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21 May 2023

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The Key Differences Between Web3 and Web 3.0 Explained

(Note: Bruce Taylor is co-leadingan online masterclass with Dr. Nicole Fellouris on cyber threats in the era of Web3 and blockchain on Thursday, May 25, beginning at 1pm eastern time. The topic of Web3 often causes confusion with the similar term Web 3.0, so Bruce offers an explanation here for the benefit of masterclass attendees and others interested in this topic.)

In order to really understand what the cybersecurity threat landscape looks like in this next Blockchain Web3 and Semantic Web 3.0 technology-driven wave of digital transformation – what I’m now unabashedly calling the 5th Industrial Revolution across all sectors – it’s useful to get a grounding in the confusinging terms of this new breed of the digital-economy arts.

Why? Because they – along with all things AI – will be in the driver’s seat for the digital infrastructure that enables and empowers the next wave of digital transformation of the global economy. And its impacts will fill all four of the primary buckets of this brave new technology and engineering world:Continuous uptime Availability, Resilience, Security and Sustainability, from the application out at the top of the stack to the energy in at the bottom, will undergo both massive and exponential growth as a consequence.

For the purpose of this piece, our focus is on the cybersecurity threat risk that comes along with these new realms of digital-economic growth.

Web3 refers to the vision of a decentralized web that aims to enhance user’s privacy, security, and control over their data. It leverages blockchain technology and cryptographic principles to enable direct peer-to-peer interactions without intermediaries. Web3 focuses on concepts like decentralization, trustlessness and user sovereignty, allowing individuals to own and control their digital assets and identities. It promotes the idea of decentralized applications (dApps), decentralized finance (DeFi), and trustless governance of the decentralized autonomous organization (DAO)

The key definitional difference between Web3 and Web 3.0 is that Web3 is, quite simply blockchain based.

Web 3.0, in contrast, is also generally and synonymously known as the Semantic Web, whichenvisions an intelligent, personalized Web where data is linked, interpreted and utilized by machines to provide more meaningfully and contextually relevant information. It aims to enhance the capabilities of the current web by adding semantic metadata to Web content, enabling machines to understand and process data more effectively. Web 3.0 more easily spans the gap between human and machine understanding, facilitating advanced search, automated reasoning, and intelligent applications.

Spatial Web refers to an extension of the current web into a three-dimensional (3D) space, where digital information is integrated with physical locations and objects. It envisions a web experience that is deeply intertwined with the physical world, allowing users to interact with digital content in a spatial context.

Spatial Web technologies include augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR), mixed reality (MR), and various location-based services. It aims to create immersive and interactive experiences that enhance collaboration, information access, and entertainment.

Metaverse refers to a virtual reality universe or a collective virtual space where users can interact with each other and with digital content in real-time. It goes beyond the current concept of the internet and aims to create immersive, interactive and experiential persistent virtual environments.

Metaverse incorporates elements of AR, VR, MR, and extended reality (XR) media, and the Internet of Things (IoT), providing users with an interconnected and shared virtual digital reality. It can include various forms of entertainment, social interactions, industrial and commercial applications across all sectors of work and learning.

The concept of the Metaverse is rapidly gaining with the growth of virtual worlds, blockchain-based virtual economies, and online interactive, experiential gamification.

In the largest sense of things, then, Metaverse is both based on Web3 blockchain and, simultaneously, Web 3.0 Semantic and Spatial Web.

Digital Asset Creation and Management, both falling under the DAM acronym with DACS referring to the Digital Assets Classification Standardsrepresents a relatively new entry into the digital economy. These are closely tied to blockchain and Web3technology, including crypto, nonfungible tokenization (NFT), distributed autonomous organization, etc. Held in the context of blockchain, digital assets refer to any form of value that can be stored, transferred or represented digitally. These assets can include cryptocurrencies, tokens, digital identities, digital intellectual property, digital art, even real-world assets like real estate and commodities.

Blockchain enables the creation of digital assets through the use of smart contracts – self-executing agreements that automatically execute predefined actions when certain conditions are met. They are coded on the blockchain and ensure that the creation, transfer, and management of digital assets adhere to predefined rules and conditions.

Blockchain's features, such as immutability, transparency, and decentralized consensus, make it an ideal technology for DAM. Here's how blockchain relates to different aspects of digital asset creation and management:

Overall, blockchain technology provides a robust infrastructure for the creation, management, and secure transfer of digital assets, revolutionizing various industries and enabling new business models.

In summary, Web3 emphasizes decentralization and individual and social community control through blockchain technology, while Web 3.0 focuses on intelligent data processing and machine understanding, Spatial Web aims to integrate digital information into the physical world, Semantic Web enhances data interoperability and machine reasoning, and the Metaverse envisions a shared virtual universe for immersive and interactive experiences. Metaverses can be considered a high form of Digital Asset Management.

The nature of the inherent cybersecurity threats in this new wave of digital transformation.

While there are overlaps and interdependencies among all these concepts, each brings unique perspectives and goals to the future development of the Worldwide and digital experiences, and, thus, a very new chapter in the evolution of the global digital economy. That much is now quite clear.

Web3 and blockchain technologies offer numerous benefits in terms of decentralization, transparency, and security. However, they also introduce new cybersecurity threats and challenges. Most likely cybersecurity threats inherent in Web3 and blockchain:

1. Smart contract vulnerabilities: A “smart contract” is one that is self-executing within the terms of the agreement that are directly embedded in code.

If not designed, developed and audited properly, they can contain vulnerabilities that can be exploited by attackers to gain unauthorized access or manipulate the contract's behavior.

2. Malicious code and backdoors: Malware actors can introduce backdoors or insert malicious code into decentralized applications (dApps) and smart contracts, allowing them to exploit vulnerabilities, steal funds or otherwise disrupt the system.

NFTs are subject to cybercrime attacks, although proof-of-work (POW) and proof-of-stake are generally resistant, however…

3. 51% attacks: In blockchain networks that rely on PoW consensus algorithms, a 51% attack occurs when a single entity or a group of entities controls more than 50% of the network's computational power. This allows them to manipulate transactions, reverse transactions, or launch double-spending attacks.

4. Private key compromises: Blockchain systems rely on private-public key cryptography for authentication and transaction signing. If a user's private key is compromised, either through hacking or social engineering, an attacker can gain unauthorized access to the user's funds or enabling impersonation

5. Sybil attacks involve creating multiple fake identities or nodes to gain control or influence over a blockchain network. This can undermine the decentralization and consensus mechanisms, leading to attacks such as double-spending or data manipulation.

6. Denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks: Blockchain networks are susceptible to traditional network-level attacks which can disrupt network availability and halt transaction processing.

7. Regulatory and legal challenges: The decentralized and pseudonymous nature of Web3 and blockchain technologies can create challenges in terms of regulatory compliance, money laundering and a host of illicit activities.

Governments and regulatory bodies are far behind in catching up with this new and rapidly evolving threat risk landscape, leading to uncertainties and potential risks. Good corporate governance by Web3, blockchain and Semantic/Spatial Web developers will be an increasing priority.

8. Interoperability issues: Web3 aims to enable interoperability between different blockchain networks and applications.

The goal of Metaverse data portability and interoperability is something that any Web3 company aims to achieve. Interoperability in the context of the metaverse refers to the ability of different platforms, technologies, and services to work together and communicate with each other.

However, this introduces the challenges of securely transferring data and digital assets seamlessly among various systems, potentially exposing vulnerabilities or inconsistencies that can be exploited.

Blockchain is built on three principle notions as much as technologies:cryptography, decentralization and consensus to create a highly secure underlying software system that hampers tampering.

In the applications development process, DevOps teams will both use blockchain to manage development with greater persistent authentication as well as be the principal engine of development. In this cyber threat era, DevSecOps professionals face a rigorous challenge.

To tie it together, in order to mitigate these cybersecurity threats, this new ongoing research, rigorous code audits, secure coding practices, and the use of advanced cryptography are crucial.

Additionally, user education, security best practices, and regular updates and patches for blockchain software and infrastructure are essential to enhance the overall security of Web3 and blockchain technologies and all variants thereof.

Finally, there isn’t one aspect of this new combined Web3 blockchain realm that isn’t either inherently, closely adjacent to, or easily adaptable for all variants on the artificial intelligence (AI) theme.

While AI, ML (Machine Learning), Narrow AI, Generative AI (GenAI), and Artificial General Intelligence (AGI) each and of themselves are not inherently security threats, and are, indeed, resistant when applied to Web3 blockchain applications, the security risk implications depend on how these technologies are implemented and used within the context of these applications.

AI can enhance various aspects of Web3 blockchain applications, such as smart contract verification, anomaly detection, fraud detection and data analysis.

However, while ML and AI variants can actually improve security measures, they can also be vulnerable to attacks if not implemented securely.

Adversarial attacks, data poisoning, and model vulnerabilities are some concerns that need to be addressed to ensure the robustness of AI and ML systems in Web3 blockchain applications.

In conclusion, if we think our IT and digital world has always been made obscure and opaque by its acronym-laden secret language, the new Web 3 blockchain and Web 3.0 Semantic, Spatial Web, and the Metaverse may all seem to be like a whole new layering of opacity.

However, there is clearly a highly defined interrelationship inherent in every layer and stage on the full continuum of Digital Infrastructure and this brave new era of Digital Economy growth.

Operational Uptime Availability, Resiliency, Security and Sustainability become the most important and critically co-equal characteristics of the new world Digital Economic, Environmental, Societal and Governance health and success.


The writer is Co-founder and Chair of the SmartNations Foundation, which is dedicated to assisting emerging and developing communities and countries develop fully modern sustainable digital infrastructures so that they can, as fully as possible, benefit from the digital economy revolution.

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