The term “Web3,” also known as “Web 3.0,” has been making the rounds in the education technology community. The question is, “What does it mean?”
Web3 is the third iteration of the World Wide Web, and most web3 development companies have already begun implementing it. Social media contributed to its immediate, and perhaps premature, fame. In any case, it’s highly probable and for a good cause. However, familiarity with Web1 and Web2 is necessary for comprehending Web3’s potential benefits and implications for classroom instruction.
Web1 – The Economy of Information
British computer scientist Tim Berners-Lee invented the World Wide Web in 1989. It was designed to facilitate automatic information sharing among scientists worldwide at universities and research institutions. Businesses quickly began hiring IT professionals to help them leverage the Internet for internal and external communication.
Since most people didn’t know how to use computers and it was costly to get online, the earliest iteration of the Web was primarily “read-only.” Lots of text, and nothing much happened in it. Particular attention was paid to details about specific businesses, brands, or institutions. Even though there were restrictions on what people could create on their own, early internet users eventually began to throw together cluttered websites. Because of this, MySpace was born, and from there, Facebook and the birth of the Web 2.0 era emerged.
Web 2 – Platforms Drive the Economy
Web2 was the most significant improvement to the WWW and its perception abroad. As the price of Internet access dropped, more and more people began using it, and the World Wide Web evolved into much more than a repository of facts and figures. People were able to meet one another and exchange opinions and information there. An entirely new era of content creation and sharing was ushered in with the advent of social media platforms like Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter.
Keep in mind that there was a shift in the norms governing information storage at this time. Before “Cloud” became common parlance, people were already using “The Cloud.” They might share media files on social media sites like Facebook or video clips on video-sharing sites like YouTube. We permitted platforms to store our data and information in exchange for the services they provided to us. Problems emerged, however, as we learned when data privacy became a more pressing concern many years later. While Web2’s interconnectedness and sense of community were greatly appreciated, its centralized nature and Big Tech’s control over everything from access policies to content creators’ earnings were not. A shift in Internet behavior has been called for by a growing number of people who share this sentiment.
Web3: The Economy of Owning Things
The third generation of the World Wide Web, or Web3, is currently in its infancy. There is little doubt that decentralization is at the heart of Web3. It’s a clear message to the tech behemoths that dominated Web2 that they need to adapt or perish, as control (and data) are being removed.
This revolution won’t be televised; its effects will be obvious. Blockchain technology, which Web3 employs, is based on a distributed network of computers (“nodes”) that work together to ensure that no single entity or group has global control. Using concepts such as NFTs as digital assets that can prove to be unique, token-gated access to content, and a connected Metaverse where users do more than occupy space; they OWN it, Web3 allows users to do just that. Since users would no longer be keeping their content on obsolete platforms, this concept is also based on a higher level of safety. Instead, users will utilize a distributed network to form decentralized groups.
The effects of Web3 are already being felt in fields as diverse as the arts and finance. Banks are scrambling to understand what Web3 and DeFi (Decentralized Finance) mean to avoid obsolescence as artists and other content creators find new ways to connect with and interact with their audiences. Alterations are necessary for the educational system as Web2 loses prominence.
It’s not just about exploring ways to use VR to “Enter the Metaverse,” as some schools have begun to do in 2022, or about schools accepting crypto payments for school fees. As the Web evolves, how we interact with all digital content will also change significantly. The chain of custody will include everything from student grades and reports to patient medical records. Not only will students’ progress be easy to track and verify in real-time, but schools will also have more leeway to adapt their facilities to meet the needs of the 21st century. A school, for instance, might issue its token and use it as the foundation for an extensive token-based internal economy accessible to students, faculty, and even parents. An institution of higher learning could theoretically balance its budget in this manner, reducing its reliance on grants or government assistance (in the form of taxes in many countries). Similarly, the Personal Learning Network (PLN) could evolve into a DAO (Decentralized Autonomous Organization) in which groups of educators from around the world steer the education landscape into uncharted territory.
Institutions of higher education that embraced the early iteration of the World Wide Web were instrumental in revolutionizing how people acquired knowledge. Similarly, schools that embraced Web2 tools were able to transform their interactions with students and staff. This will also occur with Web3. Some people deny the problem until it is too late or too difficult to fix. Those around you will take note of the shift and prepare themselves to make the most of it.