Charlene Weisler: What is Web 3.0?
Sean MacPhedran: The specific definition of Web 3 changes based on who you ask. Broadly speaking, it is an evolution of how we interact with digital media driven by the convergence of multiple new technologies that will create a similar level of disruption as we saw in the shift from Web 1 to Web 2. At that time, Blockbuster was replaced by Netflix, AOL by Facebook, and taxis by Uber.
Common themes of Web 3 are decentralization, artificial intelligence, ubiquity and the spatial web. Blockchain and related trends like NFTs, crypto games, decentralized finance, decentralized apps and decentralized autonomous organizations (DAOs) are all examples of Web 3 coming to life. A good example of a potentially disruptive Web 3 company is Hivemapper, where drivers can earn cryptocurrency by feeding data to a crowdsourced map designed to compete with Google Maps.
Weisler: You also speak of the spatial web and the metaverse. What are those?
MacPhedran: Web 3, the spatial web and the metaverse are sometimes used interchangeably. The spatial web is the ability to explore data or navigate the web beyond two dimensions, for example by exploring content through a 3D engine in your web browser, playing with AR in Pokemon GO on your iPhone, or navigating around in VR in your Meta Quest 2 headset.
The idea of the metaverse was coined in 1992 by science fiction author Neal Stephenson in his novel “Snow Crash,” a dystopian cyberpunk novel where it comes to life as a perfectly spherical digital planet populated by avatars and virtual real estate accessed through VR goggles. In our world, it’s frequently used to describe virtual worlds that run on cryptocurrencies like Decentraland and The Sandbox, as well as NFT-driven communities like Bored Ape Yacht Club and creator-generated VR worlds like Meta Horizon Worlds.
Ultimately, the idea is that we will be able to lead parallel lives in a persistent, explorable 3D world that encompasses all of this content interchangeably, where we have digital identities and can do more than just play and socialize, but also work and earn money.
Weisler: So let’s talk about your recent study. What are the highlights, takeaways and any surprises?
MacPhedran: The study explores the overarching trends that lead us to Web 3 and the Metaverse, but likely the most interesting for readers is the original research we conducted by polling U.S. consumers on topics that give us a sense of how far along things are now. Some highlights:
-- The gaming industry is bigger than Hollywood and the music industries combined, and it’s setting the stage for the metaverse. In the 16-34 bracket of our respondent group, games often referred to as “Metaverse precursors” had been recently played, with Minecraft (47%), Fortnite (44%), Pokemon Go (36%) and Roblox (29%) taking the lead. Crypto-games with integrated NFTs were also mentioned, including The Sandbox (10%), Axie Infinity (7%) and Decentraland (7%).
-- 16.5% of respondents have their own VR device, with 41% considering a purchase in the next 12 months.
-- Looking to the future, 65% are interested in purchasing AR glasses when they become more widely available as long as they’re fashionable.
-- 44% of respondents have directly purchased or indirectly invested in cryptocurrency, with bitcoin (85% of buyers) and ethereum (54% of buyers) leading the pack.
-- About half (49%) of respondents view crypto as a valid investment vehicle.
Weisler: Give me some predictions. What do you see three years from now in this space?
MacPhedran: In the next three years, we will likely see a few new unexpected billion-dollar “unicorn” companies emerge in the space. Yuga Labs, the creators of Bored Ape Yacht Club, is already one of these companies with its $4 billion valuation.
If the consumers we polled were accurately predicting their own behavior, VR devices will be a lot more widespread. Apple is rumored to be very close to releasing their first VR headset, which will push the technology further into the mainstream.
Following that, we’ll see the first proper wave of consumer AR glasses, which are in development at companies like Snap and Meta, though miniaturization of all the required technologies may take longer than three years to create something fashionable and functional with a decent battery life. Overall, I think we’ll see a lot of creativity in the space, as more tools for both creativity and monetization become available.