The hype machine is at full throttle trying to generate buzz for Web 3.0. Last Fall, all the rage was centered around the Metaverse and Facebook changing their name to Meta to capitalize on the momentum associated with these technologies. The total number of Metaverse patents is enormous and Meta has a good patent position when it comes to Metaverse technologies, but now the buzz has moved on to the concept of Web 3.0.
Critics of large, centralized internet monopolies like Meta and Google are claiming that Web 3.0 is going to set us free from the control these companies have over our use of the World Wide Web. That could be the case, but is there any evidence that the move from Web 2.0 to Web 3.0 has any momentum or technological foundation?
Based on several indicators, it might be too early to start moving away from Web 2.0. That particular platform still has a lot of life left in it and while users aren’t always happy with the control exerted by the major social media, streaming and advertising companies, there is no doubt that these organizations have some of the most oversized market caps in the financial world.
Many CIOs recognize that the economy produced by Web 2.0 still has enormous earning potential for them. On top of all that, there don’t seem to be nearly as many patents associated with Web 3.0 technologies compared to other emerging technologies like the Metaverse, which includes patents on virtual and augmented reality.
What does Web 3.0 mean? According to no greater authority than Sir Tim Berners-Lee and his World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), there are several underlying principles behind the idea of Web 3.0. Potentially the most important of these is the concept of decentralization.
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- Decentralization: No permission is needed from a central authority to post anything on the web, there is no central controlling node and so no single point of failure … and no “kill switch!” This also implies freedom from indiscriminate censorship and surveillance.
- Non-discrimination: If I pay to connect to the internet with a certain quality of service, and you pay to connect with that or a greater quality of service, then we can both communicate at the same level. This principle of equity is also known as Net Neutrality.
- Bottom-up design: Instead of code being written and controlled by a small group of experts, it was developed in full view of everyone, encouraging maximum participation and experimentation.
Sir Tim has even gone so far as to develop a web decentralization platform called Solid (SOcial LInked Data). Its website claims that “Solid is a specification that lets people store their data securely in decentralized data stores called Pods. Pods are like secure personal web servers for data. When data is stored in someone’s Pod, they control which people and applications can access it.”
Another early adopter in Web 3.0 is ThreeFold. It is inviting users to “Join the peer-to-peer revolution” powered by its blockchain implementation and promising an “open source P2P Internet owned by humanity.” The company was the subject of a forbes story in June of 2020, suggesting that the “Largest distributed Peer-To-Peer Grid” on the planet was laying the foundation for a decentralized internet.
Web 2.0, of course, is not taking any of this laying down and Jack Dorsey recently tweeted the following to set the record straight on the actual ownership of Web 3.0:
“You don’t own “web3.” The VCs and their LPs do. It will never escape their incentives. It’s ultimately a centralized entity with a different label. Know what you’re getting into….”
Regardless of ultimate ownership issues, technology implementation tends to follow a rise in patent filings associated with those technologies. When it comes to blockchain-powered or other Peer-to-Peer (P2P) network-based web platform technologies, the line graph below shows that while new patent filings are on the rise, they are tiny compared to other recent technology trends.
This represents about 4,500 potential inventions in this space, most associated with blockchain. Even in that area, the number of new patent families is projected to drop from the high of 877 published in 2020. In comparison, there are more than 63,000 inventions associated with blockchain by itself, more than 100,000 associated with Metaverse technologies and well over 2 million that cover aspects of building and using the web in general. The number of decentralized web patent families is a drop in the bucket and a strong indication that it doesn’t have a protectable basis for encouraging active investment in its development.
Like many blockchain solutions being developed, there is a question about whether these applications can scale to the level required to challenge the existing Web 2.0 infrastructure. Decentralized web applications sound very specific and look like they will primarily be used for private networks. Security between a few parties is likely to encourage moving away from a public, centralized network.
In addition to companies like Microsoft, IBM, Oracle, Intel and various Chinese financial institutes, one small company stood out as a potential partner for those CIOs who need a decentralized web solution. Bright Data has just as many P2P web patent families as IBM and claims to have “an SDK that is installed by application owners who enable users to actively and opt-in voluntarily as peers of their own volition. In return, both parties are fairly compensated, making this one of the only collaborative digital networks of its kind.”
An investment in developing a patent portfolio to protect this digital network is a crucial indication that the company takes its technology seriously and has taken the steps necessary to ensure it can continue to raise capital for further investment.
There has been much recent talk about Web 3.0. Still, considering the lack of patents on these technologies and the serious doubts about whether it’s genuinely decentralized and publicly held, most CIOs should probably continue to invest in Web 2.0. The idea of a Decentralized Web available for large-scale public consumption seems to be a long way off if it even has a chance of developing at all.