The Evolution of Web

March 10, 2022

With the advent of Cryptocurrency and Metaverse, the term Web 3.0 has been gaining popularity in these times. But what does it actually consist of? And what came before that?

Web (or as earlier referred to as World Wide Web) is the Internet’s core information retrieval system developed in the 1990’s. It is the primary tool used by people to read, write and share information across the Internet and to interact with other users. It has rapidly evolved since its conception both from the perspective of users as well as developers.

Web 1.0

The era of Web 1.0 was ushered in by the invention of the earliest browsers such as Mosaic, Netscape, Internet Explorer, etc. Web 1.0 was the first stage of the World Wide Web phenomenon which was also referred to as the Static Web since it only allowed read functionality.

It meant that users were limited to accessing and only reading the content that was made available to them by the scarce content providers. It functioned like a digitised version of a newspaper or magazine. There was no option for the users to provide feedback to the content providers or even interact with other users accessing the same platform.


Web 1.0 surely had its limitations. Nonetheless, most Internet users of that era (1990-2000) were awed and entertained by its novel features of real-time news retrieval and email. Content creation was just at its infant stage and to begin thinking about user interactive applications was a far cry. However it started changing as online banking and trading gained popularity.


AOL in the 1990s when writing and receiving emails was the new ‘cool thing’. Image Credit: PopSugar

Web 2.0

The advent of Web 2.0 saw the paradigm shift of how the Internet was used. It is also referred to as the read-write web or the social web. It’s the longest era of web till date (2000-2010) which brought us user-generated content and interactive web applications mediated by expensive servers.

It completely transformed the bland static pages of Web 1.0 to an explosion of various applications, content and features from every niche that’s ever growing. Web 2.0 allowed any user to become a content creator. This content could now be viewed and shared by millions others through a multitude of sites. Some of the famous Web 2.0 applications are Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Youtube, Snapchat, TikTok, Uber, AirBnB and many others.


Examples of a few Web 2.0 apps. Image credit: Pixabay

The exponential growth of Web 2.0 was driven by important innovations such as mobile Internet access, social networking and cloud computing.

In 2007, with the launch of the iPhone, the Internet started to become accessible on mobile phones conveniently. This broadened the reach of the Internet as compared to its predecessor of dial-up modems. Users could now access the Internet faster on-the-go and could always stay in a ‘connected state’.

The launch of social networking sites such as Friendster, MySpace, Orkut and later Facebook moved the Internet from a dark, anonymous space to a miniature well-connected world. Social media encouraged and promoted good content creation from its users. It grew exponentially as users now felt compelled to compete for attention from their peers by sharing snippets of their life in the form of texts, pictures and videos.


Staying connected with the world. Image credit: PixaHive

Cloud servers capitalised on the emergence of new websites and applications by providing low-cost data storage and maintenance systems. Cloud providers assembled mass-produced computer hardware in numerous remote data centres around the world. Businesses could now rent the cheap storage and maintenance systems without buying their own expensive and dedicated infrastructure. This enabled small-sized businesses to scale in the digital space.


A server farm. Image credit: Flickr CC BY-SA 2.0

Since Web 2.0 was built on easy-to-use technologies such as HTML5, CSS3 and Javascript frameworks, this enabled a startup culture with a multitude of innovations. Some of the prime examples being Uber and Ola who changed the transportation sector, AirBnB and Oyo Rooms who brought in a culture of affordable rooms for rent, the many easy to use food delivery apps, various web streaming services like Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime.

To summarise Web 2.0, the users are the product. It’s completely built around the users with different platforms figuring out ways to enable their users to create their own content and keep themselves engaged.

Web 2.5

This is the current era of Web that we are living in which is the transitional phase between Web 2.0 and Web 3.0. It mainly has been focusing on the practical evolution of mobile computing and mobile technologies primarily in the mobile app market. Its key players being Amazon, Google, Salesforce, KiSSFLOW, etc. the primary objective has been to create web applications that can connect users to any device at any given time and place.

Technologies such as Progressive Web Apps (PWA) and Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) were developed in this era.

Web 3.0

Web 3.0, also known as the Semantic Web, is a relatively new concept which aims to look at the future of the web. Its founded on two core technological innovations:

  • Artificial Intelligence
  • Decentralised Data Networks

Artificial intelligence and machine learning algorithms are very powerful technologies that have already entered the digital world. They create extremely useful and many times life-saving predictions and actions. Using them, many platforms such as the ones in social media and ecommerce have generated recommendation systems which help to intelligently create and distribute useful content tailored to the particular need of a user.

Their potential applications go far beyond into areas such as precision material development, climate prediction, disaster management, drug testing and design etc.


A few applications of AI and Machine Learning. Image Credit: JavaTPoint

With the core tenet of decentralisation of data, Web 3.0 aims to break down the massive databases stored by Internet giants and give greater control to its users. Unlike the data of Web 2.0 which is stored on a single server with a unique https web address, the content of Web 3.0 could be stored at multiple locations simultaneously hence decentralising its location.

Web 3.0 will be trustless and permissionless i.e; the network will allow the users to interact with each other without a mediator and anyone will be able to participate without the authorisation of a governing body. This will result in a Blockchain or a peer-to-peer mode of communication and storage.In contrast to Web 2.0 where the user was the product, in Web 3.0 the user will now truly be the content owner. All the data generated by any computing resource will be sold by and to users through decentralised data networks, ensuring that users retain the entire ownership and control instead of a middleman.


An example of a Blockchain transaction. Image credit: Wikimedia Commons

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