I Don’t Understand Web 3.0

Web3 is probably not what you think

Lance Ulanoff
Published in
4 min readDec 20, 2021


Photo by Shubham Dhage on Unsplash

You can thank Kara Swisher for this post. She’s started asking questions on Twitter about Web 3.0, or Web3 (for a post of her own, I believe). In response, I offered a bit of commentary. This triggered a torrent of responses raining down on me like so much cryptocurrency, and making it clear I do not understand Web 3.0.

Having been online since the dawn of the modern web, I’ve seen all the iterations, from sea changes to Web interfaces and browsers to the HTML building blocks that created it. Before we started numbering the “Web” as a whole, we fixated on HTML versions. The last one of significance was HTML5. It was the one that was supposed to change the face of mobile, until everyone realized it was better to build native mobile apps.

The last big Web iteration, Web 2.0, was the kind of change I could get my arms around. There is some disagreement about the definition of Web 2.0. “It’s about the cloud and UGC (user-generated content),” insist some. Others define Web 2.0 as a shift to a more dynamic and interactive web, enabled by new tools, the cloud, and especially ubiquitous broadband, which arrived at roughly the turn of the century but didn’t take root until a few years later.

On Twitter, I argued that Web 2.0 was a “foundational change,” since it dealt with the underpinning: tools, creation, delivery.

Web 3.0 is something different. At least I think it is.

Instead of an organic change that flows from the last dynastic Web era, this one is more of a combination of edgy new technology and a reaction to centralized control.

In the original Web 3.0 vision, first explained by legendary New York Times columnist John Markoff in 2006, it was to build something called a “semantic web,” where instead of piles of discrete data, we’d have a global system of machine-readable data. The purpose? Here’s how Markoff explained it 15 years ago:

“Their goal is to add a layer of meaning on top of the existing Web that would make it less of a catalog and more of a guide and even provide the foundation for systems that can reason in a human fashion.”

Markoff added that the long-term goal was to use the Web to gain reasonable answers…



Lance Ulanoff

Tech expert, journalist, social media commentator, amateur cartoonist and robotics fan.

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