Web inventor Tim Berners-Lee wants us to ‘ignore’ Web3


Sir Tim Berners-Lee, co-founder and chief technology of Inrupt, speaking at Web Summit 2022.

Sam Barnes | Sportsfile via Getty Images

LISBON, Portugal — The creator of the web isn’t sold on crypto visionaries’ plan for its future and says we should “ignore” it.

Tim Berners-Lee, the British computer scientist credited with inventing the World Wide Web in 1989, said Friday that he doesn’t view blockchain as a viable solution for building the next iteration of the internet.

He has his own web decentralization project called Solid.

“It’s important to clarify in order to discuss the impacts of new technology,” said Berners-Lee, speaking onstage at the Web Summit event in Lisbon. “You have to understand what the terms mean that we’re discussing actually mean, beyond the buzzwords.”

“It’s a real shame in fact that the actual Web3 name was taken by Ethereum folks for the stuff that they’re doing with blockchain. In fact, Web3 is not the web at all.”

Web3 is a nebulous term in the tech world used to describe a hypothetical future version of the internet that’s more decentralized than it is today and not dominated by a handful of powerful players such as AmazonMicrosoft and Google.

It involves a few technologies, including blockchain, cryptocurrencies and nonfungible tokens.

While breaking our personal data out of Big Tech’s clutches is an ambition shared by Berners-Lee, he’s not convinced blockchain, the distributed ledger technology that underpins cryptocurrencies like bitcoin, will be the solution.

“Blockchain protocols may be good for some things but they’re not good for Solid,” a web decentralization project led by Berners-Lee, he said. “They’re too slow too expensive and too public. Personal data stores have to be fast, cheap and private.”

“Ignore the Web3 stuff, random Web3 that was built on blockchain,” he added. “We’re not using that for Solid.”

Berners-Lee said people too often conflate Web3 with “Web 3.0,” his own proposal for reshaping the internet. His new startup, Inrupt, aims to give users control of their own data, including how it’s accessed and stored. The company raised $30 million in a funding round in December, TechCrunch reported.

Berners-Lee says that our personal data is siloed by a handful of Big Tech platforms, like Google and Facebook, that use it to “lock us into their platforms.”

“The result was a big data race where the winner was the one corporation that controlled the most data and the losers were everybody else,” he said.

His new startup aims to address this through three ways:

  • A global “single sign-on” feature that lets anyone log in from anywhere.
  • Login IDs that allow users to share their data with others.
  • A “common universal API,” or application programming interface, that lets apps pull data from any source.

Berners-Lee’s not the only notable tech figure with doubts about Web3. The movement has been a punching bag for some leaders in Silicon Valley, like Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey and Tesla CEO Elon Musk.

Critics say it’s prone to the same issues that come with cryptocurrencies, like fraud and security flaws.

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