“I predict the Internet will soon go spectacularly supernova and in 1996 catastrophically collapse.”
— Robert Metcalfe (Ethernet Inventor), 1995.
Today, a significant portion of the population can’t remember a time when the internet didn’t exist and will probably never live in a world without it.
However, in the not-too-distant past, there were some who believed “World Wide Web” would eventually go the way of JNCO jeans and Garbage Pail Kids. Decades later, it’s clear that the internet is here to stay. In fact, for many of us, it’s become an essential part of both our personal and professional lives.
The internet has not only lasted, much like the prehistoric alligator, it has also evolved.
While there are obvious differences between the internet and the alligator, there are also some similarities. For example, if the proper precautions aren’t taken, both can be extremely dangerous.
The average American alligator is around 13 feet long and weighs roughly 990 pounds. These massive creatures are lurkers – they stay out of sight and wait for prey to cross their path. When it’s time attack, gators bite down on their victims with around 2960 pounds of force.
We have little say in the evolution of the alligator, or how much more dangerous it can potentially become. Fortunately, unless you’re living near a swamp, these reptiles are generally easy enough to avoid.
On the other hand, it’s becoming increasingly difficult for our species to steer clear of the global system of interconnected networks known as the internet.
For its part, the creature known as the internet has over 3.2 billion users and is the size of whatever screen one uses to search it with. Lurking in the background are cookies and countless other tracking devices designed to capture personal information from unsuspecting users.
Like the alligator, those who chose the web as their hunting ground, are also waiting for the perfect time to strike – and the internet, in its current state, provides them with plenty of opportunities to so.
While they don’t bite us with 2960 pounds of force, identify thieves and company’s who mishandle our data, can harm their prey in a different way. They ruin credit, steal hard earned money, and violate one of the most basic human rights. Anyone who doesn’t understand how identity theft hurts needs only ask one of the millions of victims who have experienced it firsthand.
The need to bring privacy back to the net has severed as the catalyst for Web 3.0.
Web 3 is a concept that is focused on making the 3rd phase of the internet’s evolution a period when people, once again, control their own information and how it’s used.
In light of recent high profile data breaches, much has been made about moving away from centralized services on the web – and the many benefits associated with a decentralized internet are becoming increasingly obvious to most.
While there have been numerous articles that have highlighted the many reasons the push toward Web 3.0 needs to happen – the question remains – what if it doesn’t?
Even if decentralization doesn’t play a major role in the web’s future, the internet will almost certainly still evolve – but what will this alternative evolution look like?
Is it possible that the opportunistic corporations and identity thieves, like the mighty gator, will continue to sink their figurative teeth into our personal data – or maybe even dig them in a little deeper?
Could we reach a point where a browser or social media platform requires a facial scan, our social security number, or even DNA? Do any of those ideas sound as ridiculous as they probably should?
On the surface, one might say, “There’s a limit to how much information I’m willing to provide.” While this statement is probably true for most – it begs the question – what is that limit?
How much info would an individual be willing to give up in order to have access to years worth of photos, childhood friends, and loved ones on a social media account?
What if we reached a point where every browser required a copy of our most recent grocery store receipt for their advertisers, to simply surf the net? Could most of us really live without internet access?
These ideas may sound like something out of Orwellian science fiction novel, but if left unchecked, this could be the direction the internet is headed.
Why leave it to chance when a viable alternative already exists?
Web 3 isn’t about promoting a particular platform, browser, or service – it’s about drawing a line in the sand.
It’s about saying, “My identity belongs to me.”
As it’s evolved, the internet has very much become its own animal – an animal we must learn to live in harmony with. If we don’t, in its own way, its bite could become every bit as devastating as the mighty alligator.