Ready or Not, Here it Comes: Preparing for WEB3 and the Metaverse
March 3, 2023
PREPARE FOR THE NEXT GENERATION OF THE INTERNET
It is no secret that our lives have radically changed in just a few short years. The COVID pandemic disrupted business-as-usual worldwide, forcing us to quickly pivot from in-person to remote work to keep functioning.
Although the pandemic is not causing as many disruptions today as it did at its start, it has forever changed how many of us think about life and work. We have become much more comfortable interacting virtually — over Zoom meetings and Slack channels — and discovered these moments to be productive, if not enjoyable, so the demand for creating immersive virtual experiences is increasing.
It is imperative to be prepared for the next generation of the Internet in today’s classrooms — Web3, metaverses, and all of the technologies that support them, including blockchain. Let us explore Web3, why it matters to students in business ecosystems, and the role metaverses play in the virtual world.
UNDERSTANDING WEB3 AND WHY IT MATTERS
First, there was Web 1.0 — the old AOL days of a dial-up connection with open protocols and static pages displaying information of the 1990s and early 2000s. Then came Web 2.0 in the mid-2000s, harkening to the era of interactivity via technologies like TikTok, YouTube, and social media. Today, we are on the verge of welcoming Web 3.0 (or Web3 as it is more commonly referred to), a new Internet that users will own. It aims to combine the open infrastructure of Web 1.0 with the public participation of Web 2.0.
But we are not there quite yet. Currently, most of us rely on tech giants like Apple and Google to deliver the online services we need. While users create content, most of that activity is distributed by the company’s platform. This gives them the power to define what services we can and cannot use. The promise of Web3 is to decentralize data, tilting ownership back to users and allowing access to what users need without middlemen.
There is no denying that Web3 plays a critical role in preparing for the next generation of the Internet. It shifts the balance of power away from big technology and into the hands of users.
Artificial intelligence (AI), augmented reality and virtual reality, and blockchain are three key features of Web3.
Artificial intelligence and machine learning are critical to Web3. Because AI can process, analyze, and act on massive amounts of data — far more than humans can — it is capable of making data-driven decisions and predictions, and then acting on them.
Think about something as ubiquitous as user reviews. In the past, ill-intentioned companies may pay groups of people to downgrade a competitor by posting large numbers of false negative reviews for their products or services. Because artificial intelligence can identify patterns, it can predict and identify which reviews are real and which are false. As a result, review-bombing incidents will be reduced. Artificial intelligence increases the chances that accurate, legitimate information is presented to the end user while fraudulent information is discarded.
AR AND VR:
Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) are two technologies that help form the foundation of Web3. AR enhances the user's experience of Web3 by adding sensory information — sounds, sights, haptic responses, etc. — to the user's actual environment, mimicking “real” sensations.
VR uses interactive devices — like goggles and headsets — to immerse the user in a cyber environment that looks like reality but has no relation to the user's actual physical location. Both technologies allow users to interact with other people in numerous ways, from collaborating on a work project to playing a game.
Another critical feature in Web3 is blockchain technology, which makes it possible for data to be decentralized. Blockchain facilitates open, easily-distributable data that users fully own and control, free from concerns about privacy or being tracked online.
Web3 technology has three core characteristics:
Unlike Web 2.0, where a few key players control much of the world's data, Web3 stores its data in blockchain, an inherently decentralized technology. Data is spread across multiple platforms instead of kept in a single, centralized system. This reduces risk and increases access.
NO SPECIAL PERMISSIONS:
Because it is decentralized, Web3 allows anyone, including end users, to engage and access services without needing permission from a centralized controlling organization. Users and providers can access what they need without having to share personal information or risk their privacy.
Centralized systems provide a tempting target for malevolent actors, as a single attack can affect hundreds of thousands of businesses and copy private data for nefarious purposes. But Web3 is decentralized — meaning data is distributed across multiple platforms, making it a much more difficult target for hackers.
Web3 technology is all around us. Apple's Siri assistant, bitcoin, and Google Cloud are just three examples of Web3 in action.
- Apple's beloved assistant, Siri, uses AI-powered speech recognition to provide directions, play music, control lights, and more.
- Bitcoin is a type of decentralized digital currency; users can buy, sell, and trade it directly without the need for a bank.
- Google Cloud's technology supports Web3 projects and companies, reducing infrastructure maintenance and lessening the need for custom tooling.
UNDERSTANDING THE METAVERSE AND ITS ROLE IN THE VIRTUAL WORLD
Remember the "Second Life" platform launched in the early 2000s, where users could create avatars and interact with others in a virtual world? In some ways, today's metaverses are like that, but with much better graphics and a much more holistic, immersive experience. A popular example of a basic metaverse is the game, Fortnite.
Defined as a network of 3D virtual worlds focused on social connection, a metaverse combines the physical with the virtual, integrating spaces, economies, and more. Harnessing the power of virtual and augmented reality, users can do everything from shopping for virtual goods to playing a game of chess to collaborating with colleagues halfway across the globe.
Three features are vital to any metaverse:
One of the key features of a metaverse is how "real" is the experience. The user feels like they are inside the environment — that they are actually inhabiting the digital world instead of visiting it from their physical environment. The multisensory experience contributes to a metaverse's realism and provides the user with a sense of being fully present in the virtual world.
The "real" world exists around us, regardless of our actions. Our office still exists even though we do not go in on the weekends. Our town still exists when we go on vacation abroad. And we still exist, even if we are deeply asleep and dreaming of distant universes.
A metaverse is similar to reality in that it, too, always exists. It offers a whole new level of immersion because it gives users the freedom to tweak their virtual world to fit their unique needs and preferences. Instead of looking at something from a distance, we are a part of it. Because a metaverse immerses us in its environment, we effectively feel like part of that environment; it feels as “real" as the physical world.
In the real world, we carry along certain personality traits and physical objects regardless of where we are. The metaverse echoes this feeling by facilitating interoperability, allowing users to "transport" their avatars, objects, and behaviors between one virtual world and another.
Just as we can pack a suitcase at home, hop on a plane, and head to Italy in the real world, interoperability provides the metaverse equivalent. We can go where we want to go without being disrupted by logging into a different platform — the experience is seamless. And when we arrive at our intended virtual world, we — and all the "stuff" we brought with us — will exist in that world without substantial changes, creating a highly-compelling, psychologically-rich multi-world experience.
With the number of active metaverse users growing and expected to continue rising, a metaverse's scalability is imperative. The metaverse has to provide the same level of user experience regardless of the number of concurrent users, type of interactions occurring, or level of scene complexity. A metaverse experience will not feel as immersive or "real" if the virtual environment begins to lag, graphics degrade, or glitches arise.
A metaverse includes three core characteristics:
Because it is not encumbered by physics or the need for physical space, a metaverse is literally infinite. There is no limit to the number of digital worlds or virtual spaces that can be created. A metaverse’s creativity is also not restricted to the physical elements.
With a focus on social connection, it is not surprising that one of a metaverse's core characteristic is that it facilitates genuine connections between people. The metaverse makes it easy for like-minded people with similar interests to find and interact with each other, from gamers to game-hunting enthusiasts. Today, people join Facebook groups to talk about their love for chonky cats; in a metaverse, one could potentially hang out in a virtual chonky cat cafe sharing funny cat videos with friends and new acquaintances.
IT IS ALWAYS LIVE:
Like the real world, a metaverse is always there waiting for you, whether you are in different time zones or wake up in the middle of the night. Once it exists, it can not be turned off. Indeed, if a particular server that hosts part of a metaverse is damaged, a small part of a metaverse could be changed or deleted. But because of its distributed nature, a metaverse cannot be completely erased or destroyed.
READY OR NOT, HERE IT COMES
Web3 is on its way, whether you are ready for it or not. To position yourself for the greatest potential of success, start preparing for it now by learning more about Virginia Tech’s Master in Information Technology (MIT) program. Ranked third in the nation, the MIT program will teach you a comprehensive understanding of the role Web3 and the metaverse will play in a virtual world. This will help you better prepare for the next generation of the Internet, allowing you to take full advantage of all the opportunities this evolving technology provides, as a user or developer.