Web3 is a hot topic in 2022, particularly among marketers who are looking to lead the charge on the next wave of digital innovations. However if you scroll through many of the blogs and discussions around the topic, you will find some confusion around what Web3 is, and what it is not.
The metaverse and extended reality, including augmented reality and virtual reality, are commonly associated with the Web3 discussion, but while they may benefit from the power of Web3 the metaverse and extended reality are not inherently Web3.
Web3 versus the metaverse
Web3 is an architecture behind the internet combined with the global access that encourages and rewards participation. It is the next step in the evolution of the web, which we trace back through Web 1 and Web 2. Web 1 was distinguished by the birth of the internet, and the relative limitations in both access and content. Web 2 saw the genesis of the web as we know it today, with increased access and a wealth of content and data creation that exceeds 2.5 quintillion bytes of data per day. While Web3 has become an important discussion point over the last several years, we are not yet experiencing Web3 in full. Web3 has 5 defining traits that delineate its architecture from other technologies. Web3 requires:
- True ubiquity of internet access — the internet will be accessible across regions, networks, and devices. We have to a certain degree, achieve this.
- Reliance on 3D graphics — this is where AR/VR come into play
- Open-source code — hardest to achieve given the capital market controlled by several key players
- User/Creator Incentivisation — has improved, but is nowhere near the ideal
- Decentralization & interoperability — decentralized blockchain architecture
The metaverse, on the other hand, is an integrated network of virtual worlds, usually accessed via virtual reality. Brands across verticals and industries are understandably excited about the potential of the metaverse. A study from McKinsey estimates that $2–2.5 trillion in e-commerce value could be generated by the metaverse by 2030. But while the metaverse will likely benefit from Web3 and the adoption of the traits that define it, the metaverse does not rely on a Web3 architecture to exist. Perhaps most importantly, while there are worlds within the metaverse that are expected to leverage blockchain (i.e. Decentraland), blockchain is not a requirement of the metaverse.
Web3 and Augmented Reality
AR is expected to be a key component of Web3, but like the metaverse, it is not indicative of Web3 on its own. AR has been a part of the larger digital conversation for a number of years, but it wasn’t until recently that it became a scalable medium that could drive significant returns for businesses and consumers alike.
With the introduction of WebAR and the inclusion of native AR capabilities in the majority of smartphones, the interest in using 3D and AR for purposes outside of the gaming world has grown exponentially, with applications such as 3D configuration and AR enabled shopping quickly becoming priorities for marketers across product verticals.
This increased adoption of 3D and AR is beneficial for the evolution to Web3, as more users become comfortable and versed in deriving value from web experiences powered by immersive graphics. So while 3D and augmented reality on their own do not constitute Web3 applications, they are laying the groundwork and educating users for the time when we do reach Web3.