Web 2.0 vs. Web 3.0: Differences Defined

Robert MacDonald

With the web in a constant state of flux, it’s important to differentiate between Web 2.0 and Web 3.0 and prepare for the next web installation.

What is a Web 3.0 website? Web 3.0 is powered by artificial intelligence and uses blockchain technology to create a more secure, private, and decentralized web experience. 

What Was Web 1.0? 

The first and earliest stage of internet development is colloquially known as Web 1.0, although (obviously) it wasn’t referred to until the rapid and ubiquitous deployment of Web 2.0 technology. 

Web 1.0 covers the early days of dial-up connections, AOL, and the internet as new and emerging technology. 

Primary Web 1.0 technologies include the following:

HyperText Markup Language

HTML is the descriptive foundation of a content as it is presented on the internet. “Markup” languages, in this context, are a form of metadata that define how a web browser should display content. 

Using the concept of nesting tags and document structure to standardize the presentation of content online, HTML allows web developers to format text, include different forms of media (video, images, or audio), and embed hyperlinks directly into text. 

Hyperlinks are, in some respects, the backbone of content in the Web 1.0 paradigm. Links connect pages such that a reader can navigate through pages quickly and logically. Without links, web content would end up siloed on different servers, requiring users to know the direct URL address of that content to access it. 

Subsequently, the use of links saw the rise of web portals and, eventually, search engines where users could easily navigate the rapidly increasing content available on the web.

HyperText Transfer Protocol

To facilitate the transfer of HTML documents from servers to users on their desktops, developers, like Tim Berners-Lee, began building a protocol to quickly and reliably exchange information like HTML. 

Before the advent of HTTP, it was still common for computers to exchange information via file-sharing protocols like FTP. However, this approach wasn’t necessarily intuitive nor did it integrate seamlessly with the purpose of HTML—namely, to download and display content. 

HTTP provided a way for servers to receive data requests from users that would navigate to that content via a Uniform Resource Locator (URL), a string of characters specifying the domain location and directory of a document. Over time, evolutions of the HTTP protocol would introduce faster data transfer speeds, persistent connections and additional security through the HyperText Transfer Protocol Secure (HTTPS) extension. 

Web 1.0 is denoted by static, persistent web pages, typically relying more on text information than graphics to convey messages. Some preliminary efforts towards eCommerce rose during this time as well.

What Is Web 2.0?

In the early 2000s, web developers began to look at the existing paradigm of web development as a limitation, rather than an expansion, of interactivity with and between users. While Web 1.0 utterly transformed communication for enterprises and users throughout the 1990s, specialists and engineers began to look into ways to replace bland web pages. 

Some of the technologies that emerged over the early 2000s and for the next 15-20 years include the following:

Databases and PHP

Databases weren’t new at the time—in fact, databases had been around, in one way or another, for decades. However, there was never an easy way to utilize database information to serve user requests as they were made. 

A major step towards developing such capabilities was the integration of the PHP: Hypertext Preprocessor scripting language. And yes, you read that correctly—the name is a recursive acronym that refers to itself. 

PHP is a server-side language that bridged the gap between client-side web presentation (HTML) and server databases. Programmers could develop systems that take user input from HTML forms, process it as a formal request to a database through SQL, and return the results as a new web page formatted HTML. 

The development of PHP and database integration allowed for the development of more dynamic websites like blogs, the popularity of which signaled the start of Web 2.0.

Rich Media

The move from static web pages led to the integration and foregrounding of rich media. Web 1.0 content would often include images, audio, and in some cases, embedded video. Limitations in hardware and Internet infrastructure made moving large data files around harder, limiting how media could be used. 

In Web 2.0, visual media is just as important, if not more so, than text. Large, high-resolution images are much more common, and video is equally as common as a static image. More importantly, streamlining video, or video played instantaneously from a central server rather than necessitating a complete download, has changed how we consume media. 


Early blogging relied on databases and PHP, but using a blog at home became much more accessible to users when they had more interactive tools to use to write in them—most users don’t have the technical skills to write text and store that text in a database, after all. 

In the beginning, interactivity was relatively simple: client-side programming languages like JavaScript worked hand-in-hand with HTML to provide more robust interactivity for users, including user interfaces and dashboards. 

However, the expansion of REST APIs and AJAX introduced a new paradigm of real-time interaction. In the case of blogs, a user must refresh a page to get new updates—that is, to resend a request for content updates. Key developments in JavaScript and PHP APIs led to the emergence of websites where updates worked in real time. Following this innovation, website elements we take for granted today, like comment sections, became a reality. 

Perhaps the most impactful development during this time, and of Web 2.0 broadly, was that of social media. Real-time updates, interactive media, and short, bite-sized pieces of content streamlined publishing and sharing. They ushered in the rise of media platforms like WordPress, Facebook, Twitter, Amazon, and Google.


Platforms and major eCommerce sources often rely on large, centralized platforms to serve high bandwidth and provide high availability. However, many users have begun to raise concerns about this kind of decentralization, including issues around censorship, privacy, and the commercial use of personal information. 

In some areas, decentralized infrastructure developments have become a major topic of interest. Technologies like BitTorrent have provided the initial stirrings of a decentralized network, even if it is a bit limited as a file-sharing tool. BitTorrent uses P2P transactions, where users share information directly without needing a centralized server. 

What Is Web 3.0?

Moving to Web 3.0 is predicated on decentralizing the web, making the web more intelligent, more ubiquitous, and more device-agnostic.

Some of the major innovations in web 3.0 include the following:


Decentralization is a major part of the Web 3.0 approach, and nothing is pushing that concept further than the blockchain. Originally invented as a ledger for the Bitcoin network, blockchains are decentralized forms of record-keeping that rely on cryptography and various verification methods to ensure the ledger’s integrity. 

While the broad, public chains of cryptocurrency aren’t quite ready for enterprise use, tailored, private chains are finding a home in enterprise data storage and record-keeping, particularly where security and immutability are required. 

Artificial Intelligence

With the advent of massively-scalable cloud computing platforms and specialized artificial intelligence applications, modern web enterprises have turned online cloud platforms into intelligent systems that can perform advanced predictive analytics and drive autonomous machines. 

While AI has a wide range of applications, it’s especially influential in online data-driven apps for human users and machine agents in different systems. This kind of user-machine and machine-machine interaction are radically changing how we interact with common forms of digital media like social media, online games, or other SaaS apps. 

Semantic Web

Tim Berners-Lee hypothesized that Web 3.0 would be dominated by metadata—data about data that allows for richer machine-reading and interpretation. And in many cases, we see this emerge as the driving engine of this new paradigm.

It’s critical to understand that things like AI and powerful computing platforms rely on robust metadata to the extent that metadata becomes just as important, if not more so than the data itself. Accordingly, evolving standards in metadata, like XML, JSON, and other schemes, are driving data categorization. 

Authentication and Identity in Web 3.0 with 1Kosmos

One of the most important parts of Web 3.0 is security. Information must be secure with millions of users (and all their data) plugged into public and enterprise systems. Web 3.0 technology like the blockchain and AI can power more robust identity management platforms and advanced biometrics. 

With 1Kosmos BlockID, you get an authentication and identity solution built for the future of Web 3.0. This kind of future-looking technology comes with the implementation of specific features like the following:

  • SIM Binding: The BlockID application uses SMS verification, identity proofing, and SIM card authentication to create solid, robust, and secure device authentication from any employee’s phone. 
  • Identity-Based Authentication: We push biometrics and authentication into a new “who you are” paradigm. BlockID uses biometrics to identify individuals, not devices, through credential triangulation and identity verification.
  • Cloud-Native Architecture: Flexible and scalable cloud architecture makes it simple to build applications using our standard API and SDK.
  • Identity Proofing: BlockID verifies identity anywhere, anytime, and on any device with over 99% accuracy.
  • Privacy by Design: Embedding privacy into the design of our ecosystem is a core principle of 1Kosmos. We protect personally identifiable information in a distributed identity architecture and the encrypted data is only accessible by the user. 
  • Private and Permissioned Blockchain: 1Kosmos protects personally identifiable information in a private and permissioned blockchain, encrypts digital identities, and is only accessible by the user. The distributed properties ensure no databases to breach or honeypots for hackers to target. 
  • Interoperability: BlockID can readily integrate with existing infrastructure through its 50+ out-of-the-box integrations or via API/SDK. 

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Meet the Author

Robert MacDonald

Vice President of Product Marketing

Robert is the Vice President of Product Marketing at 1Kosmos. He is a highly influential senior global marketer with more than 15 years of marketing experience in B2B and B2C software in the biometric authentication space. Prior to 1Kosmos, Rob managed product strategy and vision for the Identity and Access Management portfolio at Micro Focus, leading a team of product marketers to drive sales and support the channel. Earlier in his career he set the foundation for content planning, sales enablement and GTM activities for ForgeRock. He has also held senior marketing positions at Entrust, Dell, Quest and Corel Corporation.