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Blog Post Apr 18, 2022

What is Web3 and How Does It Work?

Web3 offers a potential solution for making it easier to locate an original source for content on the World Wide Web. We go over what Web 3 is & how it works.

The World Wide Web has always been a platform for creating and sharing information and ideas without restriction. While this enables the world to feel like a smaller place, it does have its downsides, namely the difficulty it creates in determining the original source of content. This lack of easy attribution has opened the door to the creation of non-credible websites and publishers claiming to be legitimate sources. Without reliable authentication of publishers, there is a growing lack of trust in online content.

Web3, or Web 3.0, is a potential solution to this problem. This technology can enable content to be attributed to specific known publishers, regardless of website or online channel. With Web3, users will be able to cryptographically verify the origin of any content, as the identity of publishers stored as blockchains algorithmically ensures security and transparency.

Web3 Fundamentals

Before digging into the fundamentals of Web 3.0, it’s valuable to understand the history of the web and the underlying architecture that has brought us to this point. The first iteration of the World Wide Web, or Web 1.0, consisted of host-generated content with host-generated authority. Within this version of the internet, the vast majority of users were consumers of content, not content producers themselves.

The second iteration of the web, where we currently are, originated as Web2 in 2004. Web2, or Web 2.0, saw a shift from the “hosted web” to a more participatory “posted web,” in which everyone has the ability to become a publisher. However, the authority of that content is still largely controlled by the hosts. For example, social media sites can shut down users, promote or demote posts, and even censor topics entirely. The perceived concerns of centralized authority, while still not authenticating the identity of publishers, has contributed to the current lack of trust in online content.

Web3 builds upon the history of Web2. With Web3, not only will there be user-generated content like today, but the authority and identity of that content will be decentralized and user-generated. This means that users can verify a content author’s validity through cryptographic signatures, regardless of the host. Thus, Web3 is often referred to as the "signed web" and Security Boulevard analysts have identified that current encryption/decryption and Zero Trust frameworks can be successfully used to ensure protection of identities and data.

How Does Web3 Technology Work?

So, how will Web3 work? Blockchain, the same technology used to create cryptocurrency, is a foundational technology for Web3, and provides a mechanism for securely signing transactions and publishing a global state that everyone can agree on. However, blockchain technology is not the only type used in Web3.

Cryptographic keypairs, like those commonly used in public key infrastructure (PKI) technology, are also fundamental to the architecture of Web3. Much like PKI is used in document signing and code signing today, cryptographic public keys and private keys are established to sign content being published on Web3. This keypair structure validates both that publishers are who they say they are and that the content has not been changed or tampered with since being signed. PKI based authentication and encryption of data communication are important parts of Web2 and they will also be part of Web3.

Currently in Web2, when users want to create content—for example, posts on a social media platform—they need to go through an intermediary, such as the social media platform itself. The platform would then take responsibility for ensuring that the user had authorized the creation of the content. In Web3, however, the user will be able to authorize the creation of content without relying on an intermediary. This is made possible using public key cryptography because both the data and the identity are authenticated and signed.

Other protocols like Hypercore Protocol and IPFS (Interplanetary File System) are also important, offering lightweight mechanisms for securely sharing files between peers. The decentralization of IPFS means it is censorship-resistant, so user files cannot be taken down or blocked by third parties. Additionally, IPFS allows users to cryptographically sign their files, proving ownership and authenticity. This feature makes it possible for users to securely share files without reliance on a centralized host.

Ultimately, the future of Web3 is bright, but one big question remains: how will users discover the content they need? Web3 may need a new kind of search engine – one that can index the entire decentralized web - and discern trusted publishers.

To learn more about Web3, listen to Root Causes, episode 206, "What is Web3?"