The last time you dived headlong into the World Wide Web, you probably did so without as much as thinking about it. It has become natural for us: we are always online, our smartphones stay connected to the web, as do the computers we work on, our smart TVs, etc. And soon, the immersion may grow even deeper. The world is transitioning to Web 3.0, though we are still mostly unaware of it.
The most hyped-up topic in the tech industry today is the metaverses. And although they are included in a broader and much more exciting Web 3.0 concept, in some ways, metaverses obscure it for the general public.
But here’s something to note: on the day these words were written, Google Trends showed a sharp decline in search queries for the words “NFT” and “metaverse” in February, by 68% and 64%, respectively. It corresponded to NFT trading volumes dropping by 32% over the previous week, now standing at $407 million.
When Zuckerberg announced a few months ago that his company was refocusing on creating a metaverse, interest in this concept spiked, followed by the influx of investment. Now, however, there is a growing wave of skepticism. The reason for the initial surge in attention is mostly clear: for several years, going back to the term “artificial intelligence” (and later – “blockchain”), there hasn’t been an all-encompassing idea to describe the technological foundation of the future. That is, something to suggest what potential development direction will bring the most money and a chance to multiply your profits.
Still, if you think about it, the trendy term “metaverse” basically describes a familiar old notion of virtual reality. According to Mark Zuckerberg’s plan, you get a metaverse by combining VR with Internet technologies. (At least, that’s how it seems to work.) In a sense, it’s a kind of computer game.
However, things don’t always go as planned. The specialists designing metaverses at Facebook/Meta probably didn’t consider blockchain and everything to do with it. And yet, the wave of interest brought forth other developers who saw an excellent opportunity to integrate blockchain and related innovations – cryptocurrencies, NFTs, etc. – into this concept. It ultimately led to the Web 3.0 infrastructure beginning to emerge. Now, the only thing left is to add to the mix is AI technologies.
That being said, there is a more urgent problem currently at hand – the same issue that plagued Web 1.0 and 2.0. As we have already mentioned in previous articles, despite the Internet creators envisioning it to be a bringer of equality and democracy, it quickly got overtaken by platforms and giant corporations that own them.
With mobile and interactive Web 2.0, websites gave way to individual and company profiles, news feeds in social networks, instant messenger channels and chats, and online shops. Unfortunately, this total democratization of content creation has resulted in the few companies that own popular services consolidating all control over the content in their hands.
Of course, anyone can create their own service or platform – that is the democratic part. But if one can invest $500 promoting a resource and the other $5 million, such democracy turns out to be rather hollow.
We often hear the Web 3.0 visionaries opine on the new Internet featuring metaverses, AI, machine learning technologies, and much more. But it is essential that all those things are based on distributed and decentralized technical solutions that don’t allow for the concentration of power in the hands of the few – which is fundamentally different from what Mark Zuckerberg intends to do with his extremely centralized and overregulated Facebook.
Blockchain provides the technological basis for decentralization, but traditional financial institutions have sadly already learned to exert power over even the most decentralized of systems. Just recall how the first boom of “real” cryptocurrencies was followed by the soaring popularity of stablecoins – crypto that is both tied to fiat and centralized. And blockchain couldn’t help it…
The next step is CBDC, as experiments with blockchain-based state digital currencies are now being conducted all over the world. And don’t forget about the expensive, complex, and relatively centralized engineering structure of communication networks. They are necessary for the Internet to function, which gives communication and data center providers much more power than you may think.
We are witnessing it already: after the start of the war in Eastern Europe and the ruble collapsing, it became quite difficult for Russian citizens to get into crypto. Financial institutions and centralized crypto exchanges disable financial transactions for Russians who wish to purchase cryptocurrencies or even completely block their IP addresses. In doing so, they dismantle the “bridge” for transitioning from fiat to crypto for the citizens and organizations of the aggressor state.
There are, of course, VPNs, decentralized exchanges, and various anonymous DeFi services… but they still do not solve the problem for most users. For one, not everyone has the know-how and qualifications to use them, and secondly, using workarounds dramatically increases the cost of transactions.
In any case, Web 3.0 is more than just an exciting idea – it is a powerful driver of change for the Internet. And it is coming regardless of whether the developer community manages to fulfill their romantic ideals. Web 3.0 will transform our digital environment as much as previous versions of the Internet did, only now, these changes will be based on blockchain services and cryptocurrencies.
It is still difficult to predict whether we will have more freedom in the new digital space. But it will definitely open us up to some unique and, at times, very unexpected business opportunities.
To be concluded…