Back in the mid-90s, the World Wide Web had just become a household term. The now-primitive, familiar whirr of a dial-up modem would grant personal computers access to an internet service provider (ISP), connecting users to a then-considered wide database of knowledge.
Many people knew that the internet would become a prolific part of our lives, while others believed it would be nothing more than a passing fad. Such volumes of information had never before been so readily accessible and expandable. Furthermore, the concept that so much of our lives would exist within the confines of a non-tangible world was a hard pill for many to swallow.
We now stand at the precipice of Web3 — a digital era that, like its much earlier iteration, is presenting new ways for creators, brands and everyday people to share information, communicate, work, build and collaborate. However, ideas revolving around an immersive virtual world, blockchain technology and NFTs have understandably not been met warmly by everyone.
As we’ve seen in all past paradigm shifts, humans tend to recoil when they’re faced with something that is novel, unknown or difficult to understand. Yes, the metaverse will one day change everything as we know it. But here are some of the key reasons why you shouldn’t fear what’s to come.
Like always, technology will catch up
If you time-travelled back to 1995 and told someone that we’d one day be able to access a repository of immersive, real-time content through the lens of a wireless headset, they probably would have laughed in your face. Or if they were a bit kinder, they might have told you that such capabilities were a pipe dream (or that stuff like that only existed in popular sci-fi novels, like Snow Crash).
Time has passed many of us by and we’re now at the stage in time where none of this is part of science fiction lore anymore. We’re finally living in the future — and this idea can indeed be quite scary. Many spectators have feared that we aren’t prepared for something like the metaverse.
If we consider how far we’ve come today, however, we can truly gain sight of our propensity to adapt to technological change. As a collective society, we’ve already overcome a long list of past hesitancies that have arisen from rapid advancements over time. Examples include adopting personal computers into our homes, sharing our personal data via social media platforms and acclimating to remote work during the COVID-19 pandemic.
With that being said, the internet as we currently know it (Web2) hasn’t yet been designed for constant, uninterrupted peer-to-peer communication in real-time. The computational infrastructure needed for us to have an experience like the ones we’ve conceptualised in Snow Crash or Ready Player One will need to be at least 1000 times stronger than the one we currently have in place, according to Raja Koduri, SVP and GM of Accelerated Computing Systems and Graphics at Intel.
Intel, as a prime example, has started working on a more metaverse-ready infrastructure that has been broken down into three levels: a ‘meta intelligence’ layer, which focuses on a unified programming model and open software development tools (allowing developers to more easily launch complex applications) — a ‘meta ops’ layer, which will better define the infrastructure layer that will ensure power delivers on a global scale — and a ‘meta compute’ layer, which will serve as the main power hub to fuel all metaverse experiences.
An example of why these technologies must scale was recently shown in a demonstration of the popular game Hitman 3. While the game struggled to run smoothly on a recent Intel laptop and utilised nearly 100% of its CPU and GPU, it was met with much better performance when running with Intel’s ‘meta ops’ tech.
Like it has before, technology will eventually catch up. We aren’t exactly sure how long it will take for us to live inside a more embodied internet (Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg believes it will take us at least another decade for us to get there), but once we reach some sort of virtual promised land, you can rest assured that most of us will have the right levels of support and readiness.
We’ll see increased security through blockchain technology
In Web2, intermediaries like Google, Microsoft and Facebook have been trusted to keep users and their information safe through SSL certificates. While SSL has come a long way and encountered multiple revisions to become a core form of online security, it has also encountered its share of vulnerabilities over time.
Many experts believe that blockchain technology is the best replacement for SSL, given that it has more security features and is much better at preserving metadata used in online communication. It also provides much more reliable authentication of any parties involved, without any passwords needed to support the underlying infrastructure. Since blockchain will be the backbone of Web3, it will introduce a layer of governance that will run on top of our current internet, allowing for individuals who don’t know each other to settle agreements online.
Blockchain technology is best understood as a virtual public ledger that allows assets to be tracked, owned and traded transparently. Each “block” in the blockchain holds a number of transactions — and each time a new transaction occurs, a record is added to every contributor’s blockchain ledger. It has been created to let people — particularly people who don’t know or trust one another — securely share valuable data. Blockchains are able to store data using sophisticated math and software rules, making it extremely difficult for hackers to manipulate it.
Once a record is created and added to the blockchain, it’s hard to change or alter it. Constant checks made by the network also ensure the authenticity of any data created in the chain. The fact that the blockchain is decentralised also allows it to run autonomously, meaning that no singular authority wields power over it.
NFTs are virtual assets representing images, songs, videos, in-game inventory or other digital items. Through the blockchain, they can be traded or collected as digital assets that hold intrinsic value. While some have discovered value in the newfound cultural value of NFTs, many others view them as financial instruments. In all, NFTs will become more important as we see the growth of the creator’s economy and the burgeoning ability for users to carry their virtual goods across different platforms.
At the core of Web3 is distributed applications that will be built using the Ethereum blockchain. So far, most early metaverse platforms (such as Decentraland and Somnium Space) run on blockchain technology — a decentralised database that is shared across a vast computer network. Nobody has to go through a “trusted party” to use these platforms and each user has a copy of a distributed ledger containing the same data, allowing the technology to ensure maximum security for each user of these platforms.
These early examples of decentralised communities are leading the way. As one of the first platforms to get into the emerging online real estate business, Decentraland recently sold for a whopping $2.43 million USD.
In all, blockchain will add another layer of security to the internet and reinvent how data is stored and managed online. This should give many the peace of mind that activity in the metaverse will be much more safe and secure than it’s been on centralised platforms.
Brands will have greater ownership over their virtual spaces
Web2, which was first named in a 1999 magazine article, would see the development of easier-to-use tools that would essentially give all users the ability to create content online. While centralised platforms (such as Facebook and Google) have made it easy for people, brands and creators to purchase their online presence, it’s unfortunately been at the expense of their rights to ownership.
In crypto, ownership means that stakeholders quite literally own every aspect of a project (including all smart contracts, assets and future value accrual mechanisms that may arise). In Web2, this concept isn’t offered to those who create profiles on centralised platforms (such as Facebook, Google, Twitter, YouTube, Spotify or other supergiant hubs). Every piece of content or data uploaded to these platforms offers proprietary gain to Big Tech. It’s even widely known that once you upload anything to Facebook, it no longer belongs to you.
NFTs offer owners an entitlement to a digital or physical asset (such as a piece of artwork or music) or a brand experience (such as a backstage pass or exclusive merchandise) — something unforeseen on the current state of the internet. The value of an NFT lies in the blockchain-powered recognition that uniquely represents the asset it is attached to.
This means that any kind of digital asset that is offered as an NFT will offer brands and creators greater ownership than any centralised, Web2 platform is currently capable of enabling. Not only will this create a new digital economy — but it will also ensure that the user experience is put first.
We’ll see an expansion of the economy and job market
As the technology of Web3 will involve a decentralised internet powered by blockchains, this will give it an enormous list of use cases involving NFTs, DeFi and cryptocurrencies.
However, unlike previous phases of the web, the management and ownership of Web3’s data and platforms will be distributed. This will change the way people think about work, provide a massive expansion of the online job market and have massive implications on the future of employment. Couple these pivotal changes with what many have coined as the post-pandemic “Great Resignation” of 2021, and you have a wide expanse of global talent that is seeking new opportunities for greater autonomy, change and growth.
The nature of shared ownership means that all Web3 projects will require users to be more supportive and inclusive. Julia Lipton, the founder of Awesome People Ventures, believes that: “Given the nature of shared ownership, people’s success is closely tied to the quality of contributors in their network. This dynamic creates a more collaborative work environment.”
The nature of DAOs (Distributed Autonomous Organisations) also means that all financial transactions and decision-making are community-led and decentralised. This suggests that we may see the formation of a new freelance economy, where creators will one day be able to work for multiple organisations and receive multiple streams of income on their own terms.
However, unlike the popular gig economy of Web2, creators will actually be able to build and own parts of their chosen marketplace — leading to a more non-linear way of earning. Workers will also be further incentivised to support one another in communal systems, leading to vectors where it may be easier for them to raise money and scale organisations more organically.
Current branding initiatives might show gaping-mouthed individuals sporting VR headsets and pointing aimlessly into the air. However, the rise of the metaverse won’t just be about living inside a virtual universe that entertains and stimulates us.
It also won’t just be about detaching us from our “real world”, or about making the current state of our internet more immersive. It will be much more about creating better user experiences, giving creators more control over their work and allowing brands to make money in new, more efficient ways. While Web2 was about keeping assets within singular spaces, Web3 will be about enabling users to take back control and empowering them to have greater sovereignty over their data. Users in Web3 won’t just be spectators — they’ll be owners as well.
At the end of the day, this idea that this will redefine the status quo isn’t something to fear — it’s something that should one day give all of us an incentive to participate.