What is Web 3.0 and Why Do We Need It?

Web 3, Parity, Polkadot, Substrate, ipfs, blockchain? Wtf?

While visiting Republica 2019 and writing my presentation about it, I was trying to make sense of the deeper decentralised web stack. Jutta Steiner gave a talk at Republica but I was a little lost in what she was talking about. It was clear it was important but I was lost in the terms.

Watching her talk from tech open air (TOA19) was a lot clearer.

She also reminded me about the web3 summit, which I wish I could attend but always felt like I might not be quite the right person for it. I look forward to hearing what comes out of it however because its clear as Jutta says

…The first time I interacted with the web like everything was open and somehow that was the the perception like we now have this great tool and sort of thought like it’s not this these closed intranets. But it’s the information superhighway we can do whatever we want but what happened really over the 30 or so years afterwards was we replicated or built a ton of intermediaries that basically sit between us and anybody we want to interact on the with on the web online, be that through what’s that when we text to someone through Facebook, venmo, whatever you use you buy anything there’s always an intermediary for something that really should be a general p2p interaction. So the problem with this really is what’s underneath this and what led to this mass these mass centralization and of power and data in the hands of very few people is the fact that we had to do this in a very centralized way because this is just how the Internet technologies of where to work so we have an underlying architecture with centralized servers where all the data is gathered because of network effect the power accumulates and accumulates, and this is a very fraught way of doing things because you have a central point of failure and that was massively exposed by the Snowden revelations I mean partly because also backdoors are built into it but partly because it’s it’s centralized architecture…

Clear reason why web 3, I think…

Browser vendors now own the web?

On the face of it… W3C hands over development of HTML and DOM standards to browser vendors (WHATWG). Sounds like a good idea, right?

I mean the W3C was pushing for the semantic web, more rdf, more linked data and xml structuring.

Down with XML, down with linked data, rdf and the very idea of the semantic web – uggghhhh! (or something like that? I can hear you all say!).

Well hold on, remember how the web started? Remember the foresight which kept the web free and open. Insights like SVG when the proprietary alternative of flash was ruling the web. I for one really liked XML and the suite of technologies which came along with it. XHTML was a joy to use once browser vendors got on board and sorted there act out.

I was there during the fight from HTML4 to XHTML 1.0. Still remember fighting about Microformats vs RDF at BarCampLondon2 and to be fair WHATWG was likely right at the time but they didn’t have the foresight of looking further into the future. The semantic web was a big vision but whats the big vision of WHATWG now?

My fear is handing the web over to mainly browser vendors will lead us back to where the web was at during HTML 4.0. A mix of unspecified bits and bobs which rely on native browser capabilities. Whos fighting for accessibility, i18n, l10n, old systems, etc, etc? My only hope is because the w3c only handed over control of HTML and DOM, they will double down on CSS and ECMAscript?

I want the web to move forward and I know there was a lot of tension between the W3C and WHATWG but they kept each other honest. Handing the web over, I fear will ultimately make things worst for all?

The WebOS…

Jason Kottke has an amazing read about the emergence of the web operating system. I've noticed over a very short time, people habits changing (even my own) most of my day is spent in some web/net connected applications like firefox, widgets, rss readers. I hardly ever need most of the apps on my computer day in day out. He also confirms quite a few thoughts I've had about the future of the web in regards to operating systems and the net. So some thoughts while reading Jason's post…

Google. If Google is not thinking in terms of the above, I will eat danah's furriest hat. They've already shifted the focus of Google Desktop with the addition of Sidebar and changing the name of the application (it used to be called Google Desktop Search…and the tagline changed from “Search your own computer” to the more general “Info when you want it, right on your desktop”). To do it properly, I think they need their own browser (with bundled Web server, of course) and they need to start writing their applications to work on OS X and Linux (Google is still a Windows company)[4]. Many of the moves they've made in the last two years have been to outflank Microsoft, and if they don't use Google Desktop's “insert local code into remote sites” trick to make whatever OS comes with people's computers increasingly irrelevant, they're stupid, stupid, stupid. Baby step: make Gmail readable offline.

In agreement, Gmail with offline support via google desktop would be a good move forward.

Yahoo. I'm pretty sure Yahoo is thinking in these terms as well. That's why they bought Konfabulator: desktop presence. And Yahoo has tons of content and apps that that would like to offer on a WebOS-like platform: mail, IM, news, Yahoo360, etc. Challenge for Yahoo: widgets aren't enough…many of these applications are going to need to run in Web browsers. Advantages: Yahoo seems to be more aggressive in opening up APIs than Google…chances are if Yahoo develops a WebOS platform, we'll all get to play.

Hard to admit, but Yahoo are seriously getting this and have over took google in the innovation field. Yes Google still have the upper hand, but I'm not certain that will be the case if Yahoo do buy Technorati or launch there killer. I'm also thinking Yahoo and Mozilla could partner if Jason is right about Widgets not being enough.

Microsoft. They're going to build a WebOS right into their operating system…it's likely that with Vista, you sometimes won't be able to tell when you're using desktop applications or when you're at msn.com. They'll never develop anything for OS X or for Linux (or for browsers other than IE), so its impact will be limited. (Well, limited to most of the personal computers in the world, but still.)

I'm still trying to get my head around a operating system which is so web enabled. I'm assuming RSS will allow Vista to by pass the web on the desktop type crap. Hopefully Microsoft have got there thinking hats fully on because they will miss the trick if they let Yahoo and Google develop a web OS on top of Vista.

Apple. Apple has all the makings of a WebOS system right now. They've got the browser, a Web server that's installed on every machine with OS X, Dashboard, iTMS, .Mac, Spotlight, etc. All they're missing is the applications (aside from the Dashboard widgets). But like Microsoft, it's unlikely that they'll write anything for Windows or Linux, although if OS X is going to run on cheapo Intel boxes, their market share may be heading in a positive direction soon.

I think Apple get it but there hardware/software dependancy is a problem which could really slow them down. I expect we shall see what happens with the whole Apple on Intel deal.

The Mozilla Foundation. This is the most unlikely option, but also the most interesting one. If Mozilla could leverage the rapidly increasing user base of Firefox and start bundling a small Web server with it, then you've got the beginnings of a WebOS that's open source and for which anyone, including Microsoft, Google, Yahoo, and anyone with JavaScript chops, could write applications. To market it, they could refer to the whole shebang as a new kind of Web browser, something that sets it apart from IE, a true “next generation” browser capable of running applications no matter where you are or what computer (or portable device) you're using

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See I think Jason has it a little wrong here. Mozilla has built a lot of community mind share into there web OS products. More so that the others in some respects. Also about the small web server, Greasemonkey anyone? XUL runner is also the foot in the door of widget type fuctionality and they certainly have the full support of the community behind them. How many extensions are there now for Firefox, anyone? Jason also made reference to the lack of rich UI support in web OS. Well Mozilla's got the open standards message and is using SVG, XBL and other standards going on. My bets are on Mozilla and Yahoo for sure.

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