What Is Web 3.0? The Fundamental Guide To The New Era Of Digital Data Ownership

The world wide web as you know it is changing. Web 3.0 is on the horizon and there is nothing that can stop it. Welcome to the new era of digital data ownership. Make yourself comfortable. We’re all equals here.

What Is Web 3.0?

The web 3.0 definition varies depending on who you ask, but in general, it’s considered the third generation of the internet. Web 3.0 is also called the semantic web or the spatial web. If you break the evolution of the internet into segments with the first being simple web pages and the second being apps, social media, and mass adoption, the emerging blockchain-based web would be internet 3.0. Essentially, it’s a user-friendly, more secure, more private and better connected internet.

Web 3.0 utilizes blockchain technology to create true decentralization. Not only will this be the latest step in the technology that runs the internet, but this will also be the first proper step towards the metaverse. A fair metaverse, with digital data ownership through NFTs, is only possible on web 3.0.

In this third generation of the internet, devices will be connected in a decentralized network rather than relying on server-based databases. We won’t need to keep all our data on centralized servers, rather we will own it ourselves independently. We get to choose what we do with it.

Web 3.0 is at the core of what Elastos is building.

A Brief History of the Internet

Definitions vary for the different ages of the web, but it can be broken down into three basic generations.Web 1.0 (1990 – 2005)


Web 1.0 was the first generation of the internet. This had basic web pages that were accessible and commercialized for the first time. Protocols such as HTTP, HTML and XML come from the dawn of the world wide web.

The first web browsers came during web 1.0, the first ISPs that allowed you to connect (via dial-up), and the first web development tools. Software languages such as Java and Javascript originate during this time too.

All in all, it was early days for the internet.

Web 2.0 (2006 – present day)

Coined in 1999 by Darcy DiNucci, web 2.0 refers to the participatory culture that has grown on the internet through user generated content, social media and widespread accessibility.

Web 2.0 has led to a shift in the way in which we access the world wide web. We can now go on our phone and we have tons of apps at the tip of our fingers, with hundreds of new ones added to app stores every day. Our phones have cameras built in that are higher quality than most actual cameras from the web 1.0 days. Today, everyone can be content creators and share their content 24/7; this is a fundamental part of web 2.0.

The current generation also drove the social media frenzy with Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and all the others bursting onto the scene, following the trailblazers like MySpace and Bebo. Digital communication has reached new highs too with people opting to use apps like WhatsApp or FB Messenger over the old school SMS.

Despite all this, the main distinction between web 1.0 and web 2.0 is the widespread mobile internet access. This is global. Almost 4 billion people have internet access today, compared to just 1 billion in 2005.

It’s hard not to mention that web 2.0 is also responsible for putting our personal data in the hands of large centralized corporations. Big businesses make money from your personal data by selling it to marketers who conduct targeted advertising, narrowly honing in on their specific niche audience. While it means you may see more adverts for things you’re interested in, you never saw a penny from the sale of your data. That is why it’s so often called exploitative advertising.

Web 2.0 is trapped in a destructive and oppressive cycle. It has lost touch with the original concept of the internet — a decentralized web where network participants are equal and central control ceases to exist. A paradigm shift is needed to get back on course.

Wave goodbye to web 2.0, and say hello to web 3.0…

Web 3.0 (Imminent)

The top three searches on Google attribute this term to three different people, however, it was Tim Berners-Lee who spoke about the original concept of a semantic web. In 1999, talking of his vision for the future, Berners-Lee said:

“I have a dream for the Web [in which computers] become capable of analyzing all the data on the Web – the content, links, and transactions between people and computers. A “Semantic Web”, which makes this possible, has yet to emerge, but when it does, the day-to-day mechanisms of trade, bureaucracy and our daily lives will be handled by machines talking to machines. The “intelligent agents” people have touted for ages will finally materialize”

While the ‘semantic web’ envisioned by Berners-Lee and ‘web 3.0’ are not exactly the same thing, they are often used interchangeably.

What is the Semantic Web?

The semantic web is an extension of the world wide web where machines are capable of reading data on the internet. Essentially, it’s the everyday utilization of artificial intelligence on search engines, social media platforms, and other web 3.0 websites to read, learn and understand user data and respond to it automatically.

Intelligent search engines will be able to understand your search query far more accurately than they currently do, and produce results that could save many hours of manual labor — results like tailored vacation plans, for example.

Tim Berners-Lee himself insinuated that the semantic web will be part of web 3.0, indicating that it was just a piece of the web 3.0 design, not the same thing or a competing entity. In other words, the next generation of the internet will combine machine-learning artificial intelligence (the semantic web) with blockchain technology and other state-of-the-art technologies. Web 3.0 will be the term used to encapsulate this generation.

Why is Web 3.0 Important?

Web 3.0 upgrades the features of web 2.0 and expands upon them optimally. When comparing web 2.0 vs web 3.0, it’s clear that web 3 websites will be so much more immersive and easy to use, all while maintaining security and privacy over personal data.

To make web 3.0 sites permissionless and trustless, peer-to-peer networks or blockchains (or both) will be used to create decentralized applications (dApps).

The development of decentralized social media platforms will be something to keep an eye on. Without the need to encourage endless scrolling (for gathering data), social media could actually benefit humanity rather than sap its attention. Instead of exploiting user participation, web 3.0 could reward it, financially or otherwise.

We’ve already seen a rise in Play-to-Earn games that do exactly that. During the height of the pandemic, it was reported that some people in the Philippines were playing Axie Infinity as their full-time job, earning $300-400 within just a few weeks of playing. This might sound too good to be true to some people, but web 3.0 technologies will allow similar things to happen all over the internet — not just with gaming.

User generated content in web 3.0 could see a boom in creativity as there will be no central authority governing the distribution of content creators’ work, and content creators will always maintain ownership control. With no centralized governing body, political censorship will fall by the wayside too. It’s possible that a lot more people could earn money — or cryptocurrency — from content creation.

NFTs (non-fungible tokens) will also play an interesting and multi-functional role in the future. Not only will they be used for logos, avatars and aesthetics, but they could also act as entry tickets to certain web 3.0 websites. You won’t be allowed in without proof that you hold a specific NFT in your wallet. This could create private communities in which there can be no infiltration. NFTs will also be used in the metaverse to prove ownership over certain tradeable items; anything from digital real estate to games. Imagine Pokemon Go but you’re actually finding scarce Pokemon and owning them. You can trade them or use them (in an effort to get them to evolve into more powerful — and valuable — NFTs). This is just a few of the near-endless ways in which NFTs will be utilized. It’s been said that NFTs have a negative impact on the environment. Read here to find out why that isn’t strictly speaking true.

How will Web 3.0 Work?

Web 3.0 tokens are essential to a decentralized internet. This is because interacting with the blockchain costs gas fees. In exchange for owning your own data, web 3.0 will very likely include some kind of miniscule payment method to publish data to the blockchain.

This will be necessary to replace exploitative advertising and other direct targeting from third parties that use your data against you. To cover the small fees, you could choose to sell your data to marketers. You will still own your data, but you will be able to give access to certain things that marketers can then use to create targeted advertising campaigns. This might not sound very different from web 2.0, but with this, your data is under your control. You get to choose what you keep private and what you sell. And then, of course, you are the one who profits, not Big Data companies.

Without web 3.0 cryptocurrencies, the blockchain technology wouldn’t be able to work. Just as gas is needed to send an ERC20 token on the Ethereum network, the same rule governs most blockchains. Some — like Elastos — thankfully have far cheaper gas fees than Ethereum, but if something is stored on the blockchain (even data) then it requires gas to operate.

Web 4.0

Web 4.0 is difficult to imagine as we haven’t seen the full force of web 3.0 yet, but it’s likely that Eric Schmidt, chairman of Google, is right and “the internet will disappear.” By this, he meant that it would become so ingrained in our daily lives that we simply cease to notice it. Like a fish with water, society will use it so much — become reliant upon it, even — that we forget it exists.

If this were to be true, intelligent search engines and other forms of artificial intelligence will become ubiquitous. This is one of the crucial reasons why decentralization is needed, and needed fast. With a central controlling node, an internet of this magnitude could end in disaster. Just imagine if something we relied on as much as air could be taken out by a single point of failure. Humanity could be catapulted back to the stone age.

Whatever web 4.0 has in store for us, it seems inevitable that web 3.0 will play an enormous part in directing the future of the internet. Web 1.0 was essential to get everything started, web 2.0 was about global adoption, Web 3.0 will return the power to the people. What will web 4.0 be like? Only time will tell.


Former Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey claims to be building web5 already. We fear he may have misunderstood the previous terms.

Web 3.0 Benefits

Web 3 technologies will dramatically improve upon web 2.0. Here is a list of just a few of the benefits of web 3.0 we can expect to see sometime in the near future.

  • More Privacy. Web 3.0 will focus on privacy and security instead of control and surveillance. It will empower you to choose which data you’d like to share and which you’d like to keep to yourself. Personal data will be owned by you and nobody else.
  • More Security. Web 3.0 will be more secure than previous iterations of the internet. This will be made possible through blockchain technology and its decentralized nature. Hackers will find it nearly impossible to exploit the network, and if they were able to penetrate it, their operations can be tracked. 51% attacks are still possible in a decentralized network, but most blockchains have built ways to defend themselves against such an event, such as how Elastos’ merge-mining with BTC serves as an extra security layer. The current web 2.0 has none of these security measures.
  • Decentralization. Web 3.0 will not incentivize centralized networks. This is key to a fair and trustless democracy of any kind. It will be transparent. Imagine the day when governments use public distributed ledgers so that the people can hold them accountable for their spending. This may also reduce corruption in big organizations. Web 3 companies are building an internet that could potentially change businesses and governments for the better, although because of the magnitude of this change, it will face some stern opposition on its inevitable path forward.
  • Data ownership. Trust will be more natural in web 3.0. You won’t need to give your data away to big corporations at every turn. Instead, you will own it for yourself. Check out our article on the value of data and how it is used in targeted advertising to understand how revolutionary this actually is. Users of web 3.0 will be able to sell their data and earn from it if they so choose, or keep it private.
  • Ubiquity. We can access the same information and data from multiple applications without the need for one specific device. There’s no need to upgrade your phone from a web 2.0 device to web 3.0 one. Integration will be automatic and the vast majority of users will connect without even realizing it.
  • Interoperability. Developers will find it increasingly easy to build new dApps, which will work on all smart devices, from televisions to laptops to phones, and even smart cities.
  • No Interruptions. Distributed systems are less likely to face service outages because there is no central authority, so no single point of failure. If one node fails, the rest continue.
  • Semantic Web. The semantic web enables data to be shared across a multitude of platforms, systems and communities. It will act as a bridge for different data formats, leading to enhanced connection.
  • Permissionless Blockchains. Anyone can join and contribute. All users can access services because code does not discriminate.

Web 3.0 Tools

Now you know a little more about what web 3.0 is, it’s time to learn how it will look for you as a user. It will still be using the same existing infrastructure — when we say new internet, or the SmartWeb, we’re not talking about an entirely new thing. The existing technology will be upgraded and decentralized. For an average internet user, the learning curve will be short.

Businesses and developers, however, will have to rebuild their systems from the ground up if they want to stay in the game. In the case of Big Data, they may even have to change their entire business model. Targeted advertising from our coerced data isn’t going to work for them any longer.

What are dApps?

A dApp is a decentralized application. There are lots of different types of dApps, just as there are lots of different apps. Read our beginner’s guide to dapps here.

In essence, web 3.0 will decentralize every single facet of the current world wide web. Here you can see how web 3.0 applications will work and how they will differ from the apps that most internet users interact with today.

Web 3.0 Examples of dApps

Social Networks

The web 2.0 generation of social networks are centralized, censored, and have their own business agenda. It’s possible — and unnervingly common — for social networks to be bought by big organizations or even governments with the purpose of pushing a political agenda, or trying to control and direct a user’s point of view.

On web 3.0, decentralized social media platforms respect transparency. It will be difficult for them to push propaganda of any kind. They will not be limited either; anyone can join and participate, regardless of their geographical location. You will also own your data yourself through a decentralized identity — it won’t be harvested and sold for profit by the social media platforms of today.

A great web 3.0 example that already exists would be Steemit. Content providers can earn web 3.0 crypto coins called STEEM if their content is of a high quality, while other network users can earn by curating user generated content. It’s similar to Reddit in many ways, but it rewards consumers of content and encourages further user participation.


Our messages can be tracked and surveilled by governments across the world. Governments have backdoor access to many of the largest messaging platforms and can (and have) used it to unconstitutionally read our private messages. This has been proven by whistleblowers such as Edward Snowden.

Not only can governments access our private messages at their sole discretion, but malicious actors and hackers can as well. This is because we rely on centralized service providers to store and route all our messages.

On web 3.0, however, it becomes much harder for this type of interference. Not only will messaging dApps run on a peer-to-peer network, but they will be encrypted and distributed by their very nature. There will be no need for each message to be rerouted via a central authority. There is no middle man or central control, thus no backdoor access. Your messages are your messages.


Widely adopted decentralized storage will be an enormous leap in the direction of web 3.0. On web 2.0, we currently store a lot of our digital data (photos, documents and any other digital files) on cloud storage services like Google Drive or Dropbox. Sure, the vast majority of us use hardware storage too, whether that be a computer’s built-in storage, or a separate device, but a growing number are preferring to use cloud storage due to its accessibility and ease-of-use.

However, the need for storage is insatiable. While the cloud storage services mentioned above seem to provide a solution for such a need, there’s an argument that they create more problems than they solve. Namely, they are a prime target for hacks. One central authority is in charge of the security of millions – if not billions – of people’s data.

This is an enormous security hazard. Just think how many data breaches have made the news in the last few years alone. Facebook, LinkedIn, Google… Data breach is their collective middle name. Check out our blog on data security to ensure you’re keeping your data as safe as possible, both in web 2.0 and web 3.0.

In a decentralized web, our data will be sharded, encrypted and each little bit stored by different network participants who are not aware of the existence of the other. This makes it nearly impossible to trace down just one person’s singular file, let alone billions of gigabytes of data at once.

Elastos, as the premier web 3.0 platform, has decentralized storage built into its tech stack, ready for developers to integrate into their web 3.0 dApps. It’s called Hive, and you can read more about it here.


Decentralized exchanges are essential for the world wide web to return to its decentralized roots. When you interact with decentralized exchanges, you are in control of your coins at all times. You access them through your personal wallet – unlike centralized exchanges such as Binance, Kucoin or Huobi. When you use a centralized exchange, your coins are stored in an exchange wallet. You do not own the keys to this wallet. The centralized exchange owns your coins. To learn more about the best crypto wallets, read our beginner’s guide.

This single point of central control is susceptible to hacks. Just look at Mt Gox. $460m dollars worth of Bitcoin was stolen in 2014 due to a hack. It’s currently worth 1,000s of times that amount!

On a decentralized exchange (DEX), hacks are only possible if there is a flaw in the code — and then only if the end-user has interacted with the flawed smart contract. Professional audits are done to ensure that the code is safe beforehand. To learn more about DeFi, read our one-stop guide.

Popular decentralized exchanges include UniSwap, PancakeSwap, IDEX, and for the Elastos ecosystem, Glide Finance, make the most of DeFi by maximizing profit through yield farming.


Blockchain-based internet browsers are the gateway into web 3.0. They follow the same ethos as the rest of the decentralization movement, protecting users from centralized powers and integrating methods of earning cryptocurrencies.

For example, Brave browser, the most popular blockchain browser at the moment, empowers you to earn its token through watching adverts.

Another Key Difference Between Web 2.0 & Web 3.0

Now that you can see the decentralization revolution for what it is, why it’s needed, and how it will actually work for regular internet users; it’s time to mention one more fundamental property of web 3.0.

Your digital identity.

On web 3.0, as stated earlier, your data is yours and yours alone. The way this is implemented is through the use of decentralized identities (DIDs). Read our in-depth guide to DIDs and learn why they’re crucial to the way we approach web 3.0.

Imagine an account that allows you to log into all web 3.0 websites and all dApps with the same details. This is your DID. You can use it everywhere. It’s your crypto wallet for data. It is your digital identity.

No more creating an account for every website you want to visit. No more leaving your data trail all across the web. Welcome to the future. You own your data across all sites. And the best part? Nothing can stop the decentralization movement. The paradigm shift is already upon us.

Elastos — The Premier Web 3.0 Platform

If the idea of web 3.0, of a decentralized internet and provably fair metaverse, appeals to you, then there’s a project you’ll want to take a look at.

Elastos is founded by Rong Chen, one of the forefathers of the world wide web. Its origins date back over twenty years, but it was only when it integrated with blockchain tech that it became the leading web 3.0 platform that it is today. Here are just a few features of Elastos that prove that point.

  • Top-of-the-range DIDs
  • Hive: Decentralized storage
  • Carrier: Peer-to-peer network
  • Merge-Minng with Bitcoin: Added security layer
  • Sidechains: Infinite scalability
  • A three-year-old decentralized autonomous organization
  • Elastos Essentials: A super-wallet that rivals MetaMask — you can access dApps from 10 different networks directly from your wallet!
  • An entire suite of web 3.0 development tools

Elastos is the first mover in the web 3.0 space, and it’s here to stay. Check out the other core features of Elastos, or join the community here. We’d be delighted to welcome you!

This article was written by Matt Leppington