The Internet as we know it is evolving all of the time. Take the original, text-based dial-up version of yesteryear and contrast it with today’s network of mobile applications and 5G connectivity that couldn’t be more different from the days when AOL and Ask Jeeves dominated web search.
Tomorrow’s internet will also be a very different beast. Today, much of the talk around the future of the internet revolves around two words – “Web3” and the “metaverse” – yet they are also very different concepts.
Some use the terms interchangeably, but they’re not the same thing. While neither idea has been fully formulated, we can say that Web3 is a vision of the future of the internet. At the same time, metaverse refers to the way this new internet will integrate seamlessly into people’s daily lives.
What Is The Metaverse?
The term is admittedly still vague because the very concept of the metaverse is still being defined. But what has emerged is an idea that the metaverse will be extremely reliant on technologies such as augmented reality, virtual reality and mixed reality, which enable users to have virtual experiences in this brave new world. For this vision of the metaverse to become a reality, it’ll be necessary for these technologies to become ubiquitous in our lives. If that happens, we could find ourselves living in a mixed reality world where everything from work and play to gaming and dating happens in a virtual setting.
While other technologies, including blockchain, cryptocurrency and NFTs, are also key elements of the metaverse, they’re not necessarily essential to it. Instead, AR, VR and MR will enable this prevailing vision. In the case of AR and VR, both require users to don specialised hardware such as a headset or glasses to immerse themselves in virtual experiences. VR headsets are the most immersive device, typically blocking out the user’s entire physical surroundings. In contrast, AR glasses and headsets work by overlaying information atop the real world, integrating virtual objects with the present reality.
What Is Web3?
Web 2.0 is considered to be the second generation of the Internet, which emerged from the older form of static, text-based websites that were only accessible via a PC. Instead, web 2.0 is a version of the internet. User-generated content came to the fore, accessible on mobile devices and with people’s data almost fully controlled by big tech firms such as Google, Facebook and Twitter.
The next evolution will be Web3, a newer and more decentralised version of the Internet that’s based on the blockchain. It promises to give users greater privacy with full control of their data and no censorship. Annie Zhang, host of the Hello Metaverse podcast, defines Web3 as a building block of the metaverse that will allow the development of a more utopian version of the internet that we know today.
Today’s metaverse builders exemplify this theory of Web3 as a building block of the metaverse. For example, bit.Country is building a metaverse platform that will enable anyone to design and launch their own virtual world. While Bit.Country itself is the actual metaverse – a virtual, immersive 3D world that’s accessible using VR headsets or AR glasses, and it is building atop a Web3 infrastructure layer known as the Metaverse.Network encompasses a decentralised blockchain that plays host to its user’s metaverses.
Each of the metaverses within Bit.Country’s Continuum (a map of metaverse) can be thought of as sovereign, virtual worlds with their own landscapes, cryptocurrency-based economies and governance. However, they’re linked to all of the other metaverses on Bit.Country, they’re also completely independent entities, owned by different users who’re free to build them out as they desire.
The Continuum itself is built on Web3 infrastructure – a decentralised blockchain underpinned by the platform’s native cryptocurrency token NUUM, which is used to pay for transactions, gas fees, and voting on governance issues. In other words, Bit.Country has built its metaverse on Web3, but it is not Web3 itself.
What Does The Future Hold?
Proponents of Web3 believe that it will one day replace Web 2.0 entirely, but that remains to be seen. Instead, a more likely future will see Web3 co-exist alongside Web 2.0. So while Google and Facebook might feel the heat from emerging, decentralised competitors, they will most likely stick around.
The fact is, Web 2.0 and its centralisation does work. For example, Twitter helps people communicate and broadcast their message at scale to millions of users in a way that no decentralised platform can compete with. The same goes for Uber, which does a great job aggregating demand and matching it with supply. Even in crypto, the biggest companies are centralised platforms such as Binance and Coinbase, which take service fees on each cryptocurrency transaction they process. Both platforms are popular because they have far more liquidity, allowing them to support more kinds of tokens than decentralised exchanges can do.
Whenever game-changing new technologies first emerge, proponents love to proclaim a revolution in the making. However, what actually happens is that these new technologies tend to merge with those they aim to replace. Email, for instance, is a protocol that was firmly established during the Web 1 era, yet it persists as an important part of our lives even today. So it seems safe to say Web3 will co-exist alongside Web 2.0 for some time to come.
The metaverse must also overcome many challenges before it goes mainstream. One of the biggest issues to overcome is accessibility. Wearing a headset can be an exhausting experience, with VR motion sickness supposedly far worse than the Zoom fatigue many internet users complain about today. There are other concerns, with doctors warning that VR headsets might negatively affect people’s eyesight following long-term use. VR and AR technology also remains very expensive and will need to be more affordable to see widespread adoption.
That said, what we’ve seen of Web3 and the metaverse provides a clear glimpse of the future because virtual worlds such as Bit.Country have already shown that multiple industries beyond just gaming and concerts stand to benefit from the evolution of these technologies.
Web3 and the metaverse are still just proofs of concept, but there can be no denying that both will play a very important role in the next evolution of the internet.