The world is experiencing another major technological revolution. Alex Abbott, Engineering Manager & Solutions Architect at Beyond shares how with the advent of Web3, businesses are preparing for a paradigm shift that promises to change the way we interact, build, and exist online.
As the internet continues to evolve, everyday users are empowered with capabilities reaching far beyond the limitations of Web1 and 2 combined. Transparent, community-driven and increasingly decentralized — Web3 has the potential to upend how we think about data, ownership, and even trust itself.
For businesses, this paradigm shift presents some challenges. How should companies operate in this new space? While some aspects of developing web solutions will largely remain the same (i.e. front-end engineering), Web3 requires an updated mindset for architecture, DevOps, data management, and backend development. We'll explore Web3's advantages and controversy, discuss how this new tech is affecting businesses, and cover some of the tactics companies can use to prepare tech teams for the Web3 revolution.
Web3 is the next stage of internet development, fueled by the invention of blockchain technology. While Web2 allows for greater connection between people and devices, Web3 builds on this concept using decentralized technology, enabling new opportunities and innovation.
A blockchain does two things: gather data and secure it using cryptography. Think of the blockchain as a big, digital ledger that is spread out across many computers. Its decentralized nature ensures no one person or company can control it. And, by combining the openness of the internet with the security of cryptography, blockchains provide everyone with a more effective way to verify information and establish trust.
The connectivity fostered by Web3 technology is made possible by decentralized applications (dApps). dApps run on a blockchain, and because they are decentralized, they're not subject to the same limitations as traditional web applications.
Web3 has a number of features that distinguish it from earlier versions of the web. A primary goal of Web3 is to shift control from the handful of companies that gatekeep the internet, to platforms where rules are built by communities, rather than corporations. Imagine a Twitter, where no one company owns the service. Where a Tweet is validated on a centralized blockchain, rather than a central database. This system of checks and balances allows for a more transparent product with clear rules that makes data accessible and trusted.
Some of the key advantages of Web3 include:
Online transactions over the blockchain have become more secure than traditional methods. Since transactions are verified and recorded on a decentralized ledger that can't be tampered with, fraudulent activity and the need for intermediaries (like banks) to vouch for the legitimacy of transactions are being phased out, replaced with trust built on transparency. Imagine you bought a concert ticket issued via a blockchain. As there is a ledger recording the ticket’s point of origin, the signatures left behind would confirm a genuine product no matter how many times it’s sold and resold.
Today, organizations like Facebook and Amazon have servers that store incredible amounts of personal information. Income, interests, dietary preferences, credit cards — Facebook can classify roughly 52,000 traits of each of its users. They use this data to enhance their services, but it's also sold to advertisers and marketers who pay billions of dollars every year. However, as we adopt Web3’s ways of interacting online, data ownership will change, and users will gain more control and ownership over their data.
Using fully-encrypted blockchains like Ethereum, with unbreakable rules, provides users with a new trusted platform in which the data is secure. Big Tech companies will no longer be in control of user data. Governments or organizations may be stripped of the ability to kill services, sites, and social posts. And, since decentralized infrastructures present no single point of failure, service disruption can be minimized, with data stored on distributed nodes to prevent downtime from seizure or server failures.
Not everyone is sold on the idea of Web3. Critics argue that the technology isn't ready for mass adoption, despite the success of Web3 products, like NFTs. Some people celebrate its protection of free speech and information, while others are unhappy about the inability to regulate content.
Interacting with Web3 applications requires new tools, new ways of working, and thorough education on the pitfalls of Web3 development. The lack of integration into modern browsers and standardization of protocols slow progress — this, however, is changing, as evidenced by Google’s latest Web3 announcement. And, since the majority of transactions are currently validated by miners, slow transactions and deployments due to decentralization present challenges in scalability. Processing information raises issues, too. Environmentalists are concerned about the impact of blockchains. Ethereum, for example, is estimated to use as much energy as the entire country of Chile.
However, the mining process - how new crypto tokens are created and transactions are verified - is set to be abandoned in favor of a Proof of Stake (POS) policy — something the team at NEAR has already implemented as part of their own carbon-neutral blockchain platform. Once the team at Ethereum implement POS across the entire ETH ecosystem, they could cut energy usage by up to 95%.
However, it’s the complex functionality and advanced skills required to build Web3 applications that impact creative agencies, tech teams, and organizations the most.
Web3 will change how agencies and organizations function, design, and build web applications. It will introduce a fundamental shift to the internet, driven by new privacy rules, ensuring companies remain transparent in regards to data and focused on user-centric products. And as Web3 tech continues to gain traction, the components of its stack – from networking, computing, and storage to end-user applications – will continue to adapt and evolve.
This vision is progressing quickly, too. Thousands of Web3 applications have been released on app stores, published online, and made available to users, with more than two thousand live applications processing more than 600,000 transactions per day. They range from smart contracts and dApps to distributed computing, including the adoption of NFTs into existing product lines, like designer sneakers.
Web3 will be complicated for a while. However, like most technology, users of Web3 tech won't need to understand the architecture to use it. This isn't the case for software engineers and tech teams at agencies like Beyond.
While the web’s visual interfaces will potentially remain unchanged by the adoption of Web3 tech, the architecture, and infrastructure of applications will change drastically. And as Web3 continues to approach major adoption, businesses need to be proactive to stay ahead of the curve. Organizations can take a number of steps to inform, train, and help their technical teams prepare for the transition.
Security, privacy, performance, discoverability — Web3 will impact many aspects of software development, and training teams to be proficient in Web3 tech is essential. Creating a defined training program is a great way for technical teams to learn the new ways of working with code and data that Web3 facilitates.
Prototyping and experimentation are other great ways to learn. At Beyond, we empower our employees to have time to experiment with new technology and build new ideas. We've partnered with Near, who provide blockchain solutions for developers to import into code. Using their advanced code library, our engineering teams can build applications that interact with the blockchain, build prototypes, and push the boundaries of what's possible in Web3.
Web3 is a hot topic in tech, which means updates and news coverage, conferences, and events are easily discoverable. Encouraging teams to monitor and attend Web3-based content is a great way to learn about the concept and gain an understanding of how other organizations, including competitors, are using it to revolutionize their online presence.
Start to consider how Web3 products might enhance your business model and how you can adapt your offerings to take advantage of this emerging tech. Decentralized finance, NFTs, smart contracts — all products and technologies that are already widely implemented, and thoroughly documented. Technical teams should consider Web3 implementations while designing solutions for their company's products or clients, and work alongside product teams to identify areas of innovation and monetization through Web3 tech.
In the Web2 world, if a developer wants to make a minor update to an application, they make that change and release a new version of the app. That's not the case with Web3. Because of the immutable nature of contracts on blockchains, once data is written to the chain, it cannot be deleted or changed, forever locked in at the same address. Each update requires an entirely new deployment to a new address. Currently, this process requires more data transfer, takes longer, and doesn’t provide end users with an optimal experience.
Web3 also impacts the way teams work together. For example, developers need to be involved in the design process of dApps to ensure that user experience and functionality requirements are considered from the outset. This increased collaboration requires greater communication and coordination among team members.
The way we work with data also needs to change. In a traditional web application, data is most often stored centrally on a server, owned, operated, and managed by a company like Amazon or Google. With Web3, data is stored on a decentralized network of computers, which anyone can access via a blockchain. This means that organizations need to rethink their data storage and protection policies, and developers must consider new methods of interacting with data.
Another great way to learn about Web3 and how it can be utilized to transform your business, is to work with those already using it. Partnering with an agency that has implemented Web3 ways of working and actively trains their team in Web3 products will generate the skills and knowledge necessary to help your business make the switch.
The adoption of Web3 is inevitable – it's already changing the way we do business, from the way we design and build products to how we monetize them. Companies must start to consider how they will transition their teams and operations to this new way of working. By doing so, they will stay ahead of the curve and maintain a competitive advantage.
As Web3 grows, Beyond continues to dedicate time and resources to keep our teams at the leading edge of this revolutionary technology. We have the capabilities to accelerate Web3 product development, navigate and position companies to take advantage of Web3 opportunities, and consult with technical and development teams to get them up to speed on blockchains, decentralized infrastructures, and product rollout.