The Battle for the Soul of the Web

Long before the NFT boom or the Web3 backlash, an unglamorous movement was under way. Where does it stand now?

The difference between DWeb and Web3 is material or semantic, depending on whom you ask. The terms are “in some ways superficial,” according to Glen Weyl, an economist and a co-author of Radical Markets: Uprooting Capitalism and Democracy for a Just Society. “On the other hand, they’re very important.”

In a recent webinar series, the Internet Archive defined the decentralized-web movement as an effort to break apart “all the layers” of the current online experience. It’s helpful to think about this idea in terms of what it opposes: Meta, for example, centralizes messaging, media sharing, data collection, and much else, so users are subject to its content-moderation policies and can’t help but submit their information to its sprawling marketing apparatus. Amazon owns so much of the infrastructure that the internet runs on that you could hardly function without it.

The DWeb movement is interested in subverting this status quo through tools that would give individuals greater control over their online identities and information. “I’m trying to channel the confusion that you’re looking at me with right now,” Kahle told me, when I asked him to explain it. “How do I help other people understand what the heck is going on here?”

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