Web 2 vs Web 3: Overview, Characteristics, and Differences

The web has changed dramatically over the years, both for consumers and developers. The advancements in various versions of the web have allowed users to connect and interact more closely with the developers.

The World Wide Web, commonly known as the web, is the internet’s core information retrieval system that enables users to read, write, and share information on the internet. Web 1.0 or read-only web was the first phase of the web evolution. Web 1.0 only provided informational and static content. Even though Web 1.0 empowered internet users to access data from all over the world, it did not offer any functionalities for interaction with the content. Essentially, in the Web 1.0 era, end-users were just consumers of the content created by a select few content creators.

Web 2.0 overcame the shortcomings of Web 1.0. by fostering the growth of user-generated content. Web 2.0 not only advanced interactivity and social connectivity between the users but also encouraged collaborations amongst them in peer-to-peer transactions (p2p), thereby, setting the stage for the growth of e-commerce and social media platforms. 

Web 3.0 is a successive iteration of Web 2.0. Pegged to be the future of the internet, Web 3.0 is made up of four foundational pillars—semantic markup, distributed ledger technology (DLT), 3D visualization, and artificial intelligence

What is Web 2.0? 

Web 2.0 is the web that we know today. It has more usability for end-users compared to its previous version. Web 2.0 has replaced Web 1.0’s static pages by introducing more dynamic pages that allow the end-users to interact with content published on the web. The increased user interaction has become possible due to the introduction of programming languages like JavaScript, HTML, and CSS that help developers build applications where users can interact with content in real-time. Basically, Web 2.0 allows visitors to contribute to a website’s content in various ways, including blog comments, social media posts, product reviews, wiki article submissions, and editorial input.

The second-generation web does not modify any technical specifications. The Web 2.0 applications have, instead, showcased a significant frontend revolution with more opportunities for interaction with the end-users. Web 2.0 emphasizes changing the design of web pages and the ways of using them.

Web 2.0 examples include hosted services like Google Maps, and web applications such as Google Docs, Netflix, Amazon, and Yahoo. Blogging, video sharing, microblogging, and social media platforms have also gained immense popularity. Some examples include YouTube, Medium, Instagram, and Facebook.

The issue with Web 2.0 comes from the way the traditional Web 2.0 application works. For example, to access content on a web page, a user makes an HTTP request to the web server and after verifying the user data the web server sends back that webpage as a response. A major flaw here is that all data is stored on a centralized server, which in turn, is controlled by certain Web 2.0-centric companies. This has created several issues. Firstly, highly centralized amounts of sensitive data have resulted in highly publicized hacks in the last ten years. In addition, the Web 2.0 structure has resulted in a data oligopoly where only a handful of companies have outsized power and users no longer have control over the use of their data.

Characteristics of web 2.0

  • Web 2.0 enables free information sorting — It allows users to collectively retrieve and classify the information. 
  • Web 2.0 also focuses on ensuring dynamic content with high responsiveness to user inputs. 
  • Web 2.0 allows users to collectively classify and find dynamic information that flows two ways between the site owner and site user by means of evaluation, comments, and reviews.
  • Web 2.0 lets the users access the content on the internet via almost any device that is internet-connected, including mobile phones, computers, televisions, and multi-media consoles.
  • Web 2.0 also has been a catalyst for the gig economy, users can now earn income on a part-time or full-time basis by renting their property, delivering foods and groceries, or selling goods and services online.


What is Web 3.0?

Web 3.0 will be developed using distributed ledger technology (DLT), open-source software, and an open application programming interface (API). DLT is a type of database that is decentralized in nature, eliminating the need for an intermediary to process, validate or authenticate transactions. Instead of recording data in a traditional centralized ledger, a DLT uses independent computers known as nodes that record, share, and synchronize transactions in their respective electronic ledgers. In DLT, instead of a centralized server, each node is responsible for processing, verifying, and validating a transaction. A higher number of nodes validating data generally equals greater security in scenarios such as power outages or malicious attacks. Additionally, the nodes record, share, and synchronize transactions across multiple data stores. Due to the immutable nature of  DLT,  data once stored cannot be deleted and any updates made to it will be permanently recorded 

The term open source refers to something that is designed to be publicly accessible to everyone. Open-source software is a code that can be inspected, modified, enhanced, and distributed by anyone. An open API is an application programming interface that is designed to be publicly available to all software developers. Open APIs are published on the internet and shared freely, allowing the owner of a proprietary service to give universal access to the public.

As mentioned earlier, within the Web 2.0 ecosystem, centralized intermediaries control the storage and management of the users’ data. In Web 3.0, data will be stored on decentralized cloud networks and autonomous storage units. These decentralized networks will pass the data ownership to the users and allow them to determine how much data they want to share and how they want to share it.

Presently, the centralized intermediaries do not compensate users for the data that they collect from them. Under the Web 3.0 model users will be paid for the data they share. Essentially, the users will be able to sell their own data to advertisers while still retaining ownership and data privacy

Since Web 3.0 is based on a decentralized model, it will be trustless and permissionless. Being trustless means that it will not have middlemen like the centralized data hubs used in Web 2.0. The users will be able to interact with each other, both publicly and privately, in a peer-to-peer manner without the assistance of third-party intermediaries. Further, unlike its previous iterations, Web 3.0 will be permissionless, which means that there will be no governing body, therefore, the users will be able to share whatever content without any authorization.

Also referred to as the semantic web, the third generation of the web leverages an advanced metadata system. The semantic web is the extension of the existing web where data in web pages are structured and tagged in such a way that they can directly be read by computers. Therefore, in the semantic web information will be categorized and stored in a way that would help a computer system learn what specific data means. In other words, a website will be able to understand words put in search queries in the same way a human would, enabling it to generate and share better content. This metadata structure arranges all types of data making it readable for humans and machines alike. Artificial intelligence (AI) will be used to comprehend the semantics of the content on the web, which will, in turn, enable computers to interpret information like humans and not machines.

Characteristics of Web 3.0

  • Unlike Web 2.0 where information is stored at a fixed location on a single server, in Web 3.0 information will be stored on multiple nodes spread across the internet.  For instance, in a decentralized Web 3.0 App, an encrypted fragment of the data will be stored on the personal servers and computers of nodes. The nodes, in turn, will be rewarded for storing users’ data and letting them retrieve it when needed. Information stored across multiple servers will break down the massive databases currently held by internet giants like Meta and Google and give greater control to the users.
  • To facilitate semantic web functionalities, Web 3.0 will leverage machine learning, a branch of AI that uses data and algorithms to imitate how humans learn, gradually improving its accuracy. AI will be able to filter out the most useful bits of information from huge quantities of data.
  • Web 3.0 will take advantage of augmented and virtual reality to make the user experience much more immersive on the web. Additionally, the three-dimensional design will be used extensively in Web 3.0 services as museum guides, gaming, and geospatial analytics.
  • In Web 3.0 cryptocurrencies may be used for rewarding content creators, for instance, a creator would receive a token every time a user accesses his material.
  • Since Web 3.0 will leverage DLT, it will automatically become accessible to all users. Users will be able to create their address and interact with the network without being restricted based on income, geographical location, or sociological factors among others.
  • In the Web 3.0 ecosystem, users do not need to create individual personal profiles for different platforms. A single profile will work on any platform, and the user will have complete ownership of any given information.


Difference between Web 2.0 and Web 3.0

Web 2.0

Web 3.0

Web 2.0 is a social or participative web

Web 3.0 is a semantic web

Web 2.0 is largely controlled by technical giants who have formed an oligopoly

Web 3.0 is decentralized

It is entirely two dimensional 

Web 3.0 combines 2D and 3D by using immersive realities to render an enriched user experience design

Web 2.0 is based on web applications such as Google Apps and Microsoft 365

Web 3.0 will rely heavily on decentralized applications

Web 2.0 is a mix of open source and proprietary code

Web 3.0 will be completely open-source

Web 2.0 institutions/ authorities can restrict participation in the network. For example, Twitter  can censor tweets or Facebook can takedown posts

Web 3.0 will be largely permissionless

Technologies in Web 2.0 include HTML5, CSS3, JS, and AJAX

Web 3.0 will use machine learning, DeFi, crypto