Two opposing forces appear to be vying for the future of internet connectivity: the decentralized web and super-apps. A successful direction is likely to influence future technological advancements.
So, what does it all mean? Who will triumph in the end? Who gives a damn?
Super apps are mobile apps that combine several features into a single user interface. Multipurpose applications distinguish themselves by their ability to meet the needs of users in a wide range of domains, including communication, travel, food delivery, and social networking. Apps like these are very common in developing countries because they simplify users' access to multiple services without requiring them to install and manage a large number of individual apps.
A super-app is a group of (usually closed) services that work together to give users a smooth and easy experience.
Think about how convenient it would be to have all of your social interactions, purchases, taxi calls, and financial management in one place.
There have been a number of popular, highly effective "super apps" in recent years. Super apps are apps that combine multiple functions into a single interface, such as instant messaging, ridesharing, payment processing, and food delivery.
Tencent's WeChat is a Chinese messaging, social networking, and mobile payment app.
Gojek is an Indonesian application for ordering rides, food, and making payments.
Grab is a Southeast Asian app that facilitates ridesharing, food delivery, and money transfers.
Alibaba Group's Alipay is a popular digital wallet and payment platform in China.
Paytm is an online payment gateway and financial technology company based in India.
Line is a popular messaging app in Japan that includes, among other things, a music streaming service, a payment system, and news updates.
MercadoLibre is an Argentine online marketplace that serves Latin America. It offers a wide range of services, such as traditional e-commerce, online auctions, and safe financial transactions.
Lazada is an online marketplace in Southeast Asia that gives customers many options, such as safe online payments and fast product delivery.
Amazon is a multinational e-commerce company that sells products and offers services like online shopping, payment processing, and product delivery.
Services for transportation and food delivery Uber accepts payments from customers all over the world.
These are just a few of the numerous popular "super apps" available today. Other highly successful apps exist in many countries.
The app's popularity led to the addition of features besides messaging, such as the ability to book hotels, make payments, play games, ask for rides, talk to doctors, and more.
Apple, Amazon, Meta, Google, and Microsoft are just a few of the companies that could create the next big app.
Big Tech would be interested in developing these super-apps because they already have the attention of billions of users and have spent years perfecting the art of maximizing profit and engagement per second of user attention. But it's not quite that simple. It has the potential to spark wars across carefully drawn borders and alert the government to anticompetitive practices.
The Decentralized Web (web 3.0)
The "dWeb," which stands for "decentralized web," is a network of computers that collaborate to host websites and other online services. A centralized server or administrative body is absent in decentralized networks. Instead, the network is made up of many individual computers that share some of their resources with the rest of the system. Because it enables the creation of trustworthy and openly distributed networks, blockchain technology is frequently associated with the decentralized web.
The distinctions between super apps and the decentralized web are profound. The decentralized web is not governed by any central authority, in contrast to centralized platforms such as super apps, which are owned and operated by a single group. Furthermore, super apps typically only provide a subset of services on a single platform, whereas the decentralized web can accommodate a wide range of software types.
The decentralized web is an abstract idea that refers to a movement among many users to change the way the internet works by breaking up the power and data monopolies of many institutions.
Consider a social network in which the users serve as moderators and the content creators benefit. Distributed databases, like the blockchain, don't have a single point of control over the data they hold, so data can be made freely available and shared among many parties.
Consider an alternative currency that is not issued (printed and distributed) by a single entity but is the result of a collaborative effort that ultimately belongs to all of its participants. (Spoiler alert: it exists; it's called Bitcoin), a digital currency with no centralized authority.
The most democratic way to decide how to divide up web resources is through a decentralized framework.
It's also clear that the idea of a decentralized web and super-apps can't go together. Will decentralized web-wide control become more prevalent? Is it preferable to have a centralized body (like Meta) manage technological advancements rather than a dispersed group of individuals? What will happen when Web 3.0 is released?
Although witnessing the conflict thus far would be exciting, it is too early to tell.