There's a buzzword that tech, crypto and venture-capital types have become infatuated with lately. Conversations are now peppered with it, and you're not serious about the future until you add it to your Twitter bio: Web3.
It's an umbrella term for disparate ideas all pointing in the direction of eliminating the big middlemen on the internet. In this new era, navigating the web no longer means logging onto the likes of Facebook, Google or Twitter.
Think of it this way: The nascent days of the Internet in the 1990s were Web 1.0. The web was seen as a way to democratize access to information, but there weren't great ways of navigating it beyond going to your friend's GeoCities page. It was pretty disorganized and overwhelming.
Then came Web 2.0 starting in the mid-2000s. Platforms like Google, Amazon, Facebook and Twitter emerged to bring order to the Internet by making it easy to connect and transact online. Critics say over time those companies amassed too much power.
Web3 is about grabbing some of the power back.
"There's a small group of companies that own all this stuff, and then there's us who use it, and despite the fact that we contribute to the success of these platforms, we don't have anything to show for it," said Mat Dryhurst, a Berlin-based artist and researcher who teaches classes at New York University on the future of the internet.
And so, the answer, according to Dryhurst and other Web3 fans, is an iteration of the internet where new social networks, search engines and marketplaces crop up that have no company overlords.
Instead, they are decentralized, built upon a system known as the blockchain, which already undergirds Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. Imagine it as a kind of bookkeeping where many computers at once host data that's searchable by anyone. It's operated by users collectively, rather than a corporation. People are given "tokens" for participating. The tokens can be used to vote on decisions, and even accrue real value.