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Web2 vs. Web3: What are the main differences?

Web2 is the version of the internet that we know and use today. Web3 — Web2’s upgrade — would be a decentralized network that could shake up our digital world. Read on to find out the key differences between Web2 and Web3, and what Web3 would mean for you, the user, if we implemented it globally.

Web2 vs. Web3: What are the main differences?

What is Web2?

Web2 is the current version of the world wide web (WWW), also known simply as the “web.” It focuses on static websites, search engines, social media platforms, and online shopping sites.

Web2 is the second internet generation that came after Web1, a non-interactive, read-only web. Web2 introduced more interactivity and dynamic elements — everything “clickable.” It enabled users to create and share content and communicate online.

Advantages of Web2

Web2 offers more interactivity, communication, and participation than previous versions of the internet. Here are the main advantages of Web2:

  • pros
    Interactiveness and dynamic content. Web2 contains websites that have clickable elements like buttons, links, and forms that allow users to make choices and take action with a click. You can also create apps with interactive content.
  • pros
    Communication. Web2 introduced online forums, live chats, commenting sections on social media, liking and reacting options — it enables you to communicate online with anyone worldwide.
  • pros
    User-generated content. On Web2, users can look up content using web browsers and create and share content on blogs, vlogs, and video sites.
  • pros
    Information sharing. Social media and self-publishing platforms make sharing knowledge and information on Web2 easy.
  • pros
    Easy to use. Web2 is user-friendly. You can share and update information, make purchases, and reserve services with a few clicks, without having advanced IT skills.

Disadvantages of Web2

Web2 is convenient, but it has its challenges. Centralized authorities operate e-commerce and social media sites, which presents these issues:

  • cons
    Security. Web2 relies on centralized servers and systems to store data, which means a huge user demand can overload servers. Centralized servers are also a security issue because hackers only need to breach one system to gain access to large amounts of user data. Centralization also makes it easier for governments and corporations to monitor user activity.
  • cons
    Data ownership. A few giant companies dominate Web2, they collect user data and exploit it for monetary gain. To use an online platform, you have to set up a user profile with login information via email registration. All of your data ends up in the servers of the website owner. In this sense, user data is in the hands of the companies, which is a privacy issue, along with the fact that user activity online is tracked by cookies and tracking pixels.
  • cons
    Censorship. Corporations and governments suppress, control, or block certain information to regulate harmful and dangerous content or for their own benefit. They can block websites or users on specific websites, monitor user activity, and enforce policies. However, it raises the question of freedom of expression.

What is Web3?

Web3 is the next generation of the internet, an upgraded world wide web version. It is known as the “semantic Web” or “decentralized Web” because it is based on decentralized technologies such as blockchain and peer to peer networks. A decentralized architecture allows participants to access and share resources directly without a central authority.

Advantages of Web3

The main idea behind Web3 is to deliver the internet’s original promise of an open, transparent, and secure system of computer networks that would bring users together. If we implemented Web3, it’s main advantages would be:

  • pros
    Decentralized. On Web3, no single entity would control data and applications, so users would have greater control over their data, and companies would have to pay to access it.
  • pros
    Transparency and security. The decentralization principle on Web3 would eliminate the go-between, making the internet more transparent. Decentralized solutions for data storage are also more secure.
  • pros
    User empowerment. Web3 would give the power back to the users to own their data. Without a single authority, there would be no inter-platform communication restrictions.
  • pros
    New forms of transactions. Web3 would use smart contracts for decentralized exchanges using cryptocurrencies, decentralized apps, and platforms that do not require an intermediary.

Disadvantages of Web3

The main disadvantage of Web3 is its complexity and the computational resources it requires. Web3 relies on blockchain technology, making it much more difficult for an average user to understand. Here are the main disadvantages of Web3:

  • cons
    Complexity. Web3 is complex on both the technical and user experience fronts. Therefore, mass adoption is not yet feasible. Web3 requires some knowledge about programming and a higher level of IT skills, so it would take a lot of effort for newcomers to grasp.
  • cons
    Computational resources. Web3 requires more computational resources than Web2. Some older devices would be incompatible with Web3. Web3 operations would also consume much more energy.
  • cons
    Scalability. Blockchain technology and other decentralized networks struggle to handle large volumes of data, which might result in slowdowns and a limited network capacity on Web3.
  • cons
    Regulatory and legal issues. It is challenging to enforce regulatory or legal frameworks on blockchain networks, which might lead to fraud, money laundering, and other illegal activities on Web3.
  • cons
    Cryptocurrency security challenges. Web3 would use digital currencies for online transactions. Unfortunately, as the crypto hacks of 2022 have demonstrated, hackers can find ways to access and steal your crypto coins. No wonder our cryptocurrency trust study shows that 7 in 10 Amercans have security concerns about digital currency transactions.

What are the main differences between Web2 and Web3?

The key difference between Web2 and Web3 is that Web3 is decentralized. But here is a detailed table of all the key differences:

Web2 vs. Web3

TechnologyAsynchronous JavaScript and XML (AJAX), Rich internet applications (RIAs), social media, Web APIs (application programming interfaces), and collaborative technologies (blogs, collaborative document editing tools.Blockchain, cryptocurrencies, smart contracts, decentralized storage (like IPFS (InterPlanetary File System) and Filecoin), self-sovereign identity (SSI), and web assembly (Wasm).
GovernanceCentralized entities like banks, governments, and social media sites hold regulatory power and control data.Web3 uses community governance models, for example, decentralized autonomous organizations (DAOs), where stakeholders participate in the decision-making and dispute-resolution process. It is permissionless, and everyone can use it.
CensorshipCorporations and governments impose censorship and can block information and websites.Largely uncensored.
OwnershipCentralized authorities profit from user data, activity, and content.Data ownership and control are mainly in the hands of the users.
PrivacyCorporations track user activity, utilize the information for targeted advertising and monetize it. However, the law protects users’ personal information.Web3 gives users more control over their data and the ability to share only the data which is necessary for a transaction or interaction.
SecurityCentralized entities, such as banks and social media platforms, are responsible for ensuring security depending on the country’s laws. Centralized systems can be easier to breach.Trust is placed in cryptographic algorithms and consensus mechanisms, bringing more transparency.
Payments and transactionsTraditional electronic payment methods: credit/debit cards, bank transfers, digital wallets (Google Pay, Apple Pay, Amazon Pay), online payment processors (PayPal), and P2P payment services (Venmo, Zelle).Digital assets are represented as tokens on the blockchain, facilitating ownership and value transfer. Cryptocurrencies enable decentralized financial transactions.

How do the differences between Web2 and Web3 affect me?

It might be challenging to understand the practical implications of Web3, because we are used to Web2. Here are some examples of the different ways you can be affected by Web2 and Web3:

Social network platforms and forum administrators can censor data, accounts, or comments.Control aims to be decentralized, so no one could censor your accounts or limit your freedom of expression. However, the level of decentralization and freedom of expression would still depend on the specific platform or app.
Corporations and governments store your data. Companies even profit from selling it to third parties or using it for marketing purposes.You would keep your login credentials to yourself, instead of providing them to an internet company.
Centralized servers can go down because of overload, which may disturb daily operations.A decentralized network would prevent Web3 servers from going down.
Specific regulations prevent you from accidentally being exposed to harmful or shocking content during your daily online activities.Technologies for content moderation, regulation, and user safety are rapidly developing. Oversight and control mechanisms are still limited, but different applications and platforms operate differently, so the possibility of exposure to harmful content might vary.

The future of the internet

Judging from the direction that the internet is heading in, Web3 could be its future. Web3 holds excellent potential for continuing to foster decentralization and offer a more user-centric experience.

The basis for Web3 — blockchain technologies — is rapidly developing, so we may see more interoperability, seamless interaction, and data transfer between different blockchain networks. The future of Web3 may also involve a wide adoption of decentralized apps that would offer decentralized finance, decentralized social media, and decentralized identity solutions.

However, Web3 still has a long way to go to overcome its challenges in some areas, such as complexity of operation, user experience, regulation, and security before we can implement it on a wide scale. If all goes well, it still does not mean that Web3 will replace Web2. It is more likely that we will see an integration of these two, offering more decentralized and user-friendly technologies.