What Is Web3? (+ How Does It Work?)

Written by Coursera Staff • Updated on

As the internet is evolving, learn more about Web3, how it differs from Web 2.0, and the different job opportunities in this field.

[Featured image] A Web3 developer works at a desktop analyzing the latest information that can be used in web development.

Since the rise of the web in the 1990s, the internet has been an evolving space. What started as a repository for information turned into a place where people connect with others and share experiences.

Today, the internet continues to develop, and its most recent incarnation is Web3 or Web3.0. Web developers, content managers, legal analysts, and more have begun to explore careers in this field.

Web3 may be in its infancy, but understanding how it works can help determine if it's a field you want to explore. Let's dive in together.

What is Web3?

Web3 is a term used to describe an idea for the next stage of internet development. The term was introduced in 2014 by Gavin Wood, a cofounder of Ethereum, a blockchain-based software platform. It was described as a decentralized future version of the internet that lessened the influence of the corporations that currently dominate Web 2.0, namely Meta, Amazon, and Google.

In this version of the internet, users are meant to have greater control over their data instead of it being shared with companies that monetize personal information. The result is intended to be an interactive internet experience with increased ownership and privacy of personal data.

How do companies monetize our data?

In Web 2.0, when you scroll through a social media platform or use a search engine, you receive ads related to the types of accounts and websites you are browsing. That's because companies collect data about your online activities. These companies monetize this data by selling ads to companies they think offer products and services you're interested in purchasing.

Is Web3 the same thing as the metaverse?

Although Web3 and the metaverse overlap, they are not the same in theory or practice. Web3 describes one way today’s internet can evolve. The metaverse is a space where people interact in an immersive, virtual world. They share a vision of the internet as an extension of the real world, but they are not interchangeable terms.

The metaverse can be owned by an organization that acts like a central governing authority (Web 2.0 model), or it can take the form of a peer-to-peer network (Web3).


History of the web so far

To understand how Web3 works and why it's poised to change the way people interact online, it helps to learn the history of the web. You can divide the internet into two distinct periods called Web 1.0 and Web 2.0.

Web 1.0

Web 1.0 dates back to the early 1990s. This version of the internet featured static web pages coded in HTML. It created an open and decentralized place where users could search for and find information through browsers like Netscape and Internet Explorer. This version of the internet introduced sites like WebMD, where they could look up medical conditions and symptoms, and GeoCities that let users create web pages in online neighborhoods.

Web 2.0

By the decade's end, people began seeing the internet as more than an online encyclopedia. The rise of blogging sites, forums, and wikis gave users places to share information and connect with other people. This ushered in Web 2.0, which rose to prominence in the early to mid-2000s. Technology companies leveraged the power of social media to develop an infrastructure that allowed a small number of companies to hold a lot of power. These companies include Meta, Twitter, Google, and Amazon.

How does Web3 work?

Web3 works by combining the decentralization of Web 1.0 with the interactiveness of Web 2.0 in a user-friendly interface. Ideally, it gives individual users more control over their online experience and increased security through blockchain technology (the decentralized transaction ledger that stores data in blocks that all users can see). Web 2.0 forces you to rely on the technology and security of big tech companies. Web3 puts the control in your hands—and the hands of all other users. Users contributing to Web3 can receive tokens in exchange for participating in the development.

Read more: What is a Blockchain Developer (and How Do I Become One)?


Advantages of Web3

Many of Web3's advantages stem from its decentralized structure, which shifts control of the internet from big tech companies to those who use it. For example, internet users on Web 2.0 users must log in to social networks to access, share, or interact with a lot of content. The platform ultimately controls who can join and how they interact with others. It can remove users or limit what they can do on the platform. Web3 gives this control to the community, which can then self-govern the content and the people sharing it. Here are more benefits of a decentralized internet:


  • Interaction: Users should have more opportunities to interact with content and other users in Web3 and experience higher levels of engagement than they do with Web 2.0 and 1.0 websites and platforms.


  • Ownership: Web3 users are more than content consumers. They are owners of the community who receive incentives for participation instead of being asked to trade their personal data to access platforms.


  • Permissions: All network users have access to the network's data and permission to use the service.


  • Privacy: In Web3, your identity attaches to your digital wallet. What you do online is open to the public, but you can keep your identity a secret.


Disadvantages of Web3

Web3 has both positive and negative factors to keep in mind, which include the following:


  • Cost: Blockchain technology is expensive and requires considerable amounts of energy to operate. This carries over to Web3 since it operates on this technology.


  • Hardware: Users may need to invest in newer equipment to access the full benefits of Web3 platforms and applications. Older devices may not have sufficient memory or capability.


  • Regulation: Decentralization turns the responsibility of regulating content and user actions over to the public. This can create spaces for questionable content to appear online, leaving users of autonomous organizations to govern themselves.


  • Scalability: Using blockchain to process transactions in a peer-to-peer network requires considerable computing power that currently needs to be more scalable. This lack of scale increases costs and restricts who can participate, which leads to centralization by default.

How to get into Web3

You can get involved in Web3 by working for or using applications that already operate under Web3 principles. These companies tend to operate within the technology sector and offer services like networking, facilitating cryptocurrency transactions, and developing software and infrastructure solutions. Helium Systems, Coinbase Global, and Huddle are examples of organizations in the Web3 market.

1. Research different Web3 careers.

Web3 jobs cover a range of roles, from administrative assistant and community manager to Web3 developer and C-suite positions. They also need support staff, managers, researchers, engineers, and sales personnel. Here are some Web3 jobs:


  • Beta tester. Beta testers give the first glimpse of a new platform or application. They try it and report back to the developers about their experience. This helps them identify and address problems before they release the product to the public.

  • Community manager or moderator. Community managers play an important role in the success of online communities. They onboard new members, monitor and maintain resources, keep track of community interactions, and solve problems to ensure the community meets the needs of the members and stakeholders.

  • Cryptocurrency exchange/NFT researcher or analyst. This role puts research skills to use. Professionals in this job keep track of the market performance and pricing of different types of cryptocurrency, digital assets, or non-fungible tokens (NFT). The data gathered helps investors decide how to invest in crypto.

  • Marketer. Web3 has the potential to transform online marketing, as it emphasizes building communities, relationships, and engagement. Marketers promote goods and services but may have less access to customer data compared to Web 2.0. You may spend more time interacting with customers to understand their needs.

  • Technical writer. Technical writers can play an important role in helping the general public understand how Web3 works and benefits them. They take complex technical details and convert them into simpler language for the general public. They also help Web3 companies and their founders get new ideas and position themselves as experts. 

  • Web3 developer. Web3 developers may work as front-end, back-end, or full-stack developers. Tasks may include writing and testing code, designing interfaces, and building contracts.

2. Consider earning a degree.

The education requirements for Web3 jobs vary depending on the role. For example, if you want to work as a Web3 marketer, you may need a bachelor's degree in marketing or a related field. Similarly, a software developer may want a degree in computer science.

However, it can be more beneficial to gain hands-on experience and develop the skills you need to work in Web3 than earning a degree. You can identify the type of education you need by browsing job descriptions.

Consider learning more about blockchain or cryptocurrency with online courses, coding bootcamps, and taking classes at universities. Since Web3 is built on blockchain technology, learning how it works and how to use it can benefit your career. Other topics to explore include programming languages, smart contracts, Solidity, and non-fungible tokens.

3. Learn the skills you need to work in Web3.

The skills you need to work in Web3 vary. For example, a front-end Web3 developer may need skills like UX experience and programming languages. However, a Web3 marketer may rely on a different skill set that can include communication and data analysis. Here are some technical skills that may appear in Web3 job descriptions:


  • Blockchain technology

  • Data structures

  • Ethereum Virtual Machine

  • Front-end web development

  • Non-fungible token creation

  • Programming languages: Solidity, JavaScript, C++, Golang

  • Smart contracts

  • UX design

Aside from technical skills, workplace skills are important and can help you add value to an employer or a project. You will likely see these workplace skills listed in job descriptions:


  • Communication

  • Flexibility

  • Problem-solving

  • Storytelling

  • Teamwork

Build your Web3 expertise with Coursera 

You can learn about the technologies that support Web3 by taking an online program like Web3 and Blockchain Fundamentals. You'll gain expertise in smart contracts, digital assets, and business strategy while earning a shareable certificate:

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