The Internet of Value

September 25, 2020

The internet has had many iterations over the course of its lifetime. One thing it has never had though, is a built in value protocol. The internet as we know it runs on tcp/ip, and in its earliest incarnation, it was a decentralised and open source system. It was open source in the way it allowed for new types of permissionless businesses to be created. These new businesses, such as Facebook, Amazon, Google etc… ushered in Web 2.0 which allowed for a much more dynamic and rich user experience on the web.

These new platforms allowed for the large scale publishing and creation of content in the form of rich media like images, audio and video. They lowered the barrier to entry for anyone to create, upload and share content with an audience across the world.

But what has been the cost of this? The rise of Web2.0 has seen the internet swing to a more centralized mode of operating. The likes of Facebook, Google and Amazon have become such powerful forces that they probably wield more power than most nation states today.

The killer application of Web 2.0 for these internet giants is advertising. In order to build and scale to the size that they have, they offered their services for free in exchange for all of the data that we upload to them. This seemed to become the default business model for internet companies once Google seemed to perfect it in the early 2000’s. In this way, social media algorithms are now optimized for engagement, rather than value creation.

On top of this, the control that many of these large tech giants have now gained with their ability to serve certain information to certain demographics and the algorithms they use to determine who gets shown what, raises many questions around censorship and filtering certain information and narratives.

So what would an internet of value look like?

Money as a native feature of the internet is one of the key components to an internet of value and Web 3.0. With Web 2.0 the scale of information saturation is peaking. A growing economy should be about creating more subjective value, but when there is so much information being created online, the question of data integrity must be raised.

Bitcoin set the precedence for this when it was created in 2008 and it has now birthed an entire ecosystem of digital assets that can facilitate the transfer value in a peer to peer manner.

If we want to have an economy where we are sharing value amongst ourselves then this economy should be more about subjective value and sharing what our own subjective views of the world are. In order to do that, and share our subjective experiences with each other, we cannot be dependent on third parties to be the intermediaries in our interactions as they continue to sell our data to the highest bidders who feed it to algorithms who bombard us with advertisements.

“If two people wish to communicate, it cannot be financed by a third party that wishes to manipulate them.” – Jaron Lanier

Just as Web 1.0 and web 2.0 accelerated the free flow of information, Web 3.0 will accelerate the free flow of value.

Protocols like Ethereum also allow for the creation of decentralized applications that can facilitate many of the interactions we use on centralized services today. There are decentralized alternatives already being built to many of the centralized applications we use today. While they may not be seeing mass adoption yet, as value exchange begins to become more seamless with further development of Web 3.0, adoption of these types of services will grow.

How will we use the Internet of value?

The internet of value will afford us greater control over our own data and identities also. Having a digital identity that allows you to control your own data, and what services get access to it, gives you more control over your own intellectual property. Using cryptographically stored identities on a blockchain for example, allow you to prove who you are without giving away the password to your identity.

Web 3.0 is still early in its development, but tools like MetaMask and Brave are paving the way for an internet of value. These tools allow you to connect your Ethereum wallet and interact with Web 3.0 applications.

The transition from Web 2.0 to Web 3.0 and an internet of value will be a gradual one. As more sophisticated tools are built to allow for seamless value transfer online, user adoption will follow. A swing back in the direction of giving power to users to control their own data and exchange value on a peer to peer basis is already beginning to happen. It will be interesting to watch sentiment shift as we move towards decentralizing the web once again.

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