It's one of those buzz words that get thrown around here a lot recently (like "metaverse") and, admittedly, I also didn't know exactly what it meant. So I read up on it, I thought this might be relevant for others as well:
Web 1.0 was the internet of the 1990s. Static websites, not a lot of interactivity.
Web 2.0 is what emerged in the late 1990s and early 2000s (I've seen numbers form 1999 to 2004 as "start" of 2.0). Websites now allowed more user-generated content, social media emerged. It also became easier to make your own websites.
So far so good, this is still where we are now. But what's Web3? The term was coined by Gavin Wood – co-founder of ETH and founder of DOT and KSM – in 2014, who originally called it Web 3.0 (for some reason Web3 became more common later). The idea behind it is, that today's web is over-centralized in the hands of big tech – Alphabet, Amazon, Meta, etc, you know who the big players are. Wood suggests, that just regulating them is not enough, as regulators are always too late and don't have enough power. Web3 is supposed to be based on blockchain technology to make it "open, transparent, decentralized, peer-to-peer". For users Web3 would probably look pretty similar to Web 2.0, at least at first sight – similar frontend, very different backend. Okay, so the main idea is to build something similar to what we have now, but on the blockchain, decentralized and without "censorship".
How is crypto involved, except something something blockchain? Well, this is where it gets a bit more complicated – because what exactly Web3 is supposed to be still seems to be pretty foggy. But DApps, using different crypto tokens are considered to be part of it, as are DAOs, NFTs and even Reddit's community points. So whatever exactly a finished Web3 will look like, crypto will probably have a big part of it.
Sounds great, right? Well, yes and no, many people very much involved in the owrld of tech are very critical of the idea. Just to give a few examples, Jack Dorsey (Block (formerly Square); founder of Twitter) argued that Web3 will not be more decentralized but that venture capitalists are already working on taking power there. So there might be a shift of power to other players, but not a democratization. Moxie Marlinspike (creator of Signal) similarly said that Web3 doesn't seem as decentralized as it is supposed to be and looks pretty similar to Web 2.0. And, well, if Web3 indeed managed to be more decentralized, this would also have cons in addition to the pros. Experts in law and cybercrime have articulated that it "would make policing cybercrime, including online harassment, hate speech and child abuse images, even more difficult".
I tried to keep this short, looks like I didn't quite succeed – but I hope this is useful to some of you who are still confused what this Web3 is supposed to be!