The terms “metaverse” and “Web3″ have continued to be used interchangeably in techy conversations and presentations. While they both point to a vision of the future on the internet, not everyone understands the basics of both ideologies. It’s important that the two fantastic concepts are not combined or become a source of confusion around how we want to continue building the internet.
The name “metaverse”– was gotten from the 1992 sci-fi novel “Snow Crash.” ‘Metaverse’, is a coinage that came into the formation from the words ‘meta’ which means beyond, and the word ‘verse’ which connotes a back-formation from the word universe and is more of a vision than a concrete reality. It is described as an online 3D virtual environment through conventional personal computing, as well as virtual and augmented reality headsets. Many people imagine it to be a 3D immersive world that is synchronous, persistent and unlimited in concurrent users. It is a digitally native place where we will spend the majority of our time working, learning, playing, entertaining as the future of the internet continue to advance.
Because the metaverse hasn’t really taken form yet due to the fact that it isn’t more realistic than it is, feeling towards it is still vague and theoretical. While some technologists want to jump on it and anchor the vision like Meta’s new focus and near future ambitions, the reality is the metaverse rests on numerous input, participation and collaboration to truly take form. It should encompass the confluence of different iterative efforts and technological advancements that have no discrete ends and elements.
Web3 on the other hand presents a far more specific model of the future of the internet, as it provides clear solutions to specific shortcomings of the Web 2 internet. It is a reaction fusion to form by ecosystems that social platforms like Facebook and YouTube have created, causing people to have their privacy breached, data extracted and finally ability to control the content they create. Web 3 overturns that model because the issues of ownership and control are addressed directly. Web3, a potential new decentralized version of the internet based on blockchain. By building on the blockchain, data is openly distributed and collectively owned by peer-to-peer networks. As a result, users own their data, peer-to-peer transactions can bypass middlemen and data lives on the blockchain as a public good that anyone can contribute to and monetize. According to reports new and exciting consumer behaviours are starting to emerge as a result of Web3 initiatives. Creators can now sell their content as non-fungible tokens (NFT), play games that help people make a livelihood as well as a collective community-organized investing.
While Web3 is presenting the possibilities of transforming how we can manage data, governance and exchange money, however certain limitations like the slowness associated with clearing blockchain transactions restricts its use and application. Although the potential and newly decentralized model of the internet sounds really enticing, some impracticality actually messes with it. So, while it’s arguable that Web 3 is a critical building block for the metaverse, well it is only one component of a larger sum.
Also by acknowledging the fact that Web3 and decentralization are building blocks for the metaverse, opportunities are opened up for various categories of contributors rather than antagonizing them. When Meta first publicized its near future ambition for the metaverse, an outcry that Big Tech companies will dominate the virtual platforms and such platforms were forced into operating a closed ecosystem. People somewhat missed that Meta’s focus and near future ambition was largely pushing towards hardware that’s still in its early days of creation today. Facebook is trying fix the problem of immersion, which it actually an important one. I mean come to think about it. The pandemic taught us to attend meetings via Zoom and for the past 2 years that has been our practice and we are becoming worn out. How would it feel wearing a virtual reality headset all day while smashing the same goals? Interesting right.
If the goal is to spend more and more time in the virtual world enjoyably playing games, conducting business, socializing, shopping and carrying out other opportunities the virtual world present, we need virtual interfaces that are proven to be more immersive, natural and expressive in nature. Well taking a second look, Meta’s developments in AR/VR technologies do not undermine the work of Web3 or its decentralization. In fact, the best-case scenario is that people start building Web3 applications within the emergent 3D form factors of AR/VR and holographic projections.
Another essential reason why Web3 will superced Web2 greatly is that it takes quite an effort to imagine such a reality come to light. Despite certain inadequacies that have plagued Web2, there are still a number of products that function efficiently without dabbling into the blockchain. Platforms like Discord or Twitch continue to give people the opportunity to communicate and broadcast at scale and in real-time. Companies like Uber or DoorDash are still functioning effectively on the demand and supply model.
Depending on how you see it, centralization actually works. OpenSea, one of the largest NFT marketplace, is fundamentally a centralized marketplace that enables transactions via blockchain. Coinbase is another practical example of a centralized exchange platform that enables transactions via cryptocurrencies. In both cases, these companies for a fee serve as intermediaries for transactions just like any Web2 marketplace would do.
While these hybrid products don’t ultimately conform to the decentralization ideology or model, they serve as critical “bridging products” that can drive the adoption of Web3 elements to a large extent by appealing to the mainstream. In a similar way that Snap Stories was perceived as a product meant for teens product while struggling for adoption with older users, Meta’s adoption of Stories reshaped that ideology as a mainstream product for all demographics.
Naturally, when new technologies emerge, people perceive them as a revolution or a change from the norm. But what history has made clear is that these new technologies tend to build on existing ones. A typical example is emails, which is still largely a part of our day to day lives, yet it was a protocol invented sometime in the Web1 era of the internet. This is all to say that, there needs to be a focus on the interplay between different operating models and how they can be marched to deliver better realities rather than focus on their differences and “choosing aside.” While the latest development of Web 3 and efforts to make use of cases of the blockchain mainstream is a huge leap forward in our progress in making a better internet, it’s simply one component and it should not neglect other complementary initiatives.
According to Jon Lai, a GP at investment firm a16z reveals a grounded perspective on the development metaverse in an episode of “Hello Metaverse.” Lai reveals that “There’s a lot of building yet to be done. The blockchain, play-to-earn, different types of jobs, virtual economics, all of that are like stepping stones [as well as] UGC [user-generated content] platforms and scaling content creation … it won’t be this shining product launch from some company who just says, ‘Hey! We’ve been working on this for 10 years and boom, here’s the metaverse’. It’s going to be the cumulative sum of a bunch of different companies working in completely different spaces on completely different products.”