The internet is an ever-changing place. The technology and infrastructure that drives it to continue to evolve rapidly, leaving websites, apps, and networks scrambling to catch up. To keep up with the fast-paced digital age changes, developers have created their own unique terminology for different aspects of online interaction. With so many new words emerging in the world of technology, it can be challenging to keep up with all the changes and advances. But you don’t need to be a programmer or tech expert to understand what each word means and how it affects your daily life as a user. To make things simpler for you, we’ve outlined some of the most common terms you’ll come across when discussing computer networks and software programs—with a special focus on two key phrases: Web3 and Web2.0.
Web 3.0 has been used since the 1990s to describe the next stage of online evolution. While every decade brings with it new ideas on how the web will look in the future, the idea of Web 3.0 has evolved over time to encompass a few key ideas. The term is often used to describe a future where the internet is completely decentralized—with no centralized servers or data centers to host or store content. Instead, the internet will be powered by millions of decentralized nodes communicating with one another.
In 2004, a computer scientist named Tim O’Reilly created a new term for the internet that was beginning to take shape. He called it Web 2.0, and the definition has evolved over time—sometimes referred to as an “overhyped buzzword.” Web 2.0 can be thought of as a “social web” where users can interact and collaborate with one another to create and share content. Web 2.0 sites such as Facebook, YouTube, and Wikipedia are examples of this online environment. Web 2.0 is based on the idea of creating online content that encourages users to “participate, collaborate and create.” This idea has largely been replaced by Web 3.0, although the two terms are often used interchangeably.
When you use the internet to send emails or log into your bank account, you are connecting to a network—a massive network of computers that communicate with one another. These networks are often referred to as the “internet.” Computers that are part of a network are called nodes. You access internet nodes using programs called “apps” or “websites.” These are specific websites or apps created by individuals or companies to offer specific services. When you log into your online banking account, you use an app called “online banking.” Similarly, when you visit the homepage of a website like Facebook, you use “websites.”
The idea of decentralization is one of the core concepts behind Web 3.0. Decentralization describes an ecosystem or network with no centralized server or control point. Instead, a decentralized network is “distributed” or “shared” between many different nodes. When applied to computers and the internet, decentralization can describe a network not hosted by a single company or data center. Instead, nodes that make up the network are distributed across millions of computers worldwide.
Smart contracts are computer code programmed to execute an action once a specific event has occurred. They aren’t limited to the internet or computers—you may have come into contact with a smart contract if you’ve ever signed a lease that required you to pay a security deposit. These types of contracts are common in industries like real estate and insurance. In these industries, the contract is designed to enforce a promise or action agreed upon by the parties involved. This can be anything from an insurance company paying out a claim once severe weather has passed to a landlord refunding a tenant’s security deposit once they’ve moved out of a rental unit.
Web 3.0 is often described as a completely decentralized internet powered by millions of nodes. This starkly differs from the centralized internet we use today, which relies on a few large companies and servers to store and distribute data. Web 2.0 and 3.0 are often used interchangeably to describe the social web powered by user participation and collaboration. The main difference between the two is that 3.0 is completely decentralized, whereas 2.0 is centralized. With the rise of blockchain technology, the internet has quickly evolved into Web 3.0. Without centralized servers or data centers, this new web will be entirely distributed and decentralized. This will ensure that no one company or government can control how the internet functions—and how we use it daily.