Why We Need Web 3.0
Ethereum co-founder Gavin Wood on why today’s internet is broken — and how we can do better next time around
It was over four years ago that I coined the term “Web 3.0.” Back then, it was clear to me: Ethereum — the platform I cofounded — would allow people to interact in mutually beneficial ways without anyone needing to trust each other. With technologies for message passing and data publication, we hoped to construct a peer-to-peer web that lets you do everything you can now, except there would no servers and no authorities to manage the flow of information.
These days, with key components still missing or dysfunctional, with scalability still wanting, and many projects suffering from compatibility problems, I don’t always find it easy to see the light at the end of the tunnel, or how we will get there. But the important points are unchanged from before: Centralization is not socially tenable long-term, and government is too clumsy to fix things.
What precisely is wrong with the web today? In short, it’s a big baby. It has grown old without growing up. While connecting the far corners of the globe with a packet-switching network and hypertext platform is an incredible achievement, the web has become corrupted from its own success.
The internet today is broken by design.
Rewind to 1990s and the internet was a very different place. Google was still a .org domain, open-source software was being described as “cancer” by one of the fiercest monopolists of all time, and “information superhighway” and “internet addict” were gaining traction as terms for the newly anointed. People (well, teenagers like me) still ran their own websites and email servers, and “net neutrality” was something fishermen argued about when buying trawlers. The fabric of the internet was yet to become warped by the shape of society. It was still rather barebones and empowering, reflecting its academic and enthusiast roots.
In the 20 years following, the “World Wide Web” would change the nature of society — this we know. Critically, though, the basic technical architecture of the internet provided no backstop against changes happening in the other direction. Society was bound to imprint itself back…