Over the past several months, some technologists have been throwing around what sounds like a new buzzword: “web3.” What is it, and how might it impact your career?
If you’ve been involved in the tech industry for a long time, you no doubt remember the rise of “web 2.0” around fifteen years ago. The exact definition of “web 2.0” was always a little nebulous, but it generally centered on the idea that the relatively primitive “web 1.0” (i.e., static web pages) was giving way to a new era of social media, cloud, and user-generated content.
For years, salespeople and executives used “web 2.0” to describe everything from enterprise software to mobile apps, which eventually rendered the term something of a joke. But what’s indisputable is that the modern web came to life during this era, powered by rapidly rising tech giants such as Google, Salesforce, and Facebook, as well as longtime tech stalwarts such as Apple and Microsoft embracing mobility and the cloud.
Now comes “web3,” which its proponents argue is a new era of a more decentralized web, powered by the blockchain. In theory, “web3” will allow people to retain more ownership of their data. The “metaverse,” which is a fancy term for the predicted proliferation of augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) apps, will also factor into “web3” in some as-yet-undefined way. (There’s an interesting breakdown of web3 on freecodecamp, as well as Slate.)
Some technologists and analysts think we’re dealing with another buzzword. “Web3 is vaporware,” James Grimmelmann, a Cornell University professor who specializes in law and technology, recently told NPR. “It's a promised future internet that fixes all the things people don't like about the current internet, even when it's contradictory.”
Let’s say “web3” takes off as a tangible thing—in other words, that companies and independent developers begin building more apps and services that are “decentralized” and hinge on the blockchain. Obviously, that means any technologist who wants to take advantage of this emerging market will need to master how to work with the blockchain.
According to a Stack Overflow survey earlier this year, a majority of technologists think that blockchain is a potential game changer, and want to work with it. Over the past 12 months, companies have posted some 20,384 jobs involving blockchain skills, according to Emsi Burning Glass, which also projected the growth in blockchain-related jobs at 24.6 percent over the next two years. So there’s some momentum there, which makes sense—long before “web3” came along, technologists were already exploring blockchain’s potential for everything from “smart contracts” to supply-chain verification.
Things look a bit rougher for the metaverse, at least in terms of AR and VR. Emsi Burning Glass also recorded 10,232 open VR-related jobs in the past 12 months—but it projects such jobs will only grow 4.5 percent over the next two years. Meanwhile, 8,796 jobs needing AR skills popped up over the past year—not many, although Emsi Burning Glass predicts that AR-related jobs will grow a very solid 64.4 percent over the next two years.
So is “web3” on the verge of changing the web and tech jobs as we know them? The underlying technologies seem poised to grow, but we could be several years away from a complete remaking of the online world. That being said, it never hurts to stay on top of the latest and greatest technologies; if your job touches on the web in some way, becoming more familiar with the intricacies of blockchain could certainly help your future career prospects. If you’re into building games or fun apps, AR and VR could eventually factor into your projects and workflows in a big way.