Brian Berman
Date Published
Apr 18, 2023

The case for lowercasing ‘web3’

Goodbye, ‘Web3.’ Welcome, web3! The decentralized internet is here to stay, and how we capitalize the word ‘web3’ impacts how we perceive it. Bring on the age of lowercase ‘web3.’

If you’ve read or written about the decentralized internet, you may have noticed a lack of consensus on how it’s stylized. Folks can’t seem to agree on whether it’s Web3, or Web3.0, or Web 3.0 and so forth. The amalgamations of capital letters, spaces and decimals only further convolute what some already perceive to be a nebulous concept. But why not simply web3 as a universal standard?

“It’s new and complex,” some might gesture with a wavering hand. “It’s still early days,” others dismiss. But to reinforce such ideas is a disservice to the immense progress that has already been made with the decentralized web. To add context: the very first iPhone was released in 2007. The Bitcoin whitepaper was published not long after in 2008. Decentralized blockchain technology has been around about as long as the first device to popularize walking around with the world’s entire recorded history in your pocket. And while we’re still indeed in the early days of figuring out the ramifications of having constant access to them, we don’t write about capital S Smartphones.

It’s high time we all agree on web3 as the label of the decentralized internet. We can turn to history to see why it isn’t a radical idea.

The evolution of ‘internet’

Language changes over time. Not only since the time Beowulf was written, but within our lifetimes too. Words that are now commonplace were once wildly novel, even if they were introduced a decade or two ago. A recurring phenomenon in the English language is the tendency for some proper nouns (nouns that are capitalized, referring to specific people, places or things) to eventually become common nouns, which are lowercase and more generalized.

One example you’re already familiar with is the word internet. As the internet started gaining adoption in the ‘90s, it was considered a novel medium, and therefore we capitalized “Internet,” and even “Web,” indicating its newness. For a world accustomed to telephone, radio, and television at the time, the internet could have easily been dismissed as noise. And by many, it was – famously, a 1995 article in Newsweek predicted that the internet would be a passing fad. Needless to say, that sentiment aged like milk.

As the years went on, more and more people began to view the internet as an integral part of life – a utility, even. Consequently, the capitalized form of the word came to be seen as somewhat outdated and out of touch with contemporary usage. As early as 2004, online publications like began to drop the capitalization. About a decade later, the Associated Press formalized a rule to no longer capitalize “internet” or “web.” The New York Times and countless others quickly followed suit.

For a revolutionary technology redesigning how humans interact and communicate with one another, does it really make sense to wait for traditional media institutions to standardize “web3” decades from now? Vitalik Buterin penned the Ethereum whitepaper in 2013. The term “web3” has been around since 2014. Countless applications have been built on decentralized protocols. It’s undeniable that a vibrant movement has materialized in the medium that is web3.

The folks building web3 should set its naming convention instead of waiting for the press to deem it safe to lowercase the next internet. Equally, we needn’t wait for time to do the trick either.

‘Web3’ is not a brand

Another pattern in the English language is, over time, the commodification of brand names that were once proper nouns. You might reach for a bandaid when you scrape your knee, maybe an aspirin if it really hurts. You probably own a jacket with a zipper on it. You’ve almost certainly used a building’s escalator at some point in your life.

All of these terms were once strictly brand names represented as proper nouns: Band-Aid, Aspirin, Zipper, and Escalator. There are dozens more terms that have become common nouns like rollerblade, frisbee, or laundromat. Time has rendered these proper nouns into generally accepted common nouns in dictionaries.

But “web3” is not a brand. It’s not a company that must insist on its product’s capitalization lest it become genericized – much like when Google demanded that folks stop ‘googling,’ to not diminish its trademark.

In contrast, web3 is decentralized. It’s owned and impacted by everyone. The builders of web3 are on a mission to create protocols and systems that make the internet better, often by rejecting the power consolidation, vendor lock-in, and user exploitation that has become characteristic of the legacy web. When we intentionally lowercase web3, we reject the proper noun treatment reserved for the Googles or the Amazons of the world.

Join the ‘web3’ revolution

Edge & Node has been intentionally stylizing the word as web3 for over two years now. Contributors to The Graph’s publications have done the same. Others across the internet have expressed the same sentiment. Edge & Node has been using lowercase web3 intentionally because we believe how we use language matters.

We believe that web3 is not a fleeting moment. It’s certainly not Web3.0 on the verge of Web3.1 or Web4. The vision of the decentralized web has been described enough without needing to fall into a pattern of versioning conventions as if it were a single software.

It also helps to create a distinction from internet pioneer Tim Berners-Lee’s use of “Web 3.0” for his vision of the Semantic Web – a machine-readable internet. The laudable idea has seen 10 million out of the internet’s billion-plus websites implement machine-readable markup language. However, as Ethereum nears 100 million non-zero-balance addresses, it’s fair to say that “web3” should exclusively refer to the decentralized internet, to avoid confusion.

Let’s further reduce the confusion in terminology. Once and for all, let’s give the Shift button a break and agree on something consistent:

The Edge & Node Web3* Style Guide:

  • Lowercase web3 in all instances, unless used at the beginning of a sentence
    • or a capitalized title ;)
  • Never place a space between “web” and “3”
  • Never add decimalization (i.e., “Web3.0”)
  • For heaven’s sake, cool it with the tired “web4” and “web5” memes

After all, web3 is no passing fad.

Follow Brian for more musings on web3 and The Graph at @bermchain on Twitter.

About Edge & Node

Edge & Node is a software development company solving the world’s biggest challenges with decentralized technology. Founded by the initial team behind blockchain data indexing protocol The Graph, Edge & Node has extensive experience in developing and maintaining open-source software, tools, and protocols as well as enabling builders and entrepreneurs to create and launch unstoppable applications. The team is dedicated to the proliferation of web3 applications that decentralize digital infrastructure, leverage market-based incentives, and revolutionize peer to peer coordination.

In 2022, Edge & Node unveiled the House of Web3, the world's first web3 co-creation space, situated in the historic Presidio of San Francisco. As a hub of innovation, the House of Web3 harnesses the power of decentralization to ideate and develop solutions addressing the shared challenges of the world. The House of Web3 unites a collective of visionary web3 creators, including builders, researchers, inventors, investors, and partners who are weaving the code of tomorrow into the very fabric of humanity.

To keep up with all things Edge & Node, follow us on Twitter, Linkedin, Github TikTok and Instagram. Follow the House of Web3 on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook. As we continue to grow, we're always on the lookout for exceptional talent to join our team. Together, let's pioneer a revolutionary digital landscape and shape a brighter future for all.

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