If you’re here, you’re wondering what exactly this “Web3” is, and probably whether it’s just another buzz word. After all, when someone slaps a version number on a regular word, it sets off alarm bells for most of us.
It conjures images of a lazy marketing exec, leaning back in their boardroom chair, proud as punch about their original contribution.
“Let’s name it Web3. Three is better than two, right? Everyone knows that.”
Even Darth Vader had to deal with these folks when they were naming the Death Star II.
Basic arithmetic aside, in this article, we’ll demystify what Web3 actually is, and how (or if) you want a career in it. We’ll use as little jargon as possible – we promise.
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What is Web3?
Are you concerned that “Big Tech” – companies like Google, Amazon, Apple, Meta, and Microsoft – have too much control over the internet? That it might be impossible for regulators to hold them accountable, so we’ve got to trust them to “do the right thing”?
This is the heart of the argument for a new version of the internet, coined Web3. This new model of the web would be decentralized and powered by blockchain technology.
Put even more simply, the idea is everyone could own a part of the internet. At this point, you might be thinking, “That’s all good and well, but how is that going to work in practice?”
One of the most common visions is building tokens into everything online. These tokens give you ownership of that content. Arguably, this democratizes the web.
If you’re thinking this sounds an awful lot like owning crypto and NFTs, you’d be right on the virtual money. Web3 apps are often based on something like Ethereum, the second-most popular crypto.
Other ideas for Web3 involve everything from decentralized social media networks and organizations – we’ll cover those later – and “Play-to-Earn” video games.
Enthusiasts also say Web3 would mean less sites were reliant on advertising to pay their way, and help protect people’s personal data. Web3 is also known as dWeb, which stands for decentralized web.
Who is pushing for Web3 and why?
Naturally, the crypto industry is very interested in Web3. Since blockchain is seen as the building blocks for the technology, it would turn every part of the internet into something that could be bought and sold.
According to the New York Times, venture capital firms have pumped over $26 billion into crypto-related projects in 2021 alone. That’s more than the last decade combined, and most of it went to Web3 projects.
Naturally, if you’ve got a lot of investment in crypto, you could get rich off Web3 block chains – something skeptics are quick to point out.
Funnily enough, some of the very companies that make up “Big Tech” – Google, Meta, and Microsoft – are investing into Web3.
If a bear starts investing in a bear trap company, you’ve got to figure they’re probably not very effective in ruining their day.
Is Web3 the same thing as Web 3.0?
It depends on who you ask, and here’s where things get a little complicated.
The painful truth is that people have been trying to coin the term “Web 3.0” for so many things, when you bring it up, nobody is on the same page.
Some people will think you’re referring to a web based on public blockchains (Web3). Others will think you’re referring to the Semantic Web – a vision of the internet that is machine-readable. Then there’s a third group who will think you’re referring to the Internet of Things (IoT) or the Metaverse.
Confusing, right? Because nobody can agree on what Web 3.0 actually means, many technologists throw up their hands, claim it’s a nonsense word, and cry:
“Call me when you all figure it out.”
So, whenever you bring up Web 3.0, prepare to spend a lot of time clarifying what you’re actually talking about – and perhaps some heated disagreements.
What are Web 1.0 and Web 2.0?
With all of this, you might be wondering, “What were the first two versions of the web? Did I miss them?” That’s a fair question.
Back in the day, we had Web 1.0. Web pages were static, and they were served to you whether you liked them or not (as grandpa used to say).
Then came Web 2.0. This is the web as it exists today, which is more of a two-way street. You can produce and upload content to blogs, forums, and social media. It’s far more democratic and interactive than slabs of text.
Fun fact: This second definition was actually disputed by the World Wide Web inventor Sir Tim Berners-Lee, who called Web 2.0 “a piece of jargon” and “what the Web was supposed to be all along… a collaborative place where people can interact.”
It’s nice to know this type of hype links back to the early days of the internet. A sort of hype-link, if you will.
I’ll see myself out.
How do DAOs relate to Web3?
So there’s a new type of collective on the block, and it’s not the Borg from Star Trek. But since they call themselves the DAO, you’d be forgiven for thinking it’s the species of the week.
DAO stands for Distributed Autonomous Organizations (DAOs). They also go by Decentralized Autonomous Corporations (DAC) – two acronyms for the price of one.
These organizations don’t have central leadership. All their transaction records, rules, and so on are stored on blockchain. Voting power is determined by tokens and NFTs.
Great, you might say. But how does any of this relate to Web3?
Well, they govern things like DeFi (Decentralized Finance) protocols, NFT generators, virtual worlds, Play-to-Earn gaming guilds, and so on.
The first of those is the most important. Protocols allow for crypto to be decentralized via the blockchain, spreading them across a network of computers rather than being hosted in one location.
Many advocates of Web3 see DAOs as an essential part of pulling the whole thing together.
So, is Web3 the future?
So is Web3 something that is going to happen, or a big crypto scam powered by venture capitalists? The “tech visionaries” (such as Marc Andreessen, Jack Dorsey and Elon Musk) can’t agree, but they are making a lot of noise.
For some, it feels like a lot of sound and fury, perhaps signifying nothing.
However, one thing’s for certain, at least if you work in or around tech. Even if you ignore Web3, you should pay attention to things like blockchain, crypto, and distributed networks – or at the very least, keep your eye on it.
Even if the ideal of a decentralized “Web 3.0” never happens, billions of dollars are going into the technologies related to it.
According to a 2022 study of blockchain repositories in Github, projects based on Blockchain-based solutions are on the rise, and they aren’t just limited to crypto.
There are also now examples of Web3 making their way into the world, driven by the overwhelming commercial desire to make it a thing. There are now decentralized versions of WhatsApp (Secretum), YouTube (DTube), Google Drive (Filecoin) and Reddit (Steemit).
So, our advice? Watch this space, and if you’ve got some spare time, brush up on blockchain fundamentals. A little extra knowledge never hurts.
What are the downsides of Web3?
There are a number of potential problems with Web3 that critics have raised, listed below.
1. Low moderation
Sure, you’re potentially decentralizing the web and giving power to the people. But is that a good thing?
Because we’ve got a centralized web, authorities know who to chase up when you’ve got harmful content – we’re talking about cybercrime like online harassment, hate speech, and child abuse images.
But in a decentralized web, how do you know what country’s laws apply to what website? Who is actually responsible for taking authority for data when it’s distributed?
There’s already a version of the internet that talks about civil liberties and anonymity: it’s called the Dark Web. It is a place full of decidedly not good things.
2. Complexity for beginners and developers
A lot of people have trouble wrapping their heads around concepts like crypto and NFTs as it is (which is why articles like this exist!).
The web as it exists now works because of the low barriers to adoption. But with Web3, more technical literacy is needed.
It’s also not exactly the most straightforward process for developers, since you’ve got to know about blockchain, which isn’t a very mature technology.
There’s a trilemma with blockchain technology that is acting as a barrier to the adoption of Web3, coined the Scalability Trilemma.
The general principle is this: Blockchains can offer scalability, security, or decentralization. They can only have two of these aspects at any given time.
For instance, in order to achieve scale and security, a blockchain must give up some of its decentralization.
4. Is it actually decentralized?
We touched on this earlier, but as venture capitalists and large organizations snatch up tokens, people argue power is just shifting from one set of big cats to another.
In short, because decentralized applications (DApps) are sitting in blockchain and fueled by crypto, this means they’re potentially subject to manipulation by those who own the lion’s share of the crypto market.
5. Environmental impact
Bitcoin has come under fire for not being exactly eco-friendly. Mining bitcoins consumes a lot of electricity – we’re talking 0.29% of the world’s energy production – that’s country sized, specifically, roughly the same as Ukraine or Egypt.
And that’s before widespread adoption of Web3.
Of course, if the mining is powered by renewable energy, that’s less of a problem. According to the New York Times, bitcoin is using somewhere between 40% to 75% renewables (that’s a big margin of error).
There’s some concern that if crypto mining is chewing up all this clean energy, there’s less available for ordinary use. There’s also the electronic waste produced from all these mining devices.
(And, as an added side effect, a lot of angry gamers due to miners buying all the graphics cards in bulk.)
Should I apply for Web3 jobs?
We’ve mentioned the reasons people want Web3 to be a thing, and how these people are putting a lot of money into it.
Money in tech means tech jobs – simple logic. Someone’s got to develop and maintain all these technologies, right?
So, is it a field you want to get into?
Let’s break it down into the things people care about the most: income, stability, and stimulating work.
Do Web3 jobs pay well?
Some salary surveys put this figure higher or lower, and these figures are subject to your country, state, and seniority. However, one thing is clear: if you’re working as a blockchain developer or software engineer, you should be solidly exceeding the six figure mark.
Is working in Web3 a stable career?
If you’re asking “Will there always be jobs in Web3?” then nobody can predict this – but that’s true of a lot of tech.
For example, having a job in an internal IT department where you maintained server racks used to be a stable job. Now, things are moving to the cloud, and businesses are outsourcing to MSPs. You never know what the future holds.
That’s a little philosophical, but let’s bring it back to something a bit more concrete: If Web3 jobs disappeared overnight, would you be left high and dry?
The answer to that is “No”. The skills you need to get a career in Web3 (we’ll cover that further down) are transferable to other roles. Even if you go all-in on Web3 and it goes the way of Betamax, you should be able to pivot to something else.
Then again, that’s assuming it fizzles out. It could also be the next big thing, and by getting in on the ground level, you could position yourself ahead of the curve.
After all, nobody thought personal computers were going to be successful. Even Ken Olsen, founder of computer company Digital Equipment Corp, said in 1977: “There is no reason anyone would want a computer in their home.”
Will working in Web3 be stimulating?
We’d suggest taking a few courses in blockchain technology, cryptocurrency and front-end web development. If you like these things – and math – you may enjoy working in this field.
You’ll also be working in an unconventional area of technology, a pioneer that will need to keep on top of the latest trends.
If you’re the kind of person who likes to say they’re working on cutting edge technology, and doesn’t mind other professionals turning their nose up at something they think is not a thing, then you may also find it worthwhile.
How do I become a Web3 Developer?
So you’ve decided you’re interested in Web3, and you’re wondering where to get started. Well, here’s some of the things you should know if you’re going for those roles, and some Web3 tutorials you can check out.
Web3 is based on blockchain technology, so you’re going to need a firm grasp of it. Thankfully, there’s a lot of good resources available.
A Cloud Guru offers an excellent Blockchain Essentials course that covers everything on the topic: basic concepts and terminology, the underlying architecture of blockchain, consensus mechanisms, and examining the structure of popular blockchains.
Pluralsight also offers many different blockchain courses for whether you’re a beginner or practitioner.
Ethereum, smart contracts & solidity fundamentals
Solidity is a high-level, sort-of object-oriented programming language.
Note that different blockchain technologies use different languages. For example, Solana uses Rust, while Tezos uses Michelson.
This means there’s not one set development language you need to learn, but Ethereum is a good starting point due to its maturity in an otherwise not very mature industry.
Front end web development
None of this is too hard to learn, and most of it will be useful, whether you’re working with Web3 or the classic kind.