Augmented by 5G data speeds, open data formats (open-source software), and a massive expansion of artificial intelligence (AI), the transformation of this new “smart” Web is integrated around peer-to-peer (P2P) technologies and the shift to Web 3.0.
Web 3.0 explained
Web 3.0 is the third generation of Internet services for websites and applications, connecting distributed content and data to AI-driven search and analysis. Rooted in AI and machine learning (ML), this next-generation Internet is now bridging a wide swath of disruptive technologies. Where Web 1.0 gave us a new platform for digital content, and Web 2.0 introduced user-driven feedback, Web 3.0 represents a new phase in the internet’s evolution— a visually dynamic “smart” Web.
With the goal of creating a more intelligent and connected Internet, the core idea of Web 3.0 is the evolution of a “semantic web” with the capacity to understand knowledge and data. As futuristic as it sounds, early-stage applications of Web 3.0 build on structured data to teach ML systems to understand what data means. In other words, Web-based technologies can interpret words in ways that are unique to human contexts.
While much of this underlying redesign of the Internet is invisible to users, its impact will change how we collaborate and how we work at a distance. This changing architecture is also nurturing a data-intensive “Spatial Web” and a global Internet-of-Things (IoT). This Spatial Web includes digital information that is integrated and inseparable from the physical world.
Web 3.0 will enable new “smart” modes of work and learning in the massive expansion of e-commerce and a virtual economy. The rise of fintech and virtual payments, for example, is already changing the nature of the global economy. The volume of mobile payments in China alone has exploded more than 15-fold in just five years: from roughly $2 trillion in 2015 to an estimated $36 trillion last year, nearly three times the size of China’s GDP.
This ongoing merger between our physical and virtual worlds is already evident in the dramatic growth of online gaming, digital twin architectural design, and augmented and virtual reality (AR/VR). Building on 5G telecommunications and IoT, the ongoing evolution in computing and information technology is now moving to create a graphic-intensive commercial landscape.
How Web 3.0 takes us beyond the platform economy
Where Web 2.0 companies like Google, Facebook, and Twitter concentrate flows of data and advertising through centralized platforms, Web 3.0 portends a transformation in the nature of the data-driven enterprise. Web 3.0 is designed to categorize and store data without the need for any central points of control. What is perhaps the most interesting feature of this Spatial Web is the use of distributed ledger technologies (DLT) like blockchain to support decentralized network security and storage.
Disrupting Web 2.0’s platform economies of scale, we have moved from centralized services (Web 1.0) to decentralized services (Web 2.0), and now on to the era of distributed services (Web 3.0). Web 3.0 will mean a highly distributed Internet that overlaps DLTs like blockchain in reshaping how we organize information. Characterized by greater interconnectivity between machine-readable data and support for the evolution of AI and ML, a distributed Web could remake e-commerce entirely.
Today’s platform companies represent hybrid organizations that merge centralized corporations and decentralized collaborative networks. The move away from data centralization means that new application providers could fundamentally displace today’s tech giants with a highly distributed infrastructure in which users own and control their own data. Where the platform economy gave birth to companies like Uber, Airbnb, Upwork, and Alibaba, Web 3.0 technology is driving a new era in social organization.
Tailoring your business for Web 3.0
If we assume that distributed work is now the norm, we can also expect that more task automation will supplement human labor. Workplace automation is already improving the day-to-day work of information workers by reducing repetitive, mundane tasks. As new Web 3.0 organizations evolve to leverage human labor in conjunction with machines, Web 3.0 promises new distributed systems and new forms of work. But what does this mean for the way we design our organizations?
Most organizations today are already wrestling with decades of digital transformation. As the McKinsey Global Institute explains, technology has already begun “augmenting work” as robots and computers increasingly perform a range of routine work activities better and more cheaply than humans. In fact, postindustrial economies are now moving into a “Second Machine Age” in which advanced technologies have begun automating rudimentary labor across domains.
Much as industrial automation restructured the nature of manufacturing, so software is beginning to automate features of office work. In the near future, intelligent AI applications will be able to manage, organize, and create meaning from data enabling a robust transformation in the social organization of the workplace. Building on new AI-driven organizations, Web 3.0 will mean redesigning the workflow and processes now driving organizations.
As AI-driven software evolves from expensive, task-specific technology to affordable and collaborative, the nature of white-collar will change. To take only one example, voice-activated software is increasingly able to understand, combine, and automatically interpret information to provide users with a much more enhanced and interactive experience. At the same time, even as highly-automated office work is a very real destination for many enterprises, this is not the end of the story.
Combining AI and automation, Web 3.0 also leverages technological changes rooted in blockchain technologies. At its heart blockchain is an institutional technology with the capacity to restructure the nature of social collaboration. The blockchain is a technology designed to enable automated trust but it also supports social platforms for exchanging value. This capacity to automate the basic workings of social collaboration means that we now have the means to create massive network-driven organizations with very little need for management oversight.
Among blockchain developers, this kind of automated social organization is defined as a decentralized autonomous organization (DAO). The main idea behind a DAO is an organization that can fully function with minimal hierarchical organizational management using software-driven contracts. DAOs tackle an age-old problem of governance, ensuring that decision-making within organizations is equitable. This is largely accomplished by voting. Instead of formal management structures monitoring and coordinating work from a central point, DAOs leverage the feedback loops provided by users.
Notwithstanding the ongoing problems with DAOs, their overall value is the capacity to create self-sustaining organizations that evolve through user participation. DAOs are networked communities with operating rules encoded into the software platform itself. DAOs typically leverage open source software and blockchain technology to eliminate the need for a mutually acceptable trusted third party in a financial transaction. DAOs are open-source, thus transparent and— in theory— incorruptible.
Building on a secure digital ledger to track financial interactions across the Internet, DAOs are one example of the kinds of organizations likely to emerge with the shift to Web 3.0. Leveraging the convergence of AI, 5G telecommunications, and blockchain, the future of work in the post-COVID era is set to look very different from what we’re used to. As Web 3.0 introduces a new information and communications infrastructure, it will drive new forms of distributed social organization.
While we can’t say precisely when the technologies underlying Web 3.0 will reach maturity, the trendline is clear. As Web 2.0 gives way to Web 3.0, the transformation of industries and organizations that emerge alongside new blockchain networks will be highly distributed and automated. What we can say is that the tools for revolutionizing human social collaboration are now set to transform the Internet and the social organizations that now depend upon it. Change at this scale could prove extremely challenging to established organizations but many will adapt and prosper.