Easy as 1.0, 2.0, 3
"Web3" is the general term for the next iteration of the world wide web. It is built on the concepts of decentralization and openness.
The idea is that we've had two iterations of the world wide web so far.
The first era began with the birth of the internet. This Web1.0 consisted mainly of static websites owned by companies. With the advent of social media websites in around 2004, we moved to Web2.0, which is what we're most familiar with today. A small handful of companies (e.g. Facebook, Twitter) host platforms for user-generated content, largely paid for by ad revenue.
So Web3 is supposed to be the next step.
But... why "Web3?" Why not "Web3.0?"
It's confusing, yes, but Web3.0 is an older term that refers to the semantic web, whose goal is to make the internet machine-readable. We'd recommend sticking with Web3 to avoid confusion.
Web1.0 - Crawl
Web2.0 - Walk
Web3 - Run
As the concept itself was coined by Ethereum's co-founder (Gavin Wood), let's look at their definition:
Web3 is decentralized: instead of large swathes of the internet controlled and owned by centralized entities, ownership gets distributed amongst its builders and users.
Web3 is permissionless: everyone has equal access to participate in Web3, and no one gets excluded.
Web3 has native payments: it uses cryptocurrency for spending and sending money online instead of relying on the outdated infrastructure of banks and payment processors.
Web3 is trustless: it operates using incentives and economic mechanisms instead of relying on trusted third-parties.