Most people may not remember that websites once had icons that read “This site is optimized for Internet Explorer,” but that wasn’t uncommon two decades ago.
Just like today’s battle between Web 2.0 monopolies and Web 3.0 communities, in the early days of the early consumer Internet, there was a similar battle over who should own the gateway: a global closed-source monopoly or an open-source nonprofit organization.
Battle for the soul of the internet
Long before Web 3.0, browser wars defined the early Internet. Netscape Navigator was the first consumer browser on the market and the browser of choice for early web users. For many, this was synonymous with the beginning of the Internet.
However, slowly but surely, Microsoft has taken advantage of its operating system monopoly to promote a closed source alternative: Internet Explorer (IE). It was able to bypass Netscape and become the default choice for users simply by integrating the browser with Windows.
In 1998, Netscape introduced its open source browser and helped found the Mozilla Foundation, which supported the free software community. In 2002, the open source Mozilla Firefox browser was launched under the original codename Phoenix, in reference to how it rose from the rubble.
A battle for the soul of the Internet ensued. Internet Explorer was closed source; Firefox was open source. Internet Explorer was launched by Monopoly; Firefox is powered by an organization.
Firefox has broken Microsoft’s grip on closed source by paving the way for Chrome, which is built on the open source Chromium project. Combined with the advent of the mobile web, this has wreaked havoc on Internet Explorer devices. If not, users may still see the message “This site is optimized for Internet Explorer” when loading this page.
Internet Explorer was also at the center of the Microsoft monopoly case, leading to a 10-year rethink of Microsoft as the champion of open source software.
Twink until today. Web 3.0 wallets are the tools that millions of people use to participate in a brave new world of decentralized autonomous organizations (DAOs) led by the DeFi protocol community and the Metaverse. It is the gateway to these applications, just as the browser was the gateway to web pages in the early days of the Internet. And soon they will become the standard interface for the new Internet – the country for which they will fight.
Related: Three Web 3.0 Features That Fix What Went Wrong Today’s Internet
change more things
Once again, we have a monopoly that gets in the way. It is not free and open source. Websites are optimized for that. We must fight for it again. Similar to IE’s role in the development of Web 2.0, many DApps and Web 3.0 applications have begun to improve on MetaMask, the current leader in the digital wallet market. While it is true that users will follow the path of least resistance, it can be counterproductive, leaving the entry point into the ecosystem in the hands of the group.
Much like IE, MetaMask began to focus on proprietary practices and approaches to horticulture dating back to Web 2.0 and its regressive business models. After turning its code base into a multi-tiered license in just over a year, it has grown its number of monthly active users from 500,000 to more than 21 million as the main streaming service for Web 3.0. During that time, the same users paid more than $237 million in wallet replacement service fees.
Based on these numbers, the project has raised $200 million in capital from a wide range of companies, including HSBC. This all worked well for ConsenSys, the group that owns the MetaMask database. However, this did not bring any benefit to the users. In addition, former employees and shareholders are now sounding the alarm about ConsenSys’ involvement with Wall Street firms such as JPMorgan, relationships that run counter to original ideas of transparency and decentralization in finance.
Many believe that this increased market penetration and MetaMask Web 2.0 approach to digital wallet development betray the capabilities of the Web 3.0 Stack. Decentralized applications have opened opportunities for collaborative business models that would otherwise be lost to those who embraced early adopters of a more open Internet. Business models that can transcend the relationship between tools and their users.