W3PG: Web 1, Web 2

Come learn about the evolution of the web.


Last updated on 7/13/2021

Evolution of the web.

Welcome back for your 4th lesson about the future! 

At this point you should have a firm understanding of the underlying principles that make up Web 3 and crypto. In case you haven’t, read here. The future is arriving, and you’re more equipped than ever to start building and shaping it. 

As we’ve seen over the last decade, there has been a boom in technology and social media. Social media has changed the way we connect with each other, view the world, learn and much more. As we advance technologically, the internet continues to develop and fork new possibilities. 

The internet and the technology surrounding it has rapidly evolved since the time it was introduced to the world. To understand the third version of the web, it’s crucial to understand its former and current stages. In this article, we’ll give an overview of Web 1.0 and Web 2.0 to better help you understand the current transition into the Web 3.0 era. 

Brief History of the Internet

When it first started out in the 1960’s, the internet was a communication system largely funded and created by the U.S. government that would enable researchers to share information. At the time, computers were large, clunky and immobile. To share information between computers required physically travelling to one computer site and getting it manually. 

Before the internet was the internet, it was known as ARPANET (Advanced Research Projects Agency Network). And in 1983, the internet was officially born. Computers finally had established a mutual network they had access to, a communication protocol known as Transfer Control Protocol/Internetwork Protocol (TCP/IP). This protocol is still unanimously used across the web today.

World Wide Web vs Internet 

The terms World Wide Web and Internet are used interchangeably. Probably because people think that they are the same concept, when in reality, they’re completely different. Both are interlinked, but they represent two fundamentally different aspects of the Internet and computing overall. 

To put it simply: the Internet refers to the network that computers are linked to. When your WiFi connects, you log onto the internet and enter a globally connected network that other computers and devices around the world are hooked up to. As we mentioned in the previous section, the Internet was born out of the need for a singular network that computers can connect to and share information, faster and more efficiently. 

The World Wide Web is a system inside the Internet that interlinks files, web pages and other information. Think of the web as the addresses in a neighborhood that can be searched for and traveled to and think of the internet as the roads that connect those addresses to each other. 

The World Wide Web wouldn’t be coined or introduced until 1989, when an old British white guy named Tim Berners-Lee thought that Web could link and interconnect files that the whole world could have access to by using hypertext. With this, Berners-Lee introduced the first phase of the World Wide Web: Web 1.0.

Web 1.0: First Stage of Web

At its core, the purpose of the web was to construct a system that allowed people to share, communicate and retrieve information at any time. Originally for scientists and researchers, later it expanded to people everywhere. When Web 1.0 emerged, the technology and web in general, was at its infancy stage. That’s why it’s labeled as the “static web” and has read-only content.   

The underlying architecture of Web 1.0 was unable to develop a “read/write” functionality. Web 1.0 technology used HTTP and HTML, which were used to build sites and link web pages filled with information. This made the speed of the internet slow and clunky, and the data within these files was infrequently updated. Specifically because there was a small number of content creators (webmasters) compared to the large number of consumers (web users). 

To paint a picture of what a Web 1.0 site looks like, we’ll provide a visual below and a brief explanation. We’ll use Ofoto, which used to be an online digital photography site, where people viewed, posted and shared photos they took. In the visual below notice how there is only text and links. There’s no search, comment, share, like or dislike feature. There’s a link to email, or to their official website, but users can’t make an account or anything that would make a user a contributor. 


Basic characteristics of Web 1.0: 

  • Read only content 
  • Static web pages 
  • Limited content contribution and interaction
  • Establish online presence and distribute information 
  • Primarily used HTML 

Limitations of Web 1.0: 

  • Consumer based  
  • Lack of user generated content 
  • Content contributors limited 
  • Static web pages (read only) 

Web 1.0 to Web 2.0

A few players in the Web 1.0 era changed the game and transitioned the web to its next evolution. But it wasn’t until Napster, a music sharing site, brought new features to the game that most Web 1.0 companies were lacking in: a file sharing computer service. Users of Napster were able to search, upload and share music files with each other, establishing a peer-to-peer network where people could interact.  

Before people streamed on iTunes, Apple Music and Spotify, there was Napster. On Napster, users took their favorite song, uploaded it, then shared it with the world. Those same users also downloaded other users’ uploads and shared them with their friends. It changed how information and files could be shared, but it also changed the mentalities of web users. Web users didn’t have to go to record stores or other music intermediaries to get their music. They had it all with a click of a button. 

Web 2.0: The Second Stage of the Web

Web 2.0 is a “read-write” form of the web that permits users to read content then contribute to it. It can be written content, such as a comment or a question on a discussion board. Or it can be a video or photo, such as a meme or GIF. Web 2.0 links web pages together using JavaScript and XML, which makes the web more interactive, faster and easier than HTML.  

Characteristics of Web 2.0: 

  • Folksonomy. A way to classify information. This occurs when people tag friends in photos, share websites or specific links. By tagging specific people or things, users can find information in an organized fashion. 
  • Rich user experience. Implementing and designing interactive, dynamic content. To give an example, a user can see a photo of a car, click on it, and get more information about it; such as what model it is, which year it was made, where they can purchase, etc. 
  • User participation. This helps with the flow of information between the user and the owner of a certain website. Take Wikipedia for example, where it allows users to add new pages and edit them, that way its information is fresh and up to date. 
  • Mass participation. Creating a universal web that permits access to everybody around the globe. 
  • SaaS (Software as a service). Websites that classify as Web 2.0 use APIs (Application Programming Interface) for automated usage, making it easier to use applications. APIs basically help applications communicate with one another. 

The Social Web 

Web 2.0 is known as the “social web.” And that moniker is precisely accurate. Social media made the big world we live in smaller by connecting us all together. Communities, large and small, form together and interact, building culture and sharing ideas. The way content is created is far different than Web 1.0. New forms of content creation have been invented. Some might you be aware of, others maybe not so much. Let’s break them down. 

  • Social Media. Social media provides a variety of tools that facilitate social connections. People create and share different forms of media, like photos, videos, audio, microblogs in order to express who they are, connect with others, and find community.  
  • Tagging. Tagging--not the kind on Instagram--is information about information. Tagging stores metadata, such as certain files, documents, or websites that can be retrieved or collected. 
  • Threads. Threaded discussions are new. But it created a new form of discussion. Similar to forums, threaded discussions allow specific topics to be talked about in detail. A network effect is created also. From one thread there can be multiple threads related to the original thread. 
  • Podcasts/Videos. Podcasts and videos not only share new ideas, they can also be downloaded and listened to at a user’s convenience. Podcasts and videos give insight into who people are and how they view the world, which others can subscribe to. 
  • Blogs. Considered virtual diaries or journal entries, blogs empower users to express their ideas, share their thoughts, and link others who are doing the same. 

Web 2.0 to Web 3.0 

Web 2.0 brought new ways to connect everyone on the globe. Along with it came new features that upscaled and innovated the web content, adding new forms of creation and possibilities. Compared to Web 2.0, Web 3.0 seems far in the distant future. But it might be here sooner than you think. 

Futurists refer to Web 3.0 as the “spatial web”, which means digital information will exist in space, combining the physical world and the digital world as one. The growth and convergence of enabling technologies like blockchain, VR/AR, artificial intelligence and machine learning, is speeding up the Web 3.0’s arrival. In Web 3.0, almost everything will be decentralized and operated through software. Of course, more on that in the next piece. 

Looking Onward 

So by now, you should have a firm understanding of the web and it’s evolution. Technology itself is rapidly evolving, and the web will eventually (but gradually) morph from Web 2.0 to Web 3.0. Web 3.0 is wildly different from Web 2.0. Don’t stress, for we’ll break it down for you in our next lesson together. 

It’ll all make sense. Just pay attention and keep learning. Till then, keep seeking 👁

Thank you for reading.