If you are like most people, you didn’t even know there was a Web 1.0, Web 2.0, or a Web 3.0! Web 1.0 was a product of the nineties called the World Wide Web, which consisted of fixed pages stored on servers connected to each other by hyperlinks and was characterized as a read-only experience. Next came Web 2.0, which is what we are all using today. According to Encyclopedia Britannica, Web 2.0 was a “term devised to differentiate the post-dotcom bubble World Wide Web with its emphasis on social networking, content generated by users, and cloud computing from that which came before.” Web 2.0 is characterized by platforms that own your data and profit from it, but you, the user, can create content and post it. However, the content the user creates is still owned by the website owner. Examples include Facebook, Google Maps, YouTube, Twitter, and MediaWiki.
The next step in this evolutionary process, according to the visionaries, is Web 3.0, which theoretically will not require individuals to hand over their personal data to powerhouses like Facebook or Google in order to use their services – their website. Web 3.0 is idealized as a more democratic web because of the decentralization of its structure. In a nutshell, Web 3.0 will “be powered by blockchain technology and artificial intelligence, with all information published on the public ledger of the blockchain.” John Bogna, What is Web3 and How Will It Work?, PCMag (February 15, 2022). The goal of Web 3.0, among others, is to excise the data and content from popular tech companies. Instead of getting permission from Facebook, Google, and Amazon to use their website, who then, in turn, collect our personal data and preferences and then sell it to third parties who bombard us with ads, we would be able to exchange information or currency without going through these popular mega-platforms. Likewise, the data and our preferences would not be stored on Facebook’s, Google’s, or Amazon’s servers, which are susceptible to hackers, it would be saved in the network, which cybersecurity professionals say is more secure. Sounds simple! But what is blockchain technology, and why should a legal professional learn about this new technology?
Simply put, a blockchain is a decentralized collection of data, otherwise known as decentralized ledgers, that is not controlled by any one entity. It is controlled by multiple parties. The unit that holds the information is the block which contains information such as transactions, evidence, or data collection. The information in the block is authenticated by multiple computers in a network (as opposed to one server or database) and then connected to the other blocks forming a blockchain. Because the transactions, evidence, or data are decentralized in multiple blocks, then the information is more secure and less susceptible to hackers. In addition, because the information in the block is authenticated then, it can be “trusted” or relied upon by parties to expedite financial and other legal transactions.
Recently, OpenAI released a new version of ChatGPT. There have been voluminous articles on this new technology demonstrating that there are probably more legal uses of AI on the way. I asked the bot a question about Web 3.0 and lawyers, below is the question and response I received:
Prompt: How will Web 3.0 assist lawyers in the practice of law?
ChatGPT: Web 3.0, also known as the decentralized web, has the potential to greatly assist lawyers in the practice of law by introducing new technologies and tools that can improve efficiency, transparency, and security in legal processes. Here are some ways in which Web 3.0 could benefit lawyers:
- Smart contracts: Smart contracts are self-executing contracts with the terms of the agreement directly written into lines of code. These contracts can be programmed to execute automatically when certain conditions are met. This could greatly streamline legal processes such as contract drafting, negotiation, and execution, reducing the need for lawyers to manually review and execute contracts.
- Decentralized identity management: Web 3.0 allows for decentralized identity management, which means that individuals can have control over their own identities and personal data. This could improve the security of legal transactions and reduce the risk of identity theft and fraud.
- Blockchain technology: Blockchain technology, which is a core component of Web 3.0, could be used to create immutable, tamper-proof records of legal transactions. This could improve the transparency and accuracy of legal processes, making it easier for lawyers to track the progress of cases and ensure that all parties are meeting their obligations.
- Digital signatures: Web 3.0 could facilitate the use of digital signatures, which could replace traditional paper-based signatures. Digital signatures are more secure and could streamline legal processes such as contract signing and document authentication.
Overall, Web 3.0 has the potential to greatly assist lawyers in the practice of law by introducing new technologies and tools that can improve efficiency, transparency, and security in legal processes. However, it is important for lawyers to stay up-to-date with these technologies and understand how they can be integrated into their practice.
Olga V. Mack, Digital Transformation Executive at LexisNexis and current CEO of Parley Pro, believes Web 3.0 and blockchain technology is a great opportunity for lawyers to improve service to their clients in the following practical ways:
- Tracking data and evidence in blockchain applications will assist in discovery and collection of evidence and sharing of that evidence with opposing parties and the court.
- Greater security to protect attorney work product and attorney-client communication. Currently, attorneys are storing their work product and communications with clients in a central database, server, or the cloud. With blockchain applications, data is decentralized, decreasing the likelihood of a computer security breach.
- Using smart contracts to improve efficiency.
Olga Mack, Becoming a Web 3.0 Lawyer, Above the Law (October 24, 2022).
Web 3.0 and blockchain technology are already in use in limited businesses and technological areas. Maryland has embraced blockchain technology. In April 2019, Governor Hogan signed an amendment to the Maryland General Corporation Law allowing corporate records to be maintained using blockchain technology and also permitting a corporation, among other things, to have its records “maintained by or on the company’s behalf,” opening the door for the use of blockchain technology.
There are many articles and publications to help educate lawyers on Web 3.0 and blockchain technology. I have listed a few below for your convenience:
- John Bogna, What is Web3 and How Will It Work?, PCMag (February 15, 2022)
- Jon M. Garon, Legal Implications of a Ubiquitous Metaverse and a Web3 Future, 106 Marq. L. Rev. 163, (2022)
- Olga Mack, Becoming a Web 3.0 Lawyer, Above the Law (October 24, 2022)
- Web3’s Impact on the Practice of Law: Changes Are Already Underway with Wide-ranging Implications, NYU School of Professional Studies (October 26, 2022)
- Andrew Pimlott, Blockchain, Web3, and the Law: Is the legal profession making the most of these new opportunities, JDSupra (November 15, 2022)
Lawyers representing businesses should self-educate themselves on Web 3.0 as your clients will be utilizing this new technology (many are already) and will look to you for leadership. The application of Web 3.0 in the practice of law is a new continuum and something that lawyers can use to improve the flow of contracts, assist with document production and storage, provide more security for confidentiality and conduct transactions (financial, real estate, business) more expeditiously and with more security. New laws and rules will need to be crafted to adjust to this new and exciting environment.