What if Web3 isn’t an evolution but a move to something like the web’s original form? Not an arrival but a return. A regression of sorts. A devolution in the most positive context.

These are some of the questions I’ve been asking about Web3 over the last few months. And these questions hint to my hopes—but not my predictions—for the future of the web after the apparent falls of Twitter and Meta.

What would a return to the early days of Web1 look like?

Noah Smith recently wrote what I had previously only spoken:

When I first got access to the internet as a kid, the very first thing I did was to find people who liked the same things I liked — science fiction novels and TV shows, Dungeons and Dragons, and so on. In the early days, that was what you did when you got online — you found your people, whether on Usenet or IRC or Web forums or MUSHes and MUDs. Real life was where you had to interact with a bunch of people who rubbed you the wrong way — the coworker who didn’t like your politics, the parents who nagged you to get a real job, the popular kids with their fancy cars. The internet was where you could just go be a dork with other dorks, whether you were an anime fan or a libertarian gun nut or a lonely Christian 40-something or a gay kid who was still in the closet. Community was the escape hatch.

Smith’s recollection of the early days of the web sum up what many of us are aiming for: A return to a special kind of community, rather than another opportunity to interact with those we already get enough of offline.

The technology of Web2 will not disappear. But how we use such technology may—and should—change.

And so Web3 may not be the next release number but instead a matter of simple math:

Web 3 = Web1 philosophy + Web2 technology

What exactly is the philosophy of Web1?

The philosophy of Web1 basically the promise of Web3: Decentralization. Fragmentation. An internet that’s harder to silo into a few sites and services.

write.as founder Matt Baer has often criticized Web3 and made the point that decentralization is already possible through technology we take for granted or may have long forgotten, such as email and RSS.

Molly White, creator of Web3 is Going Just Great, has often branded Web3 and its related technologies as solutions in search of a problem. She’s also made the point that technology on its own rarely solves problems. Change is often aided by other forces such as regulation.

In this case, the change we need must be aided with philosophy, which will then change how people use technology.

This moment in time brings up another point: More technology is not always the answer, especially when we’re not properly using the features we already have. So better philosophy and better usage are better paths to seek and take.

What’s so bad about Web2 anyway?

Web2 has not benefitted users nearly as much as the few corporations who have used their network effects to consolidate power into a handful of services. This model needs to fall. And I hope—but do not predict—that it will soon.

But Web3 of the crypto/blockchain kind is not the answer. If anything, it will only further complicate the digital landscape.

The technology for decentralization already exists. All we have to do is use it the right way, something we haven’t been doing for the last decade or so.