By Kylie Davis
One of the biggest technology trends coming down the pipe is the rise of Web 3.0 which is going to significantly change how we use, engage with and trust all technology – not just proptech.
If like me, you were blissfully unaware that the web had model numbers*, it helps to review the past and current iterations of the web to understand this idea better.
Web 1.0 was the first generation – when the internet started. I remember this well. My husband, who was then IT Editor of The Australian, told me about this awesome new thing called the internet and webpages. He sat me in front of our computer, and for 15 minutes I watched a page painstakingly appear pixel by pixel. This, he told me, would change the world, and I should immediately learn something called HTML.
When the page finally did appear, it was text, some imagery that made Microsoft WordArt look tame and things called hyperlinks. I immediately clicked one and the whole wait-for-15-minutes thing started again while the modem screamed. Suffice it to say it left me somewhat unimpressed.
However, Web1.0 did improve significantly and quickly thanks to early search engines including Netscape (remember that?!) AOL and Google and soon it was possible to see pages put up by educational institutions, encyclopaedia companies, early adopter businesses and enthusiasts within less than an hour.
But the content was static, text-driven and the hyperlinks sent you down a ridiculous number of rabbitholes which took quite a while to reveal. To this end, Web1.0 really just offered us a new way to research and read – at our desktops. Like a magazine – but slower and much less portable.
Web 2.0 is where the internet became real for most of us. Internet speeds increased which meant click-throughs became faster, and the technology moved from being static posting of content like online brochures to interactive platforms where we engaged and created content. Web 2.0 is where the giants of tech came onto the scene, roped it, branded it and made it their own.
Google rose to dominate search but also images and mapping, and Facebook, Apple, Amazon all took leaps forward. Disruption started to impact business. Emailing came into its own, we started taking photos with our phones and banking online, posting property listings online rather than just in print. This era splits into Web 2.0 which was largely desktop-based and what I’m calling Web 2.5 which is when mobile phone computing truly took off putting computers into all of our pockets and increasing adoption exponentially.
But what unites the Web2 period overall is that this was (and still is) the age of centralised authority. While this generation of internet made it super easy for us to do more things online and contribute and share content and digitising our lives, the way we have been doing all of this has been under the auspices of big businesses and institutions.
The hallmarks of Web2 are therefore this dominance of big business and the contract between user and provider – that users provide content or enjoy the utility of platforms, but it’s the obligation of the providers to make sure it is safe to transact, ensure platforms and transactions are secure, safeguard data and be worthy of the trust invested in them.
And in a data environment that is constantly changing, sharing, accelerating, and generally going viral, trying to maintain levels of safety as an authoritative protector is a little like changing the tyres on a Ferrari during a hotly contested Formula 1 Race while the car is still hitting mach speeds.
This explains where we find ourselves today. We’re in a world of cyber risk, reputational destruction, and data breaches that the bricks-and-mortar authority of business is slow, cumbersome and ill-equipped to deal with – even in Silicon Valley. So the tipping point we’re getting close to is that our control mechanisms for managing our data are no longer the right tools to support the future growth of the internet and what comes next.
Enter Web 3.0.
Web 3.0 as the third generation of the web is going to be decentralised open to everyone and built with a bottom up design that is collaborative and democratised, rather than top-down which is authoritative and centralised.
Tech boffins claim it will work as a network of meaningfully linked data based on values, technical parameters and principles. With Web 3.0 you’ll be in charge of your own data and transactions with everything recorded – and encrypted – on blockchains that are transparently recorded and easily searched.
With Web 3.0, we’ll have control of all of our own personal data and be able to decide who we share it with and the degree to which we share. Monetising our individual data also becomes possible.
If you think this all sounds extremely complicated and exhausting, that’s okay. I’m totally with you. Remember, I was the girl who was unconvinced about Web 1.0 when she first copped eyes on it.
But one of the most common questions I get asked in proptech is for permission to dismiss blockchain. As a real estate agent or property owner, do you need to worry about it? Surely it will never fly – it’s just crazy currency speculation some weird voodoo around unimaginable security that seems really really really hard. And dodgy. Look at the level of apparent fraud at FTX!
And yes, all of these things are currently true. But that’s why I also like this framework of generational web thinking. It helps us see the story of what we have adopted so far, the challenges we’ve overcome and the challenges yet to come.
History tells us that whenever authoritarian regimes collapse, democracy usually ensues. So it’s highly like to go in technology – that when the burden of authority is too heavy to carry, the load will be divided and democratised.
We’re starting to see this already in proptech. Consider it in this light – that Proptech1.0 was the early portals, while Proptech2.0 has been the long period of technology that has removed friction and improved efficiency for real estate agents, property managers and property owners.
But in all of these, the onus has been on institutions and real estate businesses to own, store and manage data and security, even if that is in the cloud. The responsibility is still ours as businesses within an industry and as an industry, we’re not in great shape to really manage that because our reputation has never been huge in the trustworthy stakes. Plus there’s a lot of stuff proptech doesn’t do because at the end of the day, there are issues around authority and information hand off that makes it clunky and slow.
So Proptech3.0 is where we start to see the rise of the end user apps that genuinely work to support homeowners, renters, buyers and sellers based on their own needs, rather than through the lens of a service-providing agent or PM. And this is what we need to get ready for.
In Proptech 3.0 our actions as agents will become both individually more scrutable and collectively more powerful. It will mean that we are accountable and responsible for our behaviour in the chain while our clients are more empowered and informed than ever before. It will connect us more easily to aligned industries and service providers – like banks, legals, conveyancing, insurance, strata, facilities management – the borders that demarcate us will start to come down while the speed of connection gets ever faster, safer and transparent.
It will make some things easier. It’s likely some things will become slightly more complicated. But everything will be different and yes, blockchain will be a thing, even if right now we’re not completely sure what it looks like.
To prepare ourselves, we simply need to keep an open mind and look at the opportunities Proptech3.0 presents to build trust, deliver ever-better services, engage more wholeheartedly and focus on the values underpinning relationships.
Seeking to dominate or be the central authority of transactions will consign us to whatever the Web3.0 call of “ok Boomer” is. Such is the nature of generational change.
*I research and comment on the world of proptech but this does not mean I know everything in tech. In fact, I am often rather slow and cynical and regularly struggle to get my wifi printer to work.