What’s the Difference between Web 3.0 and the Metaverse?
The internet is constantly evolving. Technology is developing at an unprecedented rate. Industries are adapting to a COVID era, in addition to preparing for a post-COVID era. Because of these dynamic changes, new trends have begun to emerge. Two important trends that will most likely shape the next decade or so are: Web 3.0 and the metaverse.
Difference between Web 3.0 and the metaverse
Because the definitions for both Web 3.0 and metaverse are still evolving, there is no unanimous consensus on what both exactly are. Web 3.0 and the metaverse are two fundamentally different concepts developing parallel to–and regularly intersecting with–each other. In this section, we will define and elaborate both notions to highlight their differences.
Web 3.0 is the next iteration of the internet. It is considered a tool for decentralization, as well as the future of governance, data management, and financial transactions. Before we go deeper into Web 3.0, we must first explore its origins.
Origins of Web 3.0: Web 1.0 + 2.0
Web 3.0 can trace its roots back to Web 1.0–the genesis of the internet from the early nineties to early 2000s. When one thinks of Web 1.0, one thinks of dial-up internet on a large, box-sized PC monitor at home. It was the era of first-generation internet browsers like Netscape, stagnant desktop web pages cluttered with information, and the initial wave of interest in e-commerce.
Beginning roughly from 2005 until the present, the years post-Web 1.0 have been labeled as Web 2.0 (popularized by tech advocate Tim O’Reilly). In essence, the internet moved from the home to anywhere in the world in the palm of your hands. It was the predominant form of the internet for the past 15 to 20 years. The primary characteristics that defined Web 2.0 were: mobile devices, social media, cloud computing, and SaaS (software-as-a-service). Additional characteristics include, but not limited to, interactive online experiences, UGC (user-generated content), e-commerce, and the “sharing economy.”
Furthermore, the Web 2.0 era saw the rise of highly centralized tech companies like Facebook and Google, whose products became popular and almost essential tools for our lives. In return for using products for “free,” we allowed these companies to control and monetize our data to the point where we became the product. Web 3.0 proposes to return ownership of that data back to the users.
The development and characteristics of Web 3.0
Web 3.0 has arguably been in development since the creation of decentralized digital assets and the first blockchain protocol–Bitcoin–in 2008. The Web 3.0 era may also have started in late 2020 or early 2021, when cryptocurrencies, NFTs, and the metaverse went mainstream.
Three primary characteristics define Web 3.0:
- Trustless: users of Web 3.0 can engage and interact knowing the information is accurate and verified, without the need to trust a third-party authenticator
- Permissionless: anyone can participate as long as they agree to the terms and rules; therefore, no central authority can bar someone from participation
- Transparent: everything on the network is open-source and accessible, including ownership of digital assets, record of transactions, etc.
Web 3.0 and blockchain
The fundamental driving force behind Web 3.0 is blockchain. Blockchain allows data to be transparent, permissionless, and trustless. Blockchain protocols like Ocean Protocol are providing the “tools for the Web3 data economy.” According to their website, “Ocean Protocol unlocks the value of data.”
Building on the blockchain allows users to truly own their data. Provenance proves ownership of data. Moreover, not only is ownership decentralized, but also governance. Users can own a piece of the blockchain network via cryptocurrency tokens, which also assist in governance. Additionally, smart contracts allow for the authentication of data without the need for a third-party. Lastly, users can choose to monetize their data however they choose.
Consumer behavior influenced by Web 3.0
Web 3.0 has also produced new consumer behaviors. For instance, blockchain protocols like Ethereum are enabling NFTs–an important aspect of Web 3.0. Digital artists can now sell their content as NFTs and directly profit from sales. Citizens of third-world countries struck hard by COVID can earn money from play-to-earn games. Finally, DAOs (decentralized autonomous organizations) are motivating communities to collectively work together towards a goal. For example, recently a DAO organized enough capital to bid on a copy of the U.S. Constitution at a Sotheby’s auction.
Web 3.0 is essentially the solution to the problems of an increasingly centralized Web 2.0. With decentralization as the goal, Web 3.0 is developing on the premise that ownership and control of data will return to users of the internet. Ultimately, Web 3.0 will likely mitigate the power of centralized tech entities–like Facebook–who are doing what they can to retain their control over the internet (e.g. Meta).
The definition of the metaverse is still a highly speculative and debated concept that is evolving. As the technology matures and industry leaders continue to cultivate the idea, utility, applications, and opportunities regarding the metaverse will be made more clear.
As of now, the idea of a metaverse that most people, including Meta (formerly Facebook), agree on is: an embodied internet or immersive virtual world that can be accessed using AR/VR technology to work, play, socialize, as well as create and own digital assets, and engage in other virtual experiences. For a more thorough introduction to and analysis of a potential metaverse, take a good look at venture capitalist Matthew Ball’s ‘Metaverse Primer.’
Interested in learning about how blockchain and other disruptive technologies are shaping the metaverse? Read this article.
How are Web 3.0 and the metaverse related?
Although Web 3.0 and the metaverse are fundamentally different, this section will explain their inextricable connection.
Think of the metaverse as immersive, digital worlds connected by computer networks and servers. It is brimming with potential waiting to be unlocked. Web 3.0 is the key to actualizing a more decentralized and interactive experience in the metaverse. More precisely, core elements of Web 3.0 like decentralization will make communication, usability, and interoperability seamless on the metaverse. Therefore, Web 3.0 and related technologies can be viewed as the building blocks for the metaverse.
Blockchain, specifically non-fungible tokens (NFTs), is one related technology building and connecting Web 3.0 and the metaverse. This is because NFTs essentially represent digital ownership. They shift control of data from centralized entities to the decentralized masses–a key aspect of Web 3.0. Furthermore, the transparency and provenance of NFTs enable decentralized ownership in the metaverse. NFTs ultimately affirm one’s ownership of digital assets on both the metaverse and Web 3.0–nobody else can own or control one’s assets.
Although NFTs have limited applications today (e.g. digital artwork), they will progressively develop. Think of NFTs today as NFT 1.0. Like Web 1.0 in its early years, the utility of an NFT is limited and often misunderstood. The technology will evolve and there will be NFT 2.0, 3.0, etc. In the future, applications like the metaverse will utilize NFTs in various ways. Currently, brands and companies such as Nike and Roblox are already discussing ways to implement NFTs into their metaverses. It is only a matter of time.
In conclusion, like the physical world, the digital world continues to rapidly evolve. Developing ideas, such as Web 3.0 and the metaverse, and related technologies like blockchain will play vital roles in shaping the internet as they grow and intersect.