Recently, the Web Foundation policy team hosted a web panel on the topic of Web3 technologies. Our speakers, Tamba Lamin, Cleve Mesidor, Tomicah Tillemann, and Nnenna Nwakanma, spoke about the future of the web and the rise of Web3 technologies. Here are the key takeaways from the discussion.
- How do we define Web3?
Proponents say it is the next iteration of the Web, and sceptics think it is hype. At this point, Web3 is a broad term referring to a group of technologies, like cryptocurrency, NFTs, and smart contracts. Web3 is still a long way away from becoming a reality, but that is a good thing! It gives us an opportunity to evaluate all emerging technologies and assess which ones can actually be leveraged for good.
- There are both opportunities and risks to Web3.
In theory, Web3 technologies should provide an opportunity for people to experience the web beyond the dual system of authoritarian vs Big Tech paradigms that currently exist. Web3 technologies could offer individuals much greater control over their information, greater ownership of platforms and services, and a say on how these platforms and services are governed. They could ideally close the gap between the real world and the virtual world.
On the flipside, the same concerns around the current web still apply to Web3: accessibility, online safety, digital divides, digital colonialism, and data privacy rights. If these issues are not addressed, then the same gaps and harms will apply to a greater degree in this new iteration of the web. Additionally, Web3 is high risk because we don’t know enough about it and who is behind it, and we won’t until more people start to use it to solve everyday problems.
- Web3 is the future frontier and we’re at the point of architecture.
While Web3 technologies are still developing, there is a marked diversity in the demography of early adopters with many being people of colour of different generations, living across various parts of the world. However, access to these new technologies is still filtered through traditional centres and institutions of power, limiting its effectiveness.
We need intentional policies that foster innovation and inclusion to ensure that the future iteration of the web doesn’t repeat past mistakes.
- Traditional institutions still matter.
Even with these technological advancements, governments, particularly those in the Global South, must be empowered to offer their citizens the necessary digital security that they need to operate online, as well as a means for legal recourse when things go wrong.
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