What Is the Difference Between Web2 and Web3?

Adam Kantrowitz
Adam Kantrowitz
What Is the Difference Between Web2 and Web3?
Table of Contents
Table of Contents

To some, the difference between web2 and web3 means is the metaverse and AI applications. However, not only is that an oversimplification, but it also leaves out the core components of what web3 truly is.

If you research the question, “What is the difference between web2 and web3?” you’re going to find a lot of varying content that doesn’t all agree. This is because there is some variance in what people consider to be web3. To some, all it means is the metaverse and AI applications. However, not only is that an oversimplification, but it also leaves out the core components of what web3 truly is.

This graphic from internetcomputer.org is the simplest explanation of the difference between web2 and web3 that I've ever seen.

What Is Web2?

To really understand the contrast, we have to start by working backward to see what web2 is and why people were so excited to break away from web1. Since web1 was the earliest stage of the internet in the 90s, it was all new and exciting. However, it left little to no room for content creation. Interaction with content was limited. You were mostly just able to read what was available. Later, increased speeds allowed for images.

Web2 was a huge paradigm shift in the internet that began not long after the start of the new millennium. Companies like Google and Facebook (now Meta) made it possible to interact with the internet in ways that had only been imagined in the past. What we know today as the internet is really web2 at its peak. Social media, content creation, interactive apps, streaming services, and all the utility that comes along with being connected are all part of the web2 experience.

So what is web3, and why do we need it?

What Makes Web3 Different?

There are a few things that really set web3 apart from web2.

· Decentralization – Web2 is based around centralized corporate tech giants like Google, Meta, Apple, Netflix, Microsoft, etc., as well as the centralized banking system. Web3 utilizes blockchain technology to give creators true ownership of their content. Of course, decentralization (though the ideal of web3) is difficult to accomplish. It involves content being stored on the blockchain rather than on centralized servers, and it also requires decentralized network governance so that blockchains don’t just become the new web2 centralized businesses. The Internet Computer is unique in providing an affordable way to host websites, content, and even entire apps on the blockchain.

· Privacy – Web3 users should have complete control over their data. While web2 social media networks sell user data for profit, web3 social media networks should allow users to retain control over how their data is used or whether it is even stored. Web3 social media networks like Distrikt allow users to log in anonymously with Internet Identity while still retaining ownership of their content and personal data. At the same time, Distrikt is working on decentralizing the governance of the app.

· Censorship Resistance – Centralized services control user access to content and can easily switch what is available on and off. But web3 is meant to be permissionless. No one should be able to block your content or deny you access to online services. Of course, some content that is deemed universally wrong should not be allowed even in a web3 environment, so decentralization calls on communities to police their own content when it comes to legality.

· Security – Blockchains are far more difficult for hackers to exploit. The blockchain can also log all activities that occur so that hackers are unable to do anything completely undetected. As a result, it would be very difficult to shut down an entire blockchain, ensuring that users have perpetual access.

· Trustless – Web3 users interact directly with the blockchain and therefore do not have to trust centralized companies or brands in order to gain access. No trusted intermediaries mean decreased risk of scams like what we recently witnessed with FTX (a centralized exchange).

So if web3 is going to make things so much better, why is adoption not immediate? In part, it is because we still have a long way to go before we reach the ideals cited above.

What Are the Obstacles to Web3 Adoption?

There are definitely a few things that are holding people back from jumping right into web3. Here are a few observations:

· Currency – Web2 runs on fiat currency which is backed by various governments. Since people view governments as the stable part of society, they trust in the value of those currencies. While the value of fiat currency fluctuates, it’s usually nowhere near as volatile as cryptocurrency – the currency of web3. As a result, some are unwilling to transition into the world of crypto and wallets where there is no federal insurance that the funds in their accounts are safe.

· Speed – We’ve grown accustomed to the speed at which the internet functions. Most blockchains can’t even come close to imitating web speed as we associate it with web2. The Internet Computer is working hard to change all that, and 1 to 2-second finality is one of the most impressive features of this technologically advanced blockchain.

· User Experience – Web2 has spent a lot of time and money to make UX as friendly as possible. Web3 isn’t quite there yet. Interacting with a web3 application often requires extra steps, such as connecting to a wallet or verifying your identity in some other way. You may also need a little more tech experience to be able to interact with some of the available services, and this can scare away web2 users who are used to accessing everything with a simple (though relatively insecure) username and password.

· Scalability – Blockchain transactions usually take longer, and because of that, the blockchain may not be able to process the sheer number of transactions that web2 systems handle on a daily basis. The Internet Computer is a good example of a blockchain with the speed and scalability to handle the web2 masses as they adopt web3.

· Cost – On-chain storage and transactions are often expensive. Ethereum’s gas fees scared away many web2 users. Could you imagine paying a gas fee every time you wanted to post to your web3 social media? And what about storage costs? This has resulted in many projects that claim to be web3 (for example, just about everything on Solana) actually being stored in centralized clouds. Again, the IC solves this problem with affordable on-chain storage costs, reverse gas fees, and negligible transaction fees (currently less than a penny per transaction).

The Difference Between Web2 and Web3 Will Increase with Time

As a result of some of these challenges, many products that claim to be web3 are currently more in the "web2.5" range. They adhere to some of the ideas of web3 while still being stuck using a lot of web2 centralized tech. As the Internet Computer strives to overcome these challenges (and is already way ahead of most other blockchains), we look forward to one day seeing a true World Computer.

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  • Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed on this website are solely those of the original author and other contributors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the CoinHustle staff and/or any/all contributors to this site.

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