When you see pictures of the metaverse at work, it looks like we will spend our workdays with a headset on while your avatar meets with other avatars in a virtual office. But I find that a bit too dystopian. What about you? And is that really what the metaverse will look like?
So let’s start with the million dollar question: what is the metaverse? If you’re old enough to remember Second Life, you’ll have a slight idea of where we are headed. Or just ask the kids to show you their Roblox.
The metaverse isn’t defined yet: it’s a concept, an idea where we are headed. I’ve listened to podcasts, read articles, watched videos and have come up with a definition that I will use for this series:
The metaverse is an immersive, virtual and shared space where people come together to meet, socialize, work, play and connect in real-time.
Immersive: because virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) are the key ways to enter the metaverse. Smart devices will be another. Online experiences will look and feel as real as offline ones.
Virtual: as opposed to the physical world.
Shared: the metaverse is a way for people to share experiences with each other. It won’t work if you’re by yourself.
I’ll probably adjust the definition as we discover more, but for now, we’ll use this.
But what about Web 3.0?
When people talk about the metaverse, they often mention Web 3.0 in the same sentence. So is that the same thing?
Not really. Let’s take a look:
- Web 1.0 is the original World Wide Web as conceived by Tim Berners-Lee,. It was based on documents as HTML pages that you access via a browser (Read).
- Web 2.0 emerged when companies created Apps for better experiences and people started to participate by writing content (Read/Write). It’s a combination of e-commerce and social media, powered by the platform economy and owned by corporations.
- Web 3.0 is in its infancy, but it’s expected to enable a decentralized economy that relies on the blockchain, bringing about a new form of collaboration that isn’t owned by businesses (Read/Write/Own). Web 3.0 is focused on giving autonomy to the user, and put them in control by introducing Decentralized Autonomous Organizations (DAO), Non-fungible-tokens (NFT), and Decentralized Finance (DeFi).
Yes, that is an enormous expectation and realization is a long way off. I am also skeptical about the suitability of blockchain as base (especially its scalability
, transaction speed and energy consumption
as Web 3.0 goes mainstream). I wrote a couple of blockchain articles
focused on work, that you can check out.
The other issue I see is that the move to Web 3.0 requires massive investments in developing these emerging, supporting technologies. And so we can talk about ‘power to the people’, but the initiatives I’ve seen so far are all driven by large corporations with deep pockets. And you can be sure they won’t make it available for free or run it as a decentralized democracy. Other initiatives started out with great intentions, but when they became more successful, their founders IPO-ed.
With so much uncertainty, it’s best to think of Web 3.0 as an overall emerging concept, and of the metaverse as one of its manifestations. The Creator Economy is another one, which I expect to have a much deeper and faster impact on work. More on that in the next newsletter.
I found this picture helpful, and I hope you do too: