Web 3.0 is the next generation or evolution of the Internet, creating a more decentralised system through blockchain, artificial intelligence (AI), and machine learning technologies. It employs three-dimensional graphics, and enhances connectivity through smart applications. Web3 in Southeast Asia (SEA) would likely be accepted quickly because the region is accelerating its digital transformation and rapidly adopting inclusive digital technologies to improve the social and financial lives of the population there.

The first iteration of the World Wide Web was Web 1.0. It featured static pages and websites with basic functionality and a read-only approach, such as displaying personal information on a page. Web 2.0, which we are currently using, is a more social platform, enabling user-generated and dynamic content, online interactions, and the use of software applications online. Web design and software development improved, creating browsers with responsive web pages.

Web 3.0 seeks to democratise the power of the internet and its infrastructure that has been centralised and monopolised by a few individuals, corporations, and Big Tech companies.

For example, some of the Web3 trends in SEA will probably revolve around decentralised finance (DeFi). It uses peer-to-peer financial networks and emerging technology to offer financial services usually restricted to big banks and other monetary institutions. New DeFi financial technology (fintech) startups will likely evolve to meet the demand for digital payment solutions.

Ideally, regular people using Web 3.0 will be able to send each other money without going through an intermediary. The underlying blockchain technology ensures the documentation of all transactions on a publicly-available distributed ledger, vital for security and easy verifications. These advancements mean users would not have to pay payment-processing fees.

Potential outcomes of the adoption of Web 3.0

One of the expected outcomes of the launch of Web 3.0 is that websites will be 3D-oriented and have more responsive web designs. Using AI, apps will provide customised experiences and superior, more detailed information than ever before.

The Internet of Things (IoT) already shows the potential of smart connectivity that can be expanded upon with Web 3.0. Adopting 5G technology will also boost interconnectivity by increasing data speeds and reducing latency.

Furthermore, blockchain will enhance connectivity due to technological advances, and AI will figure out our individual preferences, boosting the quality and speed of internet searches. That means there will be faster and more personalised online browsing experiences.

Some of the significant developments for industries will be in augmented (AR), virtual (VR), and mixed (MR) reality. Meta, previously known as Facebook, announced the development of the metaverse, a futuristic and immersive virtual world where users can interact and engage in trade. The metaverse is supposed to be decentralised, aligning well with Web 3.0’s goal.

Other developments for various sectors will be in the previously mentioned IoT, AI, machine learning, DeFi, robotics, and telemedicine. Having decentralised platforms in a particular industry with publicly available information can bring transparency and make it possible to verify the origin of products. For example, manufacturers might be able to spot inefficiencies in the supply chain and find solutions faster. Plus, blockchain-based tracking systems can authenticate data for the healthcare sector.

Blockchain-based gaming is also becoming a significant factor, employing a Play-to-Earn (P2E) model, whereby players can trade digital assets. Non-fungible tokens (NFTs)—blockchain data units associated with digital files—enable gamers to develop, acquire, or sell in-game virtual assets earning cryptocurrency in exchange. Game players might also receive rewards for completing in-game tasks in the form of tokens. They can then trade the NFTs for crypto.

Criticism and challenges for Web 3.0

Despite the potential benefits of Web3, critics believe the proposed technology and its presumed advantages are based on hype and may not bring the results people expect. In addition, the cost of deploying the new tech and supportive infrastructure may be too high, especially for less developed countries, such as those in Southeast Asia. Startups may also struggle to adapt and integrate emerging technologies due to insufficient investment and support from the regional governments.

Regardless, other technologies, such as cryptocurrency, were dismissed as fads but have continued developing for several years. The same outcome may happen for Web3.

The main challenges Web 3.0 faces are unsuspecting data collection by AI, protecting personal data, and guaranteeing privacy in an intrusive digital world. For instance, in the past, Consumer Watchdog revealed that Google and Amazon’s voice assistants were collecting unauthorised personal information for future marketing activities. There is also a vital need to ensure safe user experiences in immersive worlds and guard users against cybersecurity threats like ransomware.

The adoption of Web3 in Southeast Asia is expected to be easy because of the tech-savvy population, government support for digitisation, and the continued use of blockchain throughout the region. Web3 trends in SEA will likely lean toward tech startups receiving investments to develop Web 3.0 based solutions for the region.