The future of the web could be bright. But there is a lot to fix first

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The humble beginnings of the Internet can be traced back to an experience that eventually revolutionized how we interact, shop, learn and work, becoming a digital space where anyone from anywhere in the world can receive a piece of information on any topic. The World Wide Web has become a source of unlimited possibilities, showing us the bright future of globalized communication.

First there was Web 1.0, then Web 2.0, and now we see the beginnings web 3The A new era of the Internet Its proponents say it will be unlike anything we’ve seen before: free, decentralized, and without Big Tech’s financial policies and agendas.

The idea behind Web3 is integration blockchain technologysuch as cryptocurrencies and NFTsin the fabric of our digital world. Virtual and augmented reality also plays a role, including rendering metaverse. Proponents of Web3 see the potential of blockchain as a reliable and transparent way to track data and make the Internet an accessible space for everyone.

This is the optimistic view, at least.

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But on the Internet, anything with positive potential can be used with malicious intent. Just like today, the web’s next iteration could continue to allow bad actors to carry out scams, harassment, abuse, disinformation, and identity theft — on a likely increasing scale.

Kat Townsend, CEO of Open Data Collaboratives at Web FoundationOne of the biggest problems facing the future of the World Wide Web, he says, is the emergence of the “Internet” – a fragmented Internet made up of many separate parts that prevent the free flow of information between countries and users.

On a fragmented web, countries can decide what users can and cannot do online. Governments usually justify web fragmentation on the basis of national security concerns, such as US bid to ban Chinese-owned TikTok. In many cases, web fragmentation is often a way for governments to stop the Internet’s influence on political discourse.

Fragmentation leads to a great blockade of global cooperation and the free flow of information. According to Townsend, it is not enough for companies to take responsibility for combating privacy and retail concerns. To be successful, policies must be a collaborative effort.

“The increase in fragmentation poses a real threat to online privacy and security,” Townsend tells ZDNET. “When [privacy] Policies are written, how are they enacted or enforced? We would like to see more co-creation in these policies. Essentially, in order to have a secure web, you need policies that have been developed with many partners and organizations.”

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Blockchain and virtual reality technologies also have their drawbacks. Claiming that blockchain is a panacea for Big Tech’s problems minimizes downsides to the technology, such as the fact that Cryptocurrency mining is a huge burden on the environment And home to phony get-rich-quick schemes. As it stands, this technology does not live up to its expectations.

The online spaces of virtual and augmented reality are also fragmented and lack proper safety provisions. Meta has invested huge amounts of money in its metaverse technology but has faced criticism for failing to modify its virtual environments, allowing harmful behavior to go unchecked. If social media companies can’t handle it Issues facing their current platformsWhat does this say about the safety and security of the Internet in the future?

The Web Foundation hopes that Big Tech companies will adhere to higher standards by users and that legal and societal guidelines will ensure that organizations are held accountable for ethical use of virtual reality. However, the problem lies in the ongoing struggle between the desire to reduce government regulation and having to place trust in companies to make decisions with the best interests of users in mind.

“We’re glad people are getting curious about how to make the world a better place,” Townsend says. “But what we’ve seen is that technologies that power blockchain are being used to combine power and use it to do more harm than good.”

Townsend points to the Web Foundation’s Contract for the Web as a guideline in working toward a safer Internet. The contract you created Tim Berners-Lee, creator of the World Wide Web, outlines the responsibilities of governments, businesses, and citizens in a collaborative effort to create a secure and accessible Internet. This work includes making Internet access affordable; developing technologies that support the positive aspects of the Internet; combating harmful online behavior; Respecting the right of all Internet users to privacy and respect.

Few governments have formally endorsed the contract: for example, Russia and China were never expected to sign, and after former President Donald Trump Reversing the provisions of net neutrality in the Obama erathe United States has moved further away from Berners-Lee’s vision.

Companies that ostensibly support the Web Foundation’s contract for the web have also drawn criticism. In 2019, after Facebook announced its endorsement, Berners-Lee criticized Mark Zuckerberg To continue to allow targeted political advertising on the platform ahead of the UK general election.

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In 2021, the Web Foundation created a file Technical Policy Design Lab To understand how far the contract is delayed in today’s online world. The initiative aims to identify solutions to critical issues affecting the web, including Provocationgender equality, internet access and connectivity, content management, internet fragmentation, privacy, and artificial intelligence ethics.

The lab works with companies, governments, NGOs, researchers, and Internet users to develop technology policies that can be widely adopted with “human-centered design” at the fore.

The scope of influence is somewhat limited, as the organization is not a governmental entity. Platforms and governments that certify the web contract are not obligated to follow their guidelines, and web surfers can only do much to keep themselves safe online. But it is hoped that by sharing lessons and best practices from around the world, stakeholders can contribute to a collective effort to make the Internet better, safer and more equitable for all.

“The web is the primary public commons,” Townsend says. “For those who have access, it’s where we can connect to each other.” “No matter where you are or who you are, you should have a safe and reliable experience on the web.”

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