Digital world anthropologist and futurist Brian Solis is optimistic about efforts to reshape the web, decentralize it and empower users. He warns that this so-called web3 must first go through a ‘valley of disillusionment’.
The web has now entered a third version, web3, a movement that aims to decentralize the internet to give users more control over their data and assets. The blockchain plays an important role in this, the technology that keeps track of property and transactions in a digital register.
I did not expect society to be so vulnerable to manipulation.
It is a response to web 2.0, the web of social media and the big internet companies that collect and control large amounts of data about their users. When it came out, the promise was that everyone could express themselves online. Solis was very positive at the time, but that assessment has changed. “I believed that Web 2.0 would democratize information and give everyone a voice,” said anthropologist and futurist Brian Solis, a Global Innovation Evangelist at US software firm Salesforce.
“The good side of social media is that they gave us a voice, but that’s the bad side as well. It also led to the sowing of division. I did not expect society to be so vulnerable to manipulation and misinformation,” says Solis.
Social media also promotes addiction by encouraging you to do more and more on their websites and apps based on the number of likes and followers. ‘It is an unhealthy relationship with technology and it gives a misrepresentation of the meaning of life. Nobody likes to hear that they are addicted, but we need to do a lot more about the problem and we need help from our government, “Solis said.
We can complain about the banks, but they offer a reliable experience. Web3’s user experience will improve, but it’s a major hurdle at the moment.
Web3 should be an alternative to that. “The ceiling of web3 is that you get control over your data and how it is used, instead of that data being in the hands of a few large companies that control all that information,” says Solis. But, he continues immediately, ‘it has been promised, we do not see it yet.’
At this point, a major inequality in the web3 system stands out, Solis notes. 80 percent of the market value of non-fungible tokens (NFTs) is concentrated in 9 percent of accounts. Such tokens are proof of ownership on a blockchain of digital objects and became a real hype last year. This strong concentration of assets is also noticeable in the production of cryptocurrencies. 0.1 percent of bitcoin miners account for half of the coin’s ‘production’.
‘In addition, it is very difficult to start using web3’, says the futurist. You need to have a digital wallet, buy cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin or ethereum and then buy an NFT with it and then that NFT needs to be stored securely. “We can complain about the traditional banks, but they offer a reliable experience. The Web3 user experience will be better, but is currently a major obstacle. ‘
Cryptocurrencies are now under severe pressure, with several coins falling significantly (in dollars) since the beginning of this year. That, according to American venture entrepreneur Kevin Rose, will deter projects that are only meant to make money.
“Rose is focused on the foundation of web3, transforming us from regular users to stakeholders,” says Solis. The digital anthropologist cites research firm Gartner’s hype cycle, which describes how a technology descends from a peak of exaggerated expectations to the “valley of disillusionment” and then up a slope of insight to finally arrive at a productive application.
For web3, Solis thinks we are at the beginning of the journey to the valley of disillusionment. Breakdowns, loss of trust and fraud can be part of it. “But in the end, useful projects will emerge and provide a better user experience. ‘We will not see it tomorrow or next year, but we will in the next five years. It will lead to experiences we can not yet imagine. ‘
People already understand that there is some value to cryptocurrencies and that you can own NFTs, but that does not mean they understand the importance of a digital wallet to manage your own data. Your social contacts can also be included in that data, which is a whole new fact. In other words, understanding and using web3 requires some effort. Entrepreneurs, users and politicians will find work to take advantage of the new opportunities and to combat web 2.0 vulnerabilities.
- Brian Solis is a digital anthropologist and futurist. He warns about the unhealthy impact that social media has on users.
- Web3 can turn these users into stakeholders and give them control over their data back, but these promises have not yet been fulfilled.
- In the near future, Web3 will undergo a phase of disillusionment, the ‘valley of disillusionment’, but in the next five years there will be useful applications and new opportunities, says Solis.