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The winners of the digital future? It's all about Web7...
I’m kidding of course.
But here’s a prediction about how ‘Web5’ wallets and credentials are going to shake out.
The arrival of Web5
For those that haven’t been following, Jack Dorsey (founded Twitter) has spun up a project at his latest company (Block) called TBD. They are working on precisely the new kinds of digital customer tools I write about here at Customer Futures.
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I point to TBD because they have been promoting a new category of digital citizen empowerment: Web5.
This ambitious project is initially focussed on the unbanked. To connect ‘legacy money to digital money’. It’s all designed using new digital wallets and decentralised data storage.
As a result, TBD looks and smells like a ‘Web3’ project. Which it kind of is. But Web3 as an umbrella term has baggage. It’s usually associated with portable digital assets like NFTs and cryptocurrency.
Fed up with the bad press (and frankly some of the bad behaviour) of the Web3 community, Block and TBD wanted - and needed - a new name for this tech, a new category.
So they came up with ‘Web5’. Both to stake out a new territory, but also to poke fun at the Web3 maximalists.
Web5 is the way forward, they say, because we need to draw on the best of Web2 and Web3, but leave the worst bits behind.
Web2 has given us amazing online experiences and communities, with strong network effects and explosive growth. But it’s resulted in enormous tech platforms that have concentrated data and market power in the hands of only a few.
And Web3 has (at least in theory) given us digital ‘ownership’. But we are left to wrestle with new governance models, fraud and token speculating.
The best of both? Web2 and Web3 = Web5.
It was a joke. It’s marketing spin.
But you can argue it’s created a new conversation.
For those interested, Timothy Ruff wrote persuasively about Web5 here. About how it makes sense as a new market category name. A new framing. And one that helps broaden the conversation from other perhaps narrower communities, like ‘Self Sovereign Identity’ (SSI).
But here’s another way to look at it.
If Web5 is about taking the best from 2 and 3, but leaving the bad bits behind… then Web7 is about COMBINING Web5 and Web2.
I’m making another joke, of course.
But here’s what I mean:
Web5 has the potential to open up the new digital wallet and verifiable data market. But we’re going to be living in a Web2 world for a long while yet.
Like payments, cars and electricity, we’ll be dealing with ‘legacy’ infrastructure for years. Just look at the back office of most enterprises. It’s a mess. Held together with digital sticky tape and string. A Jenga tower of software and code evolved over decades, including old systems that were developed before ‘Web1’.
So we’ll be sending messages and data over Web1, Web2, Web3 and Web5 for a long time to come. It’ll be a mixed data economy.
Web7 is where the people will be
We need to recognise and understand these different versions of the web. It’s the only way we can respond and innovate accordingly.
A mixed data economy introduces challenges. But it also opens up new opportunities.
Most of the Web2 power and control currently rests with the major platforms and super-apps (FAANG, BATs etc.).
But it’s also where most of the people are.
While Web3 shakes out on digital assets, NFTs, digital money, crypto tokens and cross-border money transfers, Web2 will still be providing marketplaces, digital fulfilment, content, registration, and much, much more.
The digital winners of tomorrow will be those who can provide a wallet full of (Web5) personal data credentials… while making them useful for today’s (Web2) digital experiences.
Web5 will truly flourish when digital wallets contain a wide range of digital data that’s useful right across the web…
…regardless of which version of the web you happen to be using.
Being able to open an online account with proof that you are a member of club. Not just with your contact and payment details like everyone else. Being able to get a digital discount with proof you are a frequent traveller. Not just because you were able to ‘book before midnight’ on sale day.
Of course, all this will be privacy-enabled and security-maximised, as is baked into Web5.
So you won’t need to share WHO you are. Just that you possess the right verifiable data that can unlock a particular experience or purchase.
The idea of Web7 is of course ridiculous. Helpful for the purposes of this post.
But the companies going after the concept of Web7 are going to unleash new digital opportunities like we’ve never seen before. It will be those bridging the gap between Web5 and Web2 that will win.
Because that’s where the people will be.
It’s where the data will be.
And ultimately where the value will be.
Many say that the number 7 is lucky. You can bet that it will be… especially for the emerging Web5 players who can breathe new life into Web2.
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