What in the Metaverse is Web 3.0?

Ben M
By Ben M Meakin
March 2022
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Web 3.0

As someone who started their marketing career as a Geography graduate (go figure), I can tell you that the earth goes through distinct geological stages: from the Jurassic period of T-Rex to the Anthropocene that we humans live in right now.

But, did you know the internet is evolving through stages as well?

Way back when the internet was first gaining traction we had Web 1.0 - the realm of personal websites and read-only information on the web. These sites didn’t have likes, comments, upvotes, shares or anything that allowed a user to interact.

But in the early noughties, the development of more robust web frameworks allowed us to move to Web 2.0 - the social web. In this new read-write world, users could begin to interact with the web and each other. MySpace (aaa Tom how we miss thee), Youtube, Facebook, Amazon and most of the other behemoths of the web were born out of this era and in a way created a centralised web with themselves at the core.

Web 2.0 has been dominant for some time now, but in recent years we’ve seen a steady rise in Web 3.0 technologies. You might have heard of a few of them:

  • Crypto/Blockchain

  • NFTs

  • Creator Economy

  • The Metaverse

Yup, there’s a reason Mark Zuckerberg has changed his companies’ names to Meta and that’s because he wants to be at the forefront of Web 3.0.

But what does this mean for the future of brands and how we market and advertise? Well, let’s spend a moment looking into the future of these technologies, some already existing applications and how you could potentially utilise them for your brand.

The Blockchain and Cryptocurrency

At the core of Web 3.0 is a move away from a centralised internet, where the likes of Google and Facebook hold all the keys. This shift to a decentralised web has largely come from the rise of cryptocurrency and the blockchain, two technologies that I won’t dive too deeply into here, but essentially create digital contracts that are extremely secure, can be attached to anything and importantly are open to everyone to view and verify. This last bit is important in that it’s the openness of the blockchain that removes some of the power from Facebook, Google and Amazon.

With this technology, cryptocurrency creates an entire monetary system that is not reliant or controlled by large organisations. It allows anyone to create a website or service without being reliant on large organisations (though we won’t get into the fact that Amazon controls the servers for many of these).

NFTs

I’m sure many of you have come across the term NFTs by now, they are exploding across the internet and amongst celebrity culture. But what are Non-Fungible Tokens? Well let’s break it down a bit:

  • Something fungible is a thing that carries an exact value e.g. a £5 note is always going to be the same value.

  • Something that is non-fungible has a varying value, a good real-world example is your home which can increase in value if you add an extension and when you next exchange it the price the next owner pays is different.

  • The token bit is the blockchain link, it’s another term for one of those digital contracts that allows something to be a part of the blockchain, secure, traceable and public to all.

With all of that in mind, anything really can be considered an NFT and while digital art is the one thing that has owned the format, there’s no stopping anything from being an NFT. This leads us nicely onto…

The Creator Economy

If there’s one thing that is at the heart of Web 3.0 it’s the fact that anybody can be a creator, inventor, producer - anything. When it comes to NFT art, while it might seem a playground for the rich, for many artists it has provided liberation. Those who may have spent years creating online, trying to be heard in the noisy space of the art world or thinking of giving up on their dreams because they couldn’t afford to make it work - all of those people now have a huge amount of potential.

Take the world-famous Bored Ape Yacht Club example. Although it’s highly debated as to whether it was right for Buzzfeed to release the names of the founders, it did highlight the power of NFTs and the creator economy. This wasn’t a club created by huge corporations that already exist, it was just two budding authors who had struggled to have their creativity published and had an idea for a group of apes who lived in a swamp. Two regular people and their partner artists are now the must-have art for everyone from Jay-Z to Gwyneth Paltrow - the possibilities for creatives in Web 3.0 are endless.

The Metaverse

This one is the vaguest of concepts but is the most talked about right now thanks to Mark Zuckerberg pointing us all in that direction. But it’s important in that the idea of a Metaverse may tie together all of the above concepts into one big future, but much like the internet in the early ‘70s and ’80s - it may not end up this way at all. Time will tell.

And that’s just the thing with trying to explain what The Metaverse is or could be, in that we’re collectively not sure yet. Right now, it’s a mashup of AR, VR, MMOs, things like seeing a concert in Fortnite or generating a community around being chased by a banana in Roblox - all described as Metaverse concepts but in reality just a group of things that exist as the internet today on the fringes of Web 2.0. The crucial bit is that the combination of these technologies is going to result in what the future of the web could look like and your brand must be prepared.

But What Does This Mean for Brands?

While we’re having conversations with clients about getting involved and potentially creating their own NFTs - it’s certainly not for everyone. Like any new technology, there are pitfalls and those who are seen to be trying to trend-jack often fail.

But we do believe that it’s always worthwhile planning ahead for how your brand can participate in the coming years. For example:

  • The concept behind NFTs could also allow for exclusive clubs that your most loyal fans can participate in when they own the NFT.

  • We’ve already seen music festivals in Fortnite, nothing is saying this won’t evolve through to the B2B space and exhibitions become hyper-virtual.

  • Should your online store be accepting Bitcoin, Ethereum or any other Cryptocurrency?

  • What will influencers look like when they can easily make high-end content and curate communities 1000s-strong on Discord?

It’s still early days, but this is what MySpace looked like near the start of Web 2.0:

Image

Lilly Allen MySpace 2006

And now, 2.9 billion people have a Facebook account. Worth thinking about.