The Web2 problem: How the power to create has gone astray

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Never before in human history has a single technological innovation changed the way we communicate, collaborate and do business as fundamentally as the Internet. Tim Berners-Lee’s invention of the World Wide Web in 1989 changed everything, connecting people and organizations around the world in ways that were once impossible.

The web as we know it today is largely built on what are known as “Web 2.0” principles – a platform for collaboration and user-generated content that has spawned some of the most popular and influential websites on the web, such as Facebook, Google and Youtube.

But while Web2 was a revolution in its own right, it is now clear that it was only the first step towards a truly connected global community. In this article, we will examine the rise of Web2 and the factors that led to its discredit.

The information age

The early days of the Internet were fueled by a few big corporations like AOL and Yahoo! dominated, who controlled the flow of information and charged users for access to their platforms.


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This began to change in the late 1990s with the advent of Web2, ushering in a new era of user-generated content and collaboration. Web2 sites like Wikipedia and YouTube made it possible for anyone with an Internet connection to share their thoughts and ideas with the world.

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This was a stark contrast to the previous model, where only a select few could control what information was shared with the masses. The rise of social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter has further democratized the internet and given individuals a powerful tool to share their views with the world.

The power of the individual

The rise of Web2 marked a shift in power from institutions to individuals. For the first time, ordinary people had a platform to share their thoughts and ideas with the world. This had a profound impact on society as it spawned new movements and campaigns that would not have been possible without the internet.

The Arab Spring, for example, was a series of pro-democracy protests that swept across the Middle East and North Africa from 2010 to 2013. These protests would not have been possible without the use of social media to organize and share information between protesters.

How Web2 went wrong

Despite the positive impact it has had on the world, Web2 has also created some serious problems – problems associated with this new ability to share information freely and without consequences. The main problems are of course the following:

Moral and political arbitration

While Web2 was a major advance for the Internet, it is now clear that it has reached its limits. The centralized nature of today’s platforms means they are subject to the whims of their owners, who can censor or remove content they don’t agree with.

This was evident in the 2016 US presidential election, when Facebook was accused of deliberately suppressing conservative news reports.

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The Facebook-Cambridge Analytical data scandal exposed the problems with today’s platforms as it showed how user data can be misused and used to manipulate public opinion. It also revealed the centralized nature of these platforms, giving owners complete control over what users see and what they don’t.

It is clear that we need a new model for the Internet – one that is decentralized and based on the principle of data ownership. In this model, users would have complete control over their data and platform owners could not sell or use it without their consent.

This would level the playing field as small startups could compete with large corporations for user attention.

fighting in the shadows

Another factor that has led to Web2’s corruption is the rise of the surveillance state. After the September 11 attacks, the US government launched a massive domestic surveillance program, collecting data on millions of innocent Americans.

This scheme was uncovered by Edward Snowden in 2013 and showed how the government was using these platforms to spy on its citizens. Since then we have seen a steady erosion of privacy rights as the government continues to collect data about our online activities.

On the other side of the equation is ruthless anonymity, which has given rise to a new breed of internet trolls. Hiding behind anonymous accounts, these trolls use the internet to harass and threaten people.

This problem became evident in 2014 and 2015 when women in the video game industry, including Anita Sarkeesian, Brianna Wu, Zoe Quinn and others, were harassed and threatened by an anonymous group of trolls using the hashtag “#Gamergate”.

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Elections in countries like the Philippines have suffered from large-scale disinformation campaigns that use social media to spread false information to distort the image of certain political candidates, be it in enthusiasm or in disgrace.

What to expect

This comment is intended to be an introduction to the factors that led to the demise of the second iteration of the Internet. You can clearly see that these issues revolve around the principles of centralization, commercialization of data, ruthless anonymity, and unbridled human greed.

In the next few articles in this series, we’ll begin to examine how a new version of the Internet—one that’s decentralized and built on the principles of data ownership—can address these issues.

In Part 2, we will explore the concept of free speech, attitudes toward censorship, and moral arbitration by Big Tech.

In summary, Web2 has given users the power to be creative and participate in the ups and downs of the world conversation, but giving the most power to those with the biggest megaphones has gone too far. Decentralization is key to leveling the playing field and giving everyone a voice.

Daniel Saito is the CEO and co-founder of StrongNode.

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