Tim Berners-Lee, the British computer scientist credited with inventing the World Wide Web (World Wide Web or www) in 1989, said on Friday that he doesn't see blockchain as a viable solution for building the next version of the Internet.
It has its own web decentralization project called Solid. "It is important to clarify this in order to discuss the implications of the new technology," said Berners-Lee, speaking on stage at the Web Summit event in Lisbon.
“You have to understand what the terms we're talking about really mean. It's a real shame that the real name Web3 is being used by the Ethereum people for things they do with the blockchain. In fact, Web3 is not the Web at all,” he said.
Web3 is a vague term in the tech world used to describe a hypothetical future version of the Internet that will be more decentralized than it is today and not dominated by a few powerful companies like Amazon, Microsoft, and Google.
It includes a few technologies, including blockchain, cryptocurrencies, and non-fungible tokens.
While getting our personal data out of the clutches of big corporations is an ambition Berners-Lee shares, he's not convinced that blockchain, the distributed ledger technology that underpins cryptocurrencies like bitcoin, will be the answer.
"Blockchain protocols may be good for some things, but they are not good for Solid," said a Web decentralization project that Berners-Lee himself is preparing with partners. “It's too late, too expensive and too public. Personal data stores must be fast, cheap and private."
“Ignore Web3 content, random Web3 created on blockchain,” he added. "We don't use it for Solid."
Berners-Lee said people too often confuse Web3 with "Web 3.0," his own proposal for reshaping the Internet. His new startup, Inrupt, aims to give users control over their own data, including how it's accessed and stored. The company raised $30 million in a funding round in December, as he mentioned TechCrunch.
Berners-Lee says our personal data is held by companies like Google and Facebook, who use it to "lock us into their platforms".
"The result was a race for big data, where the winner is the one company that controls the most data and everyone else loses."
His new startup aims to address the above in three ways:
- A global “single sign-on” feature that allows anyone to log in from anywhere.
- Login IDs that allow users to share their data with others.
- A “common universal API” or application programming interface, that allows applications to pull data from any source.
Berners-Lee is not the only technologist with doubts about Web3. The project was frowned upon from the start by many leaders in Silicon Valley, such as Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey and Tesla CEO Elon Musk.
Critics say web3 is prone to the same issues as cryptocurrencies, such as fraud and security flaws.