" of conceptually representative symbols and their semantics, and thus an evolution of the "Web 3.0 as Semantic Web" definition, but perhaps with a broader phrase, or a phrase with broader appeal than Semantic Web.

Web 3.0 as Decentralization

  • https://gavwood.com/web3lt.html
    • "Web 3.0, or as might be termed the "post-Snowden" web, is a reimagination of the sorts of things that we already use the Web for, but with a fundamentally different model for the interactions between parties. Information that we assume to be public, we publish. Information that we assume to be agreed, we place on a consensus-ledger. Information that we assume to be private, we keep secret and never reveal. Communication always takes place over encrypted channels and only with pseudonymous identities as endpoints; never with anything traceable (such as IP addresses). In short, we engineer the system to mathematically enforce our prior assumptions, since no government or organisation can reasonably be trusted."
  • https://medium.com/fabric-ventures/what-is-web-3-0-why-it-matters-934eb07f3d2b
    • "Web 3.0 enables a future where distributed users and machines are able to interact with data, value and other counterparties via a substrate of peer-to-peer networks without the need for third parties."
  • https://www.gemini.com/cryptopedia/web-3-0-definition-open-internet-decentralized
    • "Web 3.0’s semantic web will be enabled by advanced artificial intelligence (AI) software capable of decrypting natural language and understanding user intention"

Web 3.0 as Blockchain and Cryptocurrencies

Still poster image for a video of a cartoon with bold white text stating “The future of the web” being said by a man on a 1980s era brick cell phone standing on a golf course with his golf bag next to him, and a few trees in the backgroundA graph of technologies over time with various clusters for Web 1.0, Web 2.0, and Web 3.0

Noting transition from "semantic web" and "decentralization":

web3 as a new era

Comparison to IndieWeb

  • https://mxb.dev/blog/make-free-stuff/

    “Despite what web3 claims, it’s possible to “own” your content without a proof of it on the blockchain (see: IndieWeb). It’s also possible to create things just for the sake of putting them out into the world.”
    Max Böck



grift greed ponzi pyramid schemes

  • https://twitter.com/blaine/status/1442549601756614659
    • "Yup, this about sums it up. A lot of centralization (re: tech billionaires) exists because "it's easier, and people want it."
      That doesn't mean that it's necessary or desirable.
      However, in its current instantiation, most of decentralization a la "web3" is just grift & greed." @blaine September 27, 2021
  • https://twitter.com/mortenmertner/status/1443597799552126981
    • "The term web2 wasn't coined by charlatans cooking up planet-destroying algorithms while pushing crypto pyramid schemes and selling worthless signed pointers to things. Web3 proponents are ridiculed because there is plenty of reason to do so, not because people have changed." @mortenmertner September 30, 2021
  • a few get rich, not solving real problems: https://twitter.com/eevee/status/1459920371046490115
    • "imo, treat web3, metaverse, blockchain, etc as radioactive. don't validate this crap. they're trying to get rich, not solve real problems

      just makes me sad that there's so little interest in a real decentralized web, because (by design) corps couldn't profit off of it" @eevee November 14, 2021

recreates power disparities with different owners

Repeating past mistakes

  • https://twitter.com/buzz/status/1442547588184510468
    • "My thought on the web3 discussion: there is absolutely something interesting with a lot of positive potential there, but if you buy into a bunch of Techno Utopian ideology that blinds you to the fact that power dynamics exist everywhere, you’re simply repeating past mistakes." @buzz September 27, 2021

Discord cancellations due to NFT pre-announcement


  • Criticism thread: https://twitter.com/Pinboard/status/1448009365173125123
    • "There are three non-fraud foundational problems with "web3":

      1. No way to reference anything in the real world (oracle problem)
      2. Immutable code makes any smart contract its own bug bounty.
      3. Everything breaks (more) unless expensive distributed systems are run in perpetuity." @Pinboard October 12, 2021

Not actually decentralization

Complex slow expensive and unwanted by users

  • Criticism of web3 as "blockchain": 2021-10-04 Web3 Architecture and How It Compares to Traditional Web Apps

    … the reality is, there are considerable challenges with blockchains — especially when it comes to developing applications on top of them. The architecture is too complex, there are glaring technical limitations (as pointed out by Dabit), platforms like Ethereum are slow and expensive (not to mention the environmental impacts), and there’s no evidence yet that mainstream users even want blockchain applications.

  • inefficient: https://twitter.com/eevee/status/1459918242466578436
    • "they are obsessed with running everything, literally everything, on blockchains, and i do not know why. i don't want the entire web to be inefficiently bittorrented around all the time. that sounds like a very silly idea?" @eevee November 14, 2021

Lack of consensus on meaning

Meaning polluted with buy cryptocurrency

  • Criticism: term is polluted with "buy cryptocurrency" — https://twitter.com/timbray/status/1466842201766313988
    • "Dear world: It is perfectly possible to imagine a radically-decentralized Web and simultaneously disbelieve that basing it on blockchain is necessary or even desirable.

      But de facto, the term “Web3” now means “buy my cryptocurrency” and is thus polluted, probably beyond repair." @timbray December 3, 2021


  • https://twitter.com/eevee/status/1459910748147093507
    • "it is completely wild to me how many people on here are making 100% confident statements about what is made possible by web3, a thing that does not seem to actually exist

      and right at the same time as facebook releases an AMV about "the metaverse" and pretends it's a product" @eevee November 14, 2021

Violates one web for all

Web3 or any versioning of the web violates the goal and vision of one web for all, as embraced by W3C.

web n

Beyond "web3" or "Web 3.0" there have been a few other numbered web "n" proposals or jokes, most notably.

Web 4.0


Since jack's tweet, the #web5 hashtag on Twitter has become overrun with humor, sarcasm, support, snakeoil etc.

  • 2022-06-10 Web5 is here. Goodbye Web3? TBD.

    If Web3 wasn't confusing enough already, Jack Dorsey, co-founder of Twitter and Block, just launched 'Web5' with his company, TBD, and all the acronyms and jargon is giving me a nosebleed.


See Also

"Web 3.0" turned out to be just "crimes".

@mhoye October 11, 2023