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Key Differences Between Web 3.0 and the Metaverse

Key Differences Between Web 3.0 and the Metaverse

2022-11-08 | 5m

Since its inception back in the early 1990s, the Internet has developed and evolved into one of the most useful tools technology has ever created, granting near-instant access to the collective knowledge of humanity no matter where you are in the world. But just like any other technological creation, the Internet is due for an update to further enhance its utility and better suit our modern needs, and we are now at the precipice of a whole new way to experience the World Wide Web.

At this current juncture, two different models have moved into the spotlight in recent years: on the one hand, we have Web 3.0, and on the other, we have the Metaverse. In this article, we’ll explore what exactly these two concepts are, how they differ from one another, and how they can shape the future of the Internet.

The Dawn of Web 3.0

To understand the advent of Web 3.0, it would be helpful to take a brief look back at the trajectory the Internet has taken over the past three decades. Web 1.0 first came about in the early ‘90s and continued through to roughly 2004. Since the Internet was still at an early age, websites were mainly considered “read-only,” with most web users simply browsing information from websites hosted by a myriad of companies.

A little after the turn of the millennium, however, social media platforms became the talk of the town, launching the Internet into Web 2.0, which placed a focus on not only browsing but also posting and contributing. Thus began the “read and write” phase of the World Wide Web, where users could create content that would live on the servers. Despite contributions, however, user-created content remained under the control of these large companies and corporations.

This is where Web 3.0 steps in. A term first coined by Ethereum co-founder Gavin Wood, Web 3.0 focuses on the decentralisation of the Internet. The goal is to address the concerns of many that a handful of private companies possessed too much control and power over the existing Internet and that the system required a lot of trust in these entities to function properly. The answer to this is a completely decentralised structure that allows Internet users to not only read and write content but also to own it.

Essentially, Web 3.0 encompasses four main traits that will revolutionise the web. First and foremost, as previously mentioned, the new infrastructure is decentralised, so that no part of the Internet will any longer be owned by one or just a handful of large companies. Secondly, Web 3.0 is permissionless in that anyone and everyone can participate and access the Internet without being left out. This combines with the third point: Web 3.0 is built on a trustless system, where no reliance has to be placed on third parties. Instead, economic incentives are provided so that participants will act in the best interest of everyone. Finally, in order to provide those incentives, Web 3.0 also has its own native payment system, which are cryptocurrencies that bypass the need for middlemen such as banks and payment processors.

The Advent of the Metaverse

Though Web 3.0 has been discussed extensively since the idea came about around 2014, in recent years, another model has also been in the limelight: the Metaverse. The term itself originates from the 1992 science fiction novel Snow Crash and the concept had subsequently been fleshed out by other pieces of popular media such as 2011’s Ready Player One.

The Metaverse is now most often used to refer to the idea of permanent and connected virtual spaces where users can interact with one another and their surroundings via different devices, including virtual and augmented reality headsets and systems. However, as an ecosystem that many companies and developers view as the next evolution of the Internet, the concept has naturally increased its scope to encompass a much wider array of technologies.

The vision has become an integrated virtual world where all platforms are interconnected, and users can travel through these digital environments seamlessly using their personalised avatars. From recreational spaces to productive institutions to retail establishments, this Metaverse aims to imitate our physical, daily lives as closely as possible in the digital world.

While some of these features are still some time away from becoming a reality, we’re already seeing several Metaverse-like experiences carried out through current technologies. Everything from music concerts hosted on Fortnite or adventures in World of Warcraft, or work collaboration through the likes of VR Chat and Meta’s Horizon Workrooms are examples of virtual spaces bringing people together for activities conventionally held in physical locations. The key difference is that these environments are all independent of one another, making them more akin to separate metaverses instead of an overarching Metaverse.

Indeed, several companies within the tech industry have already begun developing their own metaverses, including Meta (formerly Facebook), Microsoft, Nvidia, Roblox, and Epic Games. The likely result is that instead of one universalized Metaverse like The Oasis from Ready Player One, we’ll receive several individual metaverses that fight for popularity and adoption by other companies. If you’re an advocate for a more decentralised web experience, you’ll notice at this point the same issues that arose with Web 2.0: that a small handful of companies will wield too much power over the Internet. The solution to all this is – as we come full circle – Web 3.0.

Different But Complementary

On the surface, Web 3.0 and the ideal Metaverse are two visions of the Internet’s future that seemingly focus on very different things. The former appears to create a more democratised structure for the World Wide Web, while the latter hopes to make surfing the Internet a more immersive experience. The two are concerned with separate issues, with Web 3.0 focusing more on the liberation of the system in its entirety and the Metaverse focusing instead on end-user experience. Creating a decentralised World Wide Web does not necessarily lead to a Metaverse, nor does creating a Metaverse necessarily democratise the Internet. However, as you may have gleaned by now, Web 3.0 and the Metaverse are actually well-positioned to complement each other.

As mentioned in the last section, one of the core issues of the Metaverse (or, as we expect, the multiple metaverses) is that power over the Internet will remain in the hands of a few big players. Building a true Metaverse using Web 3.0 technology will effectively solve this, giving control of the virtual world to its users instead. By creating a universalized and decentralised 3D digital space, users can navigate through different environments seamlessly, retaining ownership over their identities, data, and contributions in a secure manner.

Of course, there are other aspects in which the two models work in tandem as well. The Metaverse relies on digital currencies for the exchange of goods and services. Web 3.0 technologies such as non-fungible tokens (NFTs) and cryptocurrencies can provide secure ownership of both items and stores of value, dApps (decentralised applications), and DAOs (decentralised autonomous organisations) can be built to further flesh out the Metaverse and create brand new experiences. At the same time, creators and users retain control over it, deciding together on how development should move forward. In this way, Web 3.0 is crucial to the democratisation of the Metaverse.

The Future of the Internet

By tapping into the Web 3.0 features we’ve discussed, the Internet could possibly evolve into a Metaverse free from censorship and oligopolies. While both models of the future of the web have been around for a few years now, we’re still at a very early stage of development, and it’ll no doubt take a while for these technologies to proliferate. That being said, the tech industry is constantly evolving, and the arrival of a new system in the near future could revolutionise global economies as well as how we, as individuals, interact socially with each other.

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