| Aug 29, 2022

Can Web 5 Get Us Closer To a Decentralized Web?

Jack Dorsey’s TBD is attempting to make Web 3.0, touted as the ideal of a decentralized internet, obsolete. However, his alternative requires a reimagining of the entire paradigm.

What will the next iteration of the World Wide Web (Web 5) look like? Well, it’s an elephant’s leg, a fox’s snout, a monkey’s tail and the jackrabbit’s ears … At the very least, the future of the internet will be many things to many people depending on which part of the beast you grab. 

The objective, of course, is the utopia of a decentralized web free from all influences — nefarious or otherwise, corporate or government. An internet by the people and for the people. Not corporations that know when you go to sleep, or governments that want to snoop into conversations. 

So far, however, we are still left mapping distressingly uncharted territories. We thought the plan was to jump from Web 2.0 to Web 3.0. But Jack Dorsey’s TBD — the Bitcoin wing of his payments company Block (formerly Square) — plans to take a different route: Web 5. But can Web 5 get us any closer to the decentralized future of the web than Web 3.0?

What’s Wrong With Web 3.0?

Web 3.0 development is underway with lucrative investments and innovative ideas pouring in from many startups to build the future of the web. But the central tenets of Web 3.0—including cryptocurrencies, NFTs, and blockchain — are far from showing up on the radar of the everyday internet Joes. 

Dorsey has been unhappy with the direction of Web 3.0 for some time, criticizing Solana and Ethereum for being based on a single-point-of-failure system and even saying that Web 3.0 is being built on lies told by potential “owners” — venture capitalists and limited partners. Dorsey’s views have angered many. He was blocked on Twitter by venture capitalist Marc Andreessen, co-founder and general partner of Andreessen Horowitz (a16z), which has announced investments of more than $3.1 billion into various web 3 and crypto-related startups.

Dorsey’s primary complaint about Web 3.0 centers around its share-backed nature (in the form of cryptocurrency tokens). 

Web 3.0 has been touted as the ideal of a decentralized internet. But the very nature of user ownership, the cornerstone of its democratic nature, could be leveraged against Web 3.0. Users with financial clout might be able to own disproportionately large amounts of shares. Even if Web 3.0 manages to do away with corporate backing, users with financial power are likely to have more voice and impact. 

Even supporters of Web 3.0 find it hard to deny that it is far from decentralized. Web 3.0 points of access are built around a handful of platforms such as Coinbase, or Opensea. There is also concern that all concepts of proof of work and proof of stake in Web 3.0 largely benefit early adopters, allowing them to dictate its future. 


What Is Web 5?

Developed by TBD, Web 5 is a platform built on Bitcoin that combines elements of both Web 2.0 and Web 3.0 to enable building apps that allow users to store and control their own data. Web 5 allows the creation of an arguably more decentralized internet with decentralized identity and data storage in applications. TBD’s lead, Mike Brock, has clarified in a tweet that “there are no tokens to invest in with web5” — effectively removing the potential for inequality. 

How Does Web 5 Work?

Using Web 5, developers can focus solely on creating the best user experiences, without having to deal with data ownership. Data and identity falls under the control of users. This means that identity becomes portable. Users will not need to log in multiple times to access different applications, and all applications will have access to personal data across the ecosystem. This is made possible with the use of:

  • Decentralized identifiers
  • Verifiable credentials
  • Decentralized web nodes (similar to DWNS Blockchain)
  • Decentralized web apps (DWAS)
  • Web 5 Wallet

Currently in Web 2.0, if a user wants to access a web app, the app will send the information to centralized servers within the minimal cached details stored with the users. Since Web 5.0 is built on decentralized blockchain, this information will be processed through the decentralized web nodes owned by the users, removing the need for a centralized server. Decentralized identifiers and verifiable credentials operate on principles similar to NFTs. 

According to TBD, users will use a digital wallet to secure their identity, data, and authorization for all external apps and connections. They will be able to log in to the dApp using their decentralized identity and no longer need to create profiles when logging into different applications. 

The decentralized user web nodes will contain all public and encrypted data including his/her connections, posts, relationships, and more. Since the authentication happens at the user end, there is no need to log out when switching apps. 

Web 5 also has the potential to minimize vendor lock-ins. Since all user data is stored in the DWNS (and not in separate apps), there is no need for users to upload their likes and preferences repeatedly. As users own their data, customizations and more, personal preferences (such as playlists and settings) remain accessible irrespective of the service provider. 

The Problems With Web 5

Apart from the lack of real-world business use cases, TBD and Dorsey are yet to lay out a feasible roadmap for monetization — for themselves and others. Whether we like the privacy implications or not, user data forms the backbone of business operations in Web 2.0. Businesses want users to get hooked on to their user experience and stay within walled gardens — thanks to the vast quantity of user information already stored. 

If users were to have the ability to switch apps with a click and own their data, it would require a reimagining of this entire paradigm. Creating applications and services has a high cost of input that is projected to rise even more. Building a valid (and lucrative) business model that doesn’t revolve around locking down or building on user data is a challenge few can wrap their heads around.  

Moreover, in trying to do away with centralized platforms, Web 5 seems to revolve around one gigantic platform. There are many unanswered questions. How will the creation of Web 5 be funded? Will it require VC money? Most importantly, will TBD be willing to walk away from Web 5 without data and/or platform ownership for monetization? For all its noble aims around giving back users lost privacy and control over their data, in the absence of a ‘fair play’ monetization alternative, it seems to be asking other businesses to do so.

Anindita Biswas

Opinion Contributor, Strixus

Anindita (Andy) is a writer and communications lecturer with over a decade of experience in B2B enterprise technology, specializing in thought leadership content for Fortune 100 executives. view profile


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