Exploring Web3: The internet’s next move

New community-driven group fuels education, engagement on web3

Tech takeaway

Web 3.0, or web3, is a high-level concept that describes the next iteration of the internet in which ownership of the internet is distributed among its users.   In September 2022, a group of local volunteer organizers in Des Moines started web3dsm, an experimental initiative that gathers community members to support education and collaboration around web3 topics.

As this reporting only begins to scratch the surface of information available on Web3, this story aims to provide a high-level overview of Web3 and will be followed by future stories exploring individual topics in more detail.

A back corner of the Gravitate Coworking space in downtown Des Moines became a buzzing exchange of conversation and curiosities when attendees gathered for the latest meeting of a new “community-building experiment” called web3dsm.

Discussion bounced from one topic to another, partly because the concept of Web 3.0, or web3, encompasses many ideas within it, not just cryptocurrency, and not necessarily artificial intelligence

Although much of the web3 space is not well-defined yet, there is energy stemming from some in the Des Moines community who are actively engaged in web3 projects and excited to explore the potential of the third generation of the internet.

The internet’s first iteration, Web 1.0, began in the 1990s with the ability to view and browse web pages. Google’s IPO and the creation of Facebook in 2004 ushered in Web 2.0, which has been defined by interactivity and the added ability for anyone to contribute their own content online.

The newest evolution would essentially be a version of the internet that is built, operated and owned by its users. In his recent writing, Welcome to Web3, Ben McDougal, one of web3dsm’s organizers and an entrepreneurial ecosystem builder, put it this way: “Web3 is a concept that describes the future of how we will connect, communicate, and collaborate online.”

Topics under the web3 umbrella are unified by core principles, including decentralization. Currently, centralized entities, like Big Tech companies, control the internet. A decentralized version would distribute ownership of the internet across all its users.

McDougal said the abstract vernacular around web3 can make it intimidating, but the reality is most web3 concepts are not as new as they sound, just supported by advancing technologies. 

For example, a decentralized autonomous organization, or DAO, at its core, is an entity owned and operated by its members without a centralized leadership structure. McDougal said we are already familiar with this organizational structure in the form of agricultural co-ops and employee- or member-owned organizations.

A fair number of companies have already taken steps toward a decentralized organizational structure by reducing the amount of hierarchy among their positions and connecting teams that are more often working remotely or hybrid, McDougal said.

He said web3dsm uses a decentralized leadership structure by having a group of volunteer organizers who all contribute.

The incentives for organizations to decentralize are evolving alongside the web3 concept itself, McDougal said. Decentralization can incentivize operational efficiency, new revenue streams and inclusiveness.

“[Web3] does come back to that cultural piece of a sense of ownership, belonging, a collaborative environment,” he said. 

For teams, however spread out they are, a decentralized approach could provide them “an incentive to connect in creative ways [or] to step up and be a leader even when you might not have the perceived title of a leader,” he said.

Blockchain basics
A variety of technologies are supporting web3 concepts, but blockchain technology is a linchpin to achieving a decentralized internet.

Blockchains are public, digital versions of the ledgers that have long been used to track transactions in accounting. The blockchain system can record every transaction of digital information made on the ledger, whether it be files, currency or images.

No matter the type of data that’s added, updated or removed, when a record is changed, logs are transparently and securely verified by the users on a blockchain network. This makes every transaction visible to all the users on the network. Transactions cannot be reversed or edited, which safeguards against hacking. 

Blockchain also allows for secure transactions because the users on a blockchain network verify a transaction rather than a centralized authority. In the case of a financial transaction, entities like banks and credit card companies currently verify that charges are valid. Blockchains, instead generate an immutable code associated with the transaction that verifies it.

What’s next for web3dsm

With so much more to be learned about web3, web3dsm offers a local resource for artists, developers and community members to explore and connect together. 

The only requirement of attendees is a curiosity about web3. But aspirations to put the ideas into practice is what draws some in.

“People definitely come to this group and they have desires, they want to put together a business that does X, Y and Z,” said Brett Trout, an organizer for web3dsm and Des Moines patent attorney. “Everybody in the group has very thorough expertise in a very niche area, and you can’t go down to anyplace downtown and just have somebody put together these things for your web3 project. You need to find these people with this in depth knowledge.”

The group’s monthly in-person meetings gather a community that is well-connected online while also inviting newcomers. 

“We want to make sure that even if you’ve never heard of any of the jargon, you still feel a sense of, ‘Oh, OK, this isn’t only for the people that are developing the most hardcore technology,’” McDougal said.

The six-month-old group is building out the initiative based on members’ interests as it looks to create a sustainable presence in the community. On a topic that can spark uncertainty, McDougal hopes web3dsm will amplify awareness of all aspects of Web3 across the community.

“Like having intrapreneurs in your company, it helps you stay ahead of the innovation curve if you’re not throwing your head in the sand,” he said. 

The next web3dsm event is on Wednesday, Feb. 22 at 4 p.m. at Mainframe Studios. Registration to attend the free event is available on the web3dsm website.

Dive deeper

If you’d like to go deeper on Web3 topics, here are a few resources to help you start:

If there is a specific topic within web3 you are interested in learning more about, reach out to Sarah Bogaards at sarahbogaards@bpcdm.com to share your thoughts.