The father of the World Wide Web, Tim Berners-Lee, does not see blockchain as the most viable solution to building the next generation of the Internet. The physicist and computer scientist advised the audience Friday at the Web Summit in Lisbon to “ignore the Web3 stuff,” according to US broadcaster CNBC. So he was not at all convinced of the future plans of the crypto visionaries.
Web3 “Not the web at all”
“It is important to create clarity in order to discuss the effects of new technologies,” Berners-Lee said at the main conference platform. “You have to understand what the terms we’re discussing actually mean, other than the buzzwords.”
The computer scientist and physicist described it as a “real shame” that “the people of Ethereum” have adopted the current name Web3 for “the things they do with the blockchain.” In fact, this form of Web3 is “not the web at all.”
The Internet of the Decentralized Future
The idea behind the still relatively obscure term Web3 is a decentralized internet where 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-perishable tokens (NTFs). Opera, for example, introduced a fairly comprehensive core Web3 app in January with its “Crypto Browser Project”.
Berners-Lee also supports opening data silos. The director of the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) relies on his decentralized web project Solid. The Open Source Initiative aims to enable users to decide for themselves where their personal information is stored. Ideally, this is a “solid data bay” intended for the owner in which he has complete control.
The Brit sees no place for DLT in this context. He noted that “Blockchain protocols may be effective for some things, but they are not good for Solid. They are too slow, too expensive, and too overt. 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. Its original approach was to build a semantic network rich in data that machines could read and process.
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 universal “single sign-on” functionality in which anyone can log into web services from anywhere. There should also be login identifiers with which users can share their information with third parties. A “common public API” is also planned, which is a programming interface that applications can use to retrieve data from any source.
Hope for the web as a collaboration tool
In June at The Next Web conference, Berners-Lee answered a question if he believed in Web3’s healing promise with the word “no.” He explained at the time that he imagined the web more as a collaboration tool. The parts of the solution must grow together from different minds. The result was more than a medium of publication. However, he does not give up hope for the realization of his initial idea.
In principle, the father of the web is not an enemy of blockchain applications. In 2021, for example, he had the original source code for the World Wide Web, which he developed during his time at the European Institute for Nuclear Research CERN, and which American auction house Sotheby’s auctioned as NFT. To do this, he signed the files with the original timestamps. The auction of the digital artwork raised $5.43 million that will go to charitable initiatives.
Berners-Lee used the Web Summit in 2018 to propose a new social contract for the Web. According to him, Magna Carta should help combat undesirable developments such as hate, government hacking and cybercrime by building strong communities. It also targets business models that help spread misinformation. The final version was the focus of the opening of the United Nations Internet Governance Forum (IGF) in Berlin in 2019. Principles from it were incorporated into the Declaration on the Future of the Internet, published by the USA and the European Union with partners in April.
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