In my presentation at Fintech Week London 2023, I discussed the differences between Web3 and Web 3.0. I pointed out that Web3 was essentially a Gavin Wood creation and that Gavin Wood is a blockchain guy, being one of the co-founders of Ethereum and so on. In his thinking, Web3 can be highly personalized, and every one of us will create our own platforms and connect with whoever we want. Web 3.0 on the other hand is a Tim Berners-Lee idea intended to carry us from the original HTTP world into the “semantic web” where he believes, all of the intelligence will be carried on the internet platform.
Tim’s version of a decentralised web is called “Solid” (which stands for Social Linked Data), on which he plans for individuals to store, manage and share their personal data cheaply and simply in a single sign-on. He thinks blockchain protocols too slow, too expensive and too public to be a data repository. He promotes the idea of “data pods” in which individuals store their respective data away from the prying eyes of the tech giants in the world wide web.
Sam Altman, whose own personal history started, just like Gavin Wood, from the blockchain world, is now building Open AI to sit in the HTTP world with APIs and plug-ins that appears to give credence to Tim Berners Lee’s idea of the internet. However, even as Sam Altman’s fulltime day job is building Open AI, he is also a promoter of “World Coin” an initiative to incentivise individuals to store their data in a blockchain data repository.
Both models claim to provide a single sign-on feature. Tim Berners Lee claims that there will come a day when everyone will have a personal data-pod in which their personal data and queries can be stored, to be shared with platforms as directed by the owner. Sam Altman’s World Coin is designed to do the same, except from inside a token.
The development of hardware is just as important as the development of software and platforms in determining which model will prevail. As the internet of things evolve, we might discover that the HTTP is limited in enabling data to sit across devices. For now, the one big difference between the Tim Berners-Lee’s and Sam Altman’s data personalisation models is that the HTTP transmits data but not value and the World Coin transmits data as value.
Tim Berners Lee wants to enable that personalization without losing the world wide web, which is what Web 3.0 is. He has been raising capital to fund projects in his Inrupt start-up, which has had a slow start. Gavin Wood, and presumably Sam Altman, are trying to introduce us to Web3 where everyone owns a personalized platform in their own right. The World Coin initiative, while much more promising, has run into governance issues as it requires individuals to create their personalized identities using their eye’s iris scans.
It’s not clear yet how both models will play out. Future breakthroughs in the development of AI foundational models might open up more ways in which AI will play, given that it is currently delivered on the world wide web. The overall race is to personalize the ownership of data away from the big techs that sit on the world wide web as we know it to be today.