Have you ever wondered about the forces that shape the digital world, the platforms we use daily, and the influence they exert on our lives? While social media has become an integral part of modern communication, it’s important to understand the fundamental changes taking place within this realm. Web2 and Web3 are terms that describe two distinct eras of social media, each with its own set of characteristics, challenges, and promises.
WEB2: THE CURRENT LANDSCAPE
Web2, the reigning era of social media, is what most of us are familiar with. It encompasses platforms like Facebook, X (formerly known as Twitter), Reddit, and YouTube. These platforms have not only connected billions of users worldwide but also amassed significant power, wealth, and, to some extent, controversies.
The challenges of Web2 are no secret. Concerns about data privacy, opaque data practices, censorship, de-platforming, and centralized authority have been at the forefront. Recent events, such as Meta’s $1.3-billion fine by the European Union for mishandling user data and a Reddit moderator rebellion, have only heightened these concerns. The unpredictability and often unilateral decision-making by platform owners can leave users feeling powerless and disconnected.
WEB3: THE PARADIGM SHIFT
In contrast, Web3 is the new frontier of social media, offering an alternative to the challenges presented by Web2. This emerging era is characterized by decentralization, censorship resistance, and a focus on empowering users rather than exploiting them.
Web3 represents a shift towards user-centric platforms where creators and contributors are the driving force. It aims to return ownership of data and content to the creators themselves. Decentralized storage replaces the need for centralized servers, increasing transparency and control for users.
While Web3 is not without its own learning curve and occasional unreliability, it offers significant benefits that have been missing from traditional social media platforms.
Here are some of the key advantages:
Empowerment Through Ownership: In Web3, creators are stakeholders who can shape the platform’s future. They have a vested interest in ensuring the network’s success, leading to more collaborative decision-making.
Rewarding Content Creators: The core values of Web3 include rewarding users for their content and contributions. This aligns the platform’s success with the collective good.
Censorship Resistance: Unlike Web2, Web3 allows users to express themselves without the fear of censorship for their opinions, humor, or style. It encourages authentic human interaction without fear of being “de-platformed.”
Freedom of Choice: Web3 respects user choices. You can choose to view ads and be rewarded for your time, or you can opt-out entirely. Monetizing your data or keeping it private is entirely up to you.
Maintaining Pseudonymity: Web3 supports pseudonymous interactions, allowing users to connect with like-minded individuals without revealing their true identities.
Web3 is not a perfect solution, and its success in challenging the existing social media giants remains uncertain. Yet, it offers a refreshing perspective — a return to the core values of freedom, ownership, and collaboration.
While Web3 represents a paradigm shift towards decentralization and empowerment, Web2 platforms are not standing idly by. They are actively exploring ways to adapt and integrate Web3 concepts to stay relevant in the evolving digital world.
Many Web2 platforms are also exploring strategies to incorporate Web3 principles while retaining their existing user base. Here are some ways they are doing so:
Cryptocurrency Integration: Several Web2 platforms have started incorporating cryptocurrencies or blockchain technology. For example, Twitter’s NFT profile pictures and Facebook’s exploration of the Metaverse reflect their interest in blockchain-related concepts.
Creator-Centric Models: Web2 platforms are increasingly shifting their focus towards content creators and influencers. They are offering more incentives, revenue-sharing models, and creative tools to empower their creators. YouTube’s Partner Program, for instance, shares ad revenue with content creators.
Decentralized Content Moderation: In response to concerns about censorship, some Web2 platforms are exploring decentralized content moderation. This involves allowing the community or independent entities to play a role in content policies, as seen in Reddit’s experiments with decentralized governance.
User-Controlled Data: Data privacy and ownership have become major concerns. Web2 platforms are enhancing user data control and transparency. Facebook’s Data Transfer Project and Twitter’s data sharing policies are steps in this direction.
Interoperability: While traditionally Web2 platforms have operated in isolation, some are considering interoperability with Web3 networks. This openness enables users to engage with content across different platforms seamlessly.
THE FUTURE OF SOCIAL MEDIA
The competition between Web2 and Web3 is shaping the future of social media. As these two worlds converge, the line between them is expected to blur, ultimately creating a more dynamic and inclusive digital ecosystem.
In this rapidly evolving landscape, one thing is certain: social media platforms will continue to adapt and transform. Whether you embrace the innovations of Web2 or dive headfirst into the Web3 revolution, the future of social media is in your hands.
Dr. Donald Patrick Lim is the founding president of the Blockchain Council of the Philippines and the lead convenor of the Philippine Blockchain Week. He is also the Asian anchor of FintechTV.