Helium is a wi-fi network, owned by everyone and powered by cryptocurrency. You sign up, plug a device into your router, and offer to share your excess Wi-Fi capacity with others. In return, you get Helium crypto tokens; the more your personal hotspot is used, the more tokens you earn, and these can be used to access wi-fi services elsewhere. Helium, which calls itself “the people’s network”, decentralizes wi-fi, a service traditionally provided by large telecommunications and fiber companies.

Arcade City is a decentralized taxi service, built in Austin by a former Uber driver who also happens to be a software engineer. Fed up with what he thought was the unfair treatment of his drivers, he created this to take on his ex-employer. Built on a blockchain and powered by a digital cryptocurrency, it was designed to be owned by a cooperative of drivers. An Israeli startup La Zooz’ is trying to do the same by using blockchain technology to create a self-managed carpooling platform, connecting drivers with empty seats and potential passengers in real time; again, this service does not belong to the founders of the application, but to its community of users. It rewards drivers with tokens called Zooz, which they can use to get a ride from someone else in the community.

Axie Infinity is a popular video game in Asia, especially in the Philippines. If you achieve certain in-game goals, you are rewarded with NFTs and cryptocurrencies, which can be exchanged for real money. Players “build” the game as they go, “breeding” characters called Axies, who can battle other players’ Axies. Players can also purchase virtual territory in NFT form and earn tradable token money called SLP. Also referred to as “Pokemon on the blockchain”, there are Filipinos who make their living playing this game. These decentralized “play-to-earn” games have sparked a revolution in the gaming world.

These are concrete examples of what people loosely refer to as Web3. While some of them have yet to take off, the common theme is clear: they are decentralized, owned by the user community, use blockchain technology, and are powered by cryptocurrency. Web3 has become a rubber band term used for everything. Pure crypto games have used it to make themselves look more respectable, NFT minting of bored mammals is considered a Web3 idea, as is buying virtual land or holding fashion shows in the metaverse.

Yes, Web3 is all that, but also so much more. Web 1.0 was about reading static content pages on MSN, Yahoo, or AOL, and started in the 1990s. Web 2.0 broke out in 2005 with Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and others, and is about people who create and publish their own content, going beyond mere passive reading. Web3 (for some reason the “3.0” suffix is ​​considered old-fashioned) goes beyond your active participation by allowing you to own and create items from it via ownership tokens and blockchain enablers, thereby distributing ownership, unlike the highly centralized models of Web 2.0. So, if Web 1.0 was about “reading”, Web 2.0 is “reading and writing” and Web3 will allow you to “read, write and own”. As crypto investor Li Jin and writer Katie Parrott have stated: “If the pre-internet/web1 era favored publishers, and the web2 era favored platforms, the next generation of innovations, collectively known as web3, is about tipping the balance of power. and ownership rests with creators and users. Web3 has moved up the hype curve quickly, with an estimated $27 billion inflow of venture capital in 2021, Facebook renaming itself Meta and Jack Dorsey declaring his intentions by renaming his company Square to Block.

Beyond the hype, Web3 is in my opinion a new business model. Just as Web1 was driven by advertising and Web2 is driven by data monetization, Web3 will be driven by value exchange and peer-to-peer ownership. Web3 is open, built as is with open source software by an open community of developers. It is trustless because transactions and interactions can occur without the need for a central authority. It is permissionless because you don’t need consent from a controlling entity like Facebook or Google to engage. It’s ubiquitous, with the internet available everywhere for everyone, even machines. And, finally, it’s honcho-free, as users participate equally in the governance and ownership of a project through crypto-tokens as proof of stake. In a way, it’s like going back to the first human settlements, with all transactions happening between peers with easy mutual trust and locally minted currency. Blockchains provide the decentralized trust foundation for this new old world, and Web3 is the business model that drives it.

Jaspreet Bindra is the founder of Tech Whisperer Ltd, a digital transformation and technology consultancy

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