The internet began largely as an information resource with static web pages. Early web pages served to reliably store information and allow easy access to that information — abilities that fundamentally changed the way humans lived.
As Bill Gates said in 1996, “The Internet is a revolution in communications that will change the world significantly. Microsoft is betting that the Internet will continue to grow in popularity until it is as mainstream as the telephone is today.” Bill Gates was proven correct, and Web 2.0 enhanced this dynamic into one that was powered by interactive elements and had content that was generated by the users themselves with the use of mobile technologies, social networks and cloud computing.
Once again, this paradigm shift fundamentally altered the way our society was structured and the way we lived our lives. However, more changes are coming as the internet evolves yet again. Read on to find out what Web 3.0 and the metaverse are, and why they should matter to you.
What is Web 3.0?
Web 3.0 represents the next generational development of internet-based technology surrounding the rise of edge computing, decentralized networks, and artificial intelligence. Along with that, “Web 3.0 is more like a system for the users, ideated by the users, in the form of creator-driven platforms.”
The networks based on these technologies allow for the internet to shift toward an environment that is open, trustless, and permissionless. Data, which has been described as the world’s most valuable commodity, is now able to be sold or bartered by its generators without losing ownership of it. The ability to transfer data in intrinsically safe ways using blockchain technology, without a middleman, allows for exponential growth inefficiency. The move to Web 3.0 offers several other key benefits:
- The removal of intermediaries allows value to remain directly in the hands of users and suppliers.
- Decentralized systems allow global villages to address problems that are not common enough to garner localized attention.
- Users are able to own their personal data and retain their digital assets.
- Web activity can become future-proof without the need for a specific platform to support it.
What is the metaverse?
The metaverse is essentially a clever rebranding of the term “cyberspace.” The metaverse refers to virtual reality, augmented reality, and online spaces combined — in other words, the digital world(s).
At present, the metaverse does not have a clear vision of what exactly it entails, but its approaching existence can be seen from two major angles. First, the ever-increasing amount of time that people spend in digital spaces and the importance that people place on their digital activities indicate that a desire for a more fully interconnected digital world exists. Second, the large investments by many technology companies and public statements regarding their desire to participate in crafting the metaverse make clear that it will exist more fully soon.
As Wired contributor Kevin Kelly said, “When it’s complete, our physical reality will merge with the digital universe.” The recent move by Facebook to change its name to Meta makes clear just how seriously this tech company takes its efforts in this direction. The benefits the metaverse could offer include:
- Allowing people participating in social networks to feel more connected and humanize the resulting interactions more.
- Enhancing global and remote communication for work and education so people can collaborate more fully.
- Revolutionizing the marketplace so that physical purchases can be selected and experienced digitally.
Why should you care?
All of these emerging technologies may seem like they are simply interesting developments that can be ignored until they become more commonplace. However, it is important to understand that these technologies, by their nature, are controlled by their users. Thus, users who gain proficiency with these technologies first will have more value in these environments than those who adopt their use last. Just as some early investors in cryptocurrencies have experienced life-changing multiplication of their wealth, so, too, the advantages of understanding Web 3.0 and the metaverse can have a significant impact on an individual’s ability to navigate our changing society.
In conclusion, the decentralized and artificial intelligence technologies of Web 3.0 could allow people to use their data to solve problems directly. The metaverse, in turn, has the potential to allow people to fully integrate their physical and digital worlds. Both of these technologies are positioned to fundamentally change how societies operate, and early adopters will benefit the most.