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The future of the internet: Web 3.0, NFTs and the metaverse

Today, the internet has evolved far beyond what its creators likely ever imagined, with its outsize impact on every sphere of life on earth, from how we socialize to how the world’s economy is run. Let’s take a look at three new developments that are shaping the future of the internet: Web 3.0, NFTs and the metaverse.

Web 3.0

If Web 1.0 was static web pages, Web 2.0 (which is considered to have started around 2004) introduced new levels of interactivity. It also changed the relationship between web users and the websites themselves. In addition to providing information to users, the big platforms (Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Google, etc.) started collecting and selling information on user behavior, which they used to determine what subsequent information and ads to provide. In Web 2.0, users contribute content, but once it’s uploaded it’s owned by the corporations that own the platforms. In this exchange, we give up privacy and ownership in exchange for the use of the applications. And for the most part, we’re still in the 2.0 version of the web.

With Web 3.0, the difference lies in the platforms. Users own and share their content, via a token-based economy, rather than sharing it through the major platforms. This decentralized model allows a lot more privacy and autonomy. But because it’s much less regulated, it’s also open to more questionable or even illegal activities.

It also means there will be much less opportunity for targeted advertising, which is a key component in many B2B marketing plans today. As use of the big platforms fades, it will offer less value for marketers to seek prospects on them. On the upside, when we do share our data and content with applications, we’ll be compensated for it. That compensation might come in a new form, such as bitcoin, or an NFT.

Non-Fungible Tokens (NFTs)

Blockchain, bitcoin, NFTs … how we record and manage financial transactions online is changing. The way we safeguard ownership of digital assets is changing too. In the past, there was no way to prevent widespread sharing of digital assets once they were online. Digital artworks, videos, images, music … once they were “out there” on the internet, there was no way to retrieve them or prevent people from copying or sharing.

Non-fungible tokens, or NFTs, are a way to control ownership (and limit any sharing) of a digital asset. They’re like a certificate of authenticity that prevents forgery. (Paper money is “fungible,” meaning it can be exchanged for something of similar value – you can change a 100 euro note for five 20 euro notes, for example. Bitcoins are also fungible. You could use a bitcoin to pay for a service or a material good. “Non-fungible” means the asset is one-of-a-kind. You could trade it for another item, or for a payment, but it won’t be anything like your original asset. Here’s how it works: if you buy a digital artwork, for example, the artist will provide you with an NFT – which is composed of unique identification codes and metadata on a blockchain. The NFT allows you to access the art, but no one else can access, copy or share it.

Where might you shop for a digital artwork? Well, you might want to explore what’s for sale in the metaverse.

The Metaverse

We’re hearing a lot about the metaverse lately. But is it really a new concept, or is it just a fancier version of Second Life or the Sims, both around since the early 2000s? At its simplest, the metaverse is simply interconnected 3D virtual worlds. And 3D worlds and holograms have been around for a while. But the scope, and opportunities, of the metaverse are expanding. In fact, Gartner named it as one of the five emerging technologies for 2022 “that will disrupt and transform entire markets.”[i]

In the metaverse, we’ll be able to go to events, socialize, and maybe most important – buy and sell things. (Like visiting a virtual art gallery to select a unique NFT-protected artwork for your metaverse home.) We’ll even be able to buy actual items, like a hamburger – McDonald’s, for example, is already planning its metaverse stores, and has filed 10 trademark applications so far for its virtual offerings. (You won’t have to eat your burger in the metaverse, though ­– you’ll order it at the virtual store, and it will be delivered to your home in the real universe.)

We’re still five to 10 years away from a fully connected metaverse, say the tech experts. But elements of it already exist – the 3D worlds of online games, like Call of Duty or Fortnite, for example, and initiatives like the ABBA Voyage concerts that will launch in May 2022 in London. These concerts will feature avatars of the members of the pop group, along with a live orchestra. (The members of ABBA didn’t want to sign on for a concert series, so the idea of being replaced by avatars was born.) The avatars were created by Industrial Light & Magic, the company created by George Lucas back when he developed the first Star Wars movie.

And the technology behind the metaverse is already here – the virtual reality, augmented reality and machine learning technology that will make the metaverse possible. Eventually, the line between the metaverse and the real world will blur, and it will be hard to tell the difference.

Marketers so far are focusing on metaverse versions of “traditional” marketing tools, like billboards, other ads, and virtual shops. Influencers will also have an important role in the metaverse, whether they’re bots, or avatars of actual people. It also offers an ideal environment for seminars, training, work events, and collaborating. And, maybe most important, the metaverse is where we’ll find the audiences that abandoned the big social media platforms like Facebook, YouTube or even LinkedIn, in the shift to Web 3.0.

At Living Stone, we’re focused on the marketing trends of today, and on the developments that are shaping the future. If you’d like to talk with us about your marketing goals, and how to reach your objectives in this shifting landscape, contact Anne-Mie by email at anne-mie.vansteelant@livingstone.eu, or call at +32 (0)55 59 10 07.

 

[i] Tuong H. Nguyen, “5 Impactful Technologies From the Gartner Emerging Technologies and Trends Impact Radar for 2022,” December 08, 2021. Retrieved from: https://www.gartner.com/en/articles/5-impactful-technologies-from-the-gartner-emerging-technologies-and-trends-impact-radar-for-2022-1 

Anne-Mie Vansteelant
Anne-Mie Vansteelant
COO | Managing Partner at Living Stone

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