If you travel in the same Twitter circles as I do, you'd be forgiven for thinking that we're at the beginning of an internet revolution.
Web3 is getting a lot of focus right now, with attention-grabbing headlines such as attempting to buy the constitution via a DAO (decentralized autonomous organization), NFTs selling for hundreds of thousands of dollars and bitcoin rocketing upward 🚀.
I'm fascinated by the technology. Bitcoin and the blockchain feel like the start of something significant. I'm not sure its current implementation is its final form, but breaking new ground is never easy. I'm not entirely convinced by the current Web3 community model, but I'll save that discussion for another time.
If you look beyond the technology, though, you'll see a powerful trend that takes us right back to the start.
A quieter devolution?
While the Web3 pioneers break ground and experiment in new technologies, I sense an ethical retreat back towards Web 1.
Web 1, 2 and 3 are somewhat arbitrary terms, but it's generally accepted the epochs are as follows:
Web 1: Creators using independent platforms.
Web 2: Centralization to social media.
Web 3: Creators using decentralization.
If we break it down in a little more detail, the early web was an explosion of independent blogging platforms like Wordpress and community platforms like UBB and phpBB. The current web is centralized via social media channels and other giants like Google and Apple. The next step could be creators using a decentralized peer-to-peer network managed via a public ledger (the blockchain) to share content.
The question is, why?
Why are creators looking to move from centralized systems such as social media and to decentralized platforms?
The answer is likely varied and will include many of the social media giants' failings: poor moderation, never owning your own content, relying on algorithms to be seen, more editorial and style control, ethical concerns over the direction of social media and many more.
There has been a surge in new independent platforms such as Notion, Ghost and Substack to cater for a growing hunger to create content off social media. Likewise Invision Community has seen a significant increase in interest over the last few years.
The reforestation of the internet is underway.
The seeds have been sewn over the last few years. Now personal newsletters and blogs (like this one) are springing up. Communities are looking to move from social media; people are rediscovering personal curation tools like Pocket, Feedly and Inoreader.
This feels like a return to the exciting early days of the web full of colour and flavour. Of course, social media may still bind this disparate collection of links together and still act as a helpful content discovery tool; but I feel that we yearn for a richer, more profound experience outside of its monolithic newsfeeds.
Web3 may or may not be the future, but it has already proven a strong appetite for change.