The promise of Web3, the next iteration or paradigm of the Internet, can be explained by a comparison to what Web2 has already given us. A Web2 vs. Web3 is beyond a decentralized or centralized debate, although it is a part of it. Perhaps it is also short-sighted to say that Web3 is a more democratic way of conceiving the Internet due to people being able to claim a part of it, convert these parts into assets (NFTs or other tokens), or operate more transparently with your data. With smart-contract functionality, people can come together and create DAOs —tech-powered cooperatives— so that not every entrepreneurship has to be hierarchical affairs by default.
This is all well and good, but the reality is that cooperatives are already a possibility in real life. Owning assets is a possibility as well. But we increasingly see that regular people can’t own assets and that the cooperative mode or organizing a company is not the norm. Just because these things are available in life, it does not mean that physical reality is more democratic. Web3 is a very cool technology, but it will have limitations and people working around its democratizing potential. Keeping this in mind, let’s see what Web3 can and cannot do for society. A Web2 vs. Web3 comparison will be handy as we determine ways to get as much value from this technology.
Understanding the different Internet paradigms
If you look at Ethereum’s educational resources, they define the Internet in three phases: Web 1.0, Web 2.0 (or Web2), and Web3. Ethereum thinks of Web 1.0 as a read-only phase of the Internet. Static websites that disseminated information owned by large companies dominated this era. Interaction among users was not very common or encouraged, except via Internet forums or message boards. People imagined during the Web 1.0 era a democratization of access to knowledge and information.
Web 2.0, according to Ethereum again, is a read-and-write phase. This is the inception of user-generated content where people are not only passive consumers of information; they can also create content for others to see and share. The rise of influencers, people who gain notoriety on their own via the content that they create and share on social media, occurs and becomes a viable Internet career. Social media gives rise to the advertising revenue model that relies heavily on user data and does not share the spoils with the user fairly. The promise here was the democratization of public opinion, to which regular people contribute information that news organizations were not covering. But this is contradicted by the centralized control exerted by the companies that own these platforms, particularly in how they leverage data to achieve the massive valuations that they currently have. They also have huge power when it comes to censoring speech, something that is becoming increasingly obvious.
The third wave of the Internet, Web3, is read-write-own. Content that is created can later be sold on a distributed block network (blockchain), allowing creators to protect their intellectual property. The driving principle of Web3, especially when considering a Web2 vs. Web3 matchup, is that the proponents of Web3 argue that Web 2.0 has too much centralization at the hands of companies, which at this point are monopolies, and that too much trust is put on these platforms to act in good faith. If the well-being of users, or higher principles like freedom of speech, is pitted against their bottom line, how will they act? To this end, Web3 is decentralized, permissionless, and trustless (three intertwined concepts) so that more people can become involved without the personal cost of giving up their privacy or arbitrarily being shut off from the service.
What does this mean for art?
The emergence of NFT art is a consequence of Web3. Because ownership is now a core tenet of the Internet, this has allowed digital art to flourish. This makes a lot of sense because now digital art gets bought and sold in the same medium it is made. That is, art gets created on a computer, is bought through digital means (i.e., a smartphone), and is delivered on the same medium into a crypto wallet. Finally, it can be exposed in the metaverse, also part of Web3.
Artists should keep in mind that a Web3 paradigm does not exclude Web 2.0, although differences are exposed as Web2 vs. Web3. This is important because authenticity is key in social media. Influencers (that is, real people) are whom people tend to gravitate to. An NFT artist is, when thought of exclusively in terms of social media, an influencer. NFT art galleries, on the other hand, can do all sorts of cool things on social leveraging the influence of NFT artists. Like hosting events (IG live or Twitter Spaces). Events are a common thing for an art gallery to do as they look to become a place where artists, collectors, and other forms of art intelligentsia gather.
Let’s take for example SOPRG, an NFT art gallery from Czechia. If you are an NFT artist, as part of an agreement with SOPRG you could have a Twitter Space where you answer questions from the art curator from this NFT art gallery. You could also take questions from people attending the Space. Later, attendees could be invited to an exhibition on the Somnium Space metaverse land plot that SOPRG owns so that people can look at some NFT art and buy it if they like it.
In short, while it can appear to be a Web2 vs. Web3, it’s not about leaving one for the other. Even today, there are Web 1.0 elements on the Internet, and Web 2.0 can power Web3. It’s just about understanding what they all are and what they contribute to users.
Painting by Mrs. Hrabětová – you can buy the NFTs via our shop.