'Web 2.5' as a Supplement to Web 3.0?

29 Jul 2022

Web 3.0 offers several purported advantages over Web 2.0. There is of course the promise of less reliance on intermediaries, and with this, the further promise of less censorship. Fundamentally these come down to the decentralised nature of Web 3.0 where users are interacting on a peer-to-peer basis as opposed to through a central intermediary. In this sense, power is democratically dispersed amongst users as opposed to being concentrated in the hands of one body.

In saying this, Web 3.0 also comes with its own set of challenges. There is of course the challenge of blockchain technology itself which is still in its infancy and faces issues with scalability. Moreover, the security of blockchain technology is not infallible. Recent events such as the hacking of Blockchain Harmony’s Horizon bridge (which resulted in hackers looting $100 million worth of assets) illustrate that blockchain technology can still be vulnerable to hackers and create significant problems.

The broader issue worth exploring, however, is in relation to consumer sentiment towards Web 3.0. Personally, I see that the biggest issue lies with the idea of having a decentralised way of interacting with others on the Internet. Although the idea of decentralised power sounds lucrative theoretically, the practical reality is this – Not everyone may be entirely convinced that complete decentralisation is a good idea.

It’s fair to say that the optimism around decentralisation wears off when things go wrong, for example, when users’ accounts get hacked or when they lose their money due to scams and cannot easily seek recourse by pursuing the offender. Who can people sue legally when power is dispersed? At least with central authorities, it is much easier for the victim to pursue legal action against the central intermediary itself for harm (if the intermediary is legally responsible). The central intermediary may also help the victim chase down the bad actor because they have the data, information, and resources to do so. In this regard, complete decentralisation may be a disability rather than an advantage.

Furthermore, it can also be said that with decentralisation comes great responsibility. People need to know the ins and outs of how Web 3.0 works; they need to understand that pursuing remedies for harms incurred may not always be possible; and they need to have a solid technological foundation in blockchain. In a world where Web 3.0 is new, digital literacy is not uniform across the population, and where people are just starting to understand blockchain technology, people may be quite reluctant (at best) to jump on the Web 3.0 bandwagon.

So how can these hurdles be overcome? Well, some people have introduced a new hybrid web movement ~ Known loosely by some as ‘Web 2.5’.

Introducing 'Web 2.5'

It should be noted that the meaning of the term ‘Web 2.5’ is not entirely fixed. Some have used Web 2.5 to describe the transitional period between Web 2.0 and Web 3.0 where users are moving towards subscription-based products on the Internet as opposed to expecting ‘free stuff’. I will adopt the term ‘Web 2.5’ to represent a transitional period between centralised and decentralised interactions.

My view is this: Rather than people being responsible for their own wallets, crypto affairs and other transactions recorded on the blockchain, people can transact on the blockchain through an intermediary. The intermediary looks after the ‘hard stuff’ in terms of managing digital wallets and the tech side of things while the ‘consumer’ simply tells the intermediary how to spend their money. In this sense, ‘Web 2.5’ (as defined in this article) offers a balance between decentralised technology and centralised control.

An obvious example of this dynamic is Coinbase. All the user needs to do is create an account, deposit money, and purchase crypto. The central repository handles all affairs relating to private keys and crypto wallets.

Wait, Web 2.5 Implies Some Degree of Centralisation?

Some crypto enthusiasts may sceptically remark that Coinbase and ‘Web 2.5’ defeat the entire purpose of the decentralisation movement. The thinking here is that central repositories create inefficiency and represent risk. For example, what if Coinbase gets hacked? This will harm multiple users whose crypto affairs are concentrated in the hands of Coinbase’s management.  

These are all valid concerns. However, if people are just getting started with crypto and Web 3.0 more broadly, then going through an intermediary might be a more palatable first step for them. They can educate themselves and at least take part in the broader movement while having more technological support. It may also be easier for people to chase down bad actors if they’re transacting through an intermediary because the intermediaries are in a better position to investigate fraud and scams.  

Even so, people who start on central intermediaries may then migrate to completely decentralised platforms after they’ve gained more confidence and education. And even if they don’t make that complete step, well at least they’re involved in the new platforms that Web 3.0 is bringing.


Final Thoughts

A sensible conversation about widespread Web 3.0 adoption requires us to examine some of the practical realities about how users will interact with Web 3.0. There’s no doubt that some users will flourish off decentralisation. In my view, these will be the adept users who are educated about Web 3.0 and all things technology. However, there are some users that may not be as proficient in technology (which is okay). For these people, at least Web 2.5 might be a far more alternative or a step along the way to Web 3.0 adoption.


[1] Felicity Martin, 'Introducing Web 2.5, The Messy New Future of the Internet', Dazed (online, 26th January 2022) <https://www.dazeddigital.com/science-tech/article/55310/1/introducing-web-2-5-guide-future-internet-web-3-0-dao-nft-blockchain-crypto>. 
[2] Olga Kharif, Sidhartha Shukla and Emily Nicolle, 'Hackers Steal $100 Million by Exploiting Crypto's Weak Link', Bloomberg (online, 24th June 2022) <https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2022-06-24/crypto-bridge-horizon-is-hacked-for-100-million>. 

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Johnson Chau
This article articulates the concept of transition extremely well. When something new is introduced (i.e. web3), there needs to be a period of adoption where there are early and late adopters. Only when late adopters take onboard web3, can we consider web3 to be the defacto way of the internet. But to reach there, it takes community, innovation and passion to drive it forward. Thank you for sharing!