The father of the World Wide Web, Tim Berners-Lee, does not see blockchain as the most viable solution for building the next generation of the Internet. “Ignore the Web3 stuff,” the physicist and computer scientist advised the public on Friday at the Web Summit in Lisbon, according to US television channel CNBC. He was therefore not at all convinced of the future plans of the crypto visionaries.
Web3 “isn’t the web at all”
“It is important to create clarity in order to debate the effects of new technologies,” Berners-Lee said on the main stage of the conference, according to the report. “You need to understand what the terms we’re discussing really mean, beyond the buzzwords.”
The computer scientist and physicist described it as a “genuine disgrace” that “the people of Ethereum” have adopted the existing name Web3 “for the things” “they do with the blockchain”. In reality, this form of Web3 is “not the Web at all”.
Decentralized internet of the future
The idea behind the still relatively nebulous term Web3 is a decentralized Internet in which data remains in the hands of users and does not disappear into the closed platforms of operators such as Amazon, Facebook, Google and Microsoft. The initiative is based on distributed ledger technology (DLT), which includes blockchain, cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin and Ethereum, and non-fungible tokens (NTFs). Opera, for example, introduced a fairly comprehensive Web3 base application in January with the “Crypto Browser Project”.
Berners-Lee is also in favor of opening data silos. The director of the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) relies on its own decentralized web project Solid. The open source initiative aims to allow users to decide for themselves where their personal information is stored. Ideally, this is a dedicated “hard data module” over which the owner has full control.
The Brit sees no place for DLT in this context. “Blockchain protocols may be functional for some things, but they are not good for Solid,” he pointed out. “They are too slow, too expensive and too public. Storing personal data should be fast, cheap and private.”
Berners-Lee complained that many Web3 technologies were confused with the more comprehensive “Web 3.0” concept he helped shape. His original approach was to build a semantic web enriched with data that could be read and processed by machines.
To implement Solid, the 67-year-old founded startup Inrupt, which reportedly received $30 million in venture capital in a funding round in December. The company wants to develop a global “single sign-on” function with which anyone can connect to web services from anywhere. There should also be login credentials with which users can share their information with third parties. A “common universal API” is also planned, which is a programming interface that applications can use to retrieve data from any source.
Hope for web as a collaboration tool
In June, at The Next Web, Berners-Lee answered the question of whether he believed in Web3’s promise of healing with a terse “No.” He actually imagined the web more as a collaboration tool, he explained at the time. Parts of the solution must grow together from different minds. The result was more of a publishing medium. However, he does not despair of realizing his initial idea.
In principle, the father of the web is not an enemy of blockchain applications. In 2021, for example, he had his original source code for the World Wide Web, which he had developed during his time at the European Institute for Nuclear Research CERN, auctioned by the American auction house Sotheby’s as than NFT. To do this, he signed the files with the original timestamps. The auction of the digital artwork raised $5.43 million which would go to charitable endeavours.
Berners-Lee took advantage of the Web Summit in 2018 to propose a new social contract for the web. According to him, the “Magna Carta” should help fight unwanted developments such as hate, state hacking and cybercrime by building strong communities. It also targets business models that help spread misinformation. The final version was at the center of the opening of the United Nations Internet Governance Forum (IGF) in Berlin in 2019. The resulting principles were incorporated into the declaration on the future of the Internet, that the US and the EU released with their partners in April. .