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Humans are social creatures. Ever since the early days of dial-up internet, people have embraced new and innovative methods to connect and communicate. From the basic one-dimensional websites of Web 1.0 to the sleek and user friendly social networks of Web 2.0, each new evolution has brought with it new ways for people to express themselves and interact with one another.
While the platforms and tools we use have changed over time, something has remained more or less a constant throughout this entire evolutionary process. I’m talking about the ownership structure and power dynamics between those who control the networks and those who use them.
Here’s a little bit of background
The Web 1.0 era was primarily one-way media consumption — users would browse the web to consume information and then leave as there was no easy way to share, react or engage (think basic news websites).
Web 2.0 and the emergence of social networks like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube changed this dynamic completely, ushering in an era of two-way communication, with the added possibility of user-generated content, which could be easily disseminated.
It’s undeniable that these social networks have empowered businesses and individuals from all over the world, providing the means for multinationals and microbusinesses to influencers and entertainers, with the ability to connect, market and communicate directly to their audience. And while these platforms have always been free to use, there have undoubtedly been other hidden costs. As the saying goes, if you’re not paying to use a product, then you are likely the product being sold.
It all boils down to data privacy, and the key issue with the current state of play is that social media networks, which are all owned by a handful of for-profit corporations, have been collecting, collating and exploiting this user data in return for advertising revenue — and they’ve made a lot of it. These networks and their corporate overlords have experienced massive growth, both in terms of network usage, share price appreciation and profit. However, the users of these platforms, who have created this value, have not benefited.
Related: 4 Reasons Why Social Media Has Become So Toxic and What to Look for Next
This is where Web 3.0 comes in
While centralized social networks have dominated in Web 2.0, the networks in Web 3.0 will be entirely decentralized and owned by the community. This means users of the networks will be part-owners and will therefore share in any value creation, while also being able to participate in their governance and operation. It’s a radical departure from the structures of Web 1.0 and Web 2.0, where the power is shifted from corporations back into the hands of the users.
In practice, this means that a content creator on a decentralized Facebook or YouTube equivalent can retain greater control of their digital identity while also being rewarded for the activity and value they create on the network.
Here’s how that could work
These new decentralized networks will be built on technology called the blockchain, which is the same technology that underpins cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin and Ethereum. The technology itself is effectively a transparent digital ledger, capable of recording transactions which cannot be manipulated or changed.
In Web 3.0, users engage with other users on a peer-to-peer blockchain-based social network. This is done via a Web 3.0 wallet, which is essentially a digital user profile used for all decentralized networks, collectively dubbed “the metaverse.” All activity taken by a user throughout the metaverse would be recorded on the blockchain and attributable to their Web 3.0 wallet.
This activity, whether it be content creation or engagement with other users’ content, would be rewarded accordingly with the social network’s native currency or “token.” These tokens could be redeemed for NFTs, other cryptocurrencies or simply acquired, which would give the user increased standing in the community and other benefits like voting rights on the governance and management of the network.
Related: Web 3.0 Is Coming, and Here’s What That Really Means for You
It’s still early days, but these are just some of the fascinating and mind-boggling possibilities that are being created by the emergence of Web 3.0 — and big technology companies are starting to take notice. Only late last year, Twitter announced that it was looking at ways to introduce Web 3.0 features onto its platform, and we all heard about Facebook’s shocking decision to rebrand its name to Meta, an acknowledgment of its interest in shifting to the metaverse.
The Web 3.0 revolution is completely changing the fabric of the internet and will upend the way we interact, transact and socialize online. As consumer behaviors inevitably change, so will the need for marketing and advertising strategies that can effectively target anonymous users on the decentralized internet.