It’s easy to confuse Web 3.0 and the metaverse, but there are big differences between the two.
Two internet buzzwords that have recently fueled the internet world are “Web 3.0” and “metaverse”. Seeing the potential these new platforms offer, many companies are exploring the possibility that Web 3.0 and metaverse technologies have to offer. While both technology trends are describing our digital reality and the future of the web, they are different in what they do and how they go about it. However, these two concepts and their functions differ from one another. Let’s break down these two buzzwords to better understand where the internet is headed.
In short, the metaverse sheds light on the expanding everyday experiences (e.g. playing, socializing, learning and working) we will have on the internet, and Web 3.0 attempts to solve the current problems of the internet (e.g. ownership, privacy and control) with decentralization technology.
What is the metaverse?
Metaverse is a term that has been around since the science fiction novel “Snow Crash” was published in 1992. In the novel, author Neal Stephenson described “metaverse” as the virtual reality-based successor to the internet. The book imagined a future where you could embody an avatar within a virtual world and interact with others. This is what most people mean when they refer to “metaverse”: a 3D immersive world built using augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) technology. There, users can communicate and interact with one another as 3D avatars through devices, like laptops, desktops and VR headsets. The metaverse could be centralized, decentralized or a mix of both.
What is Web 3.0?
Meanwhile, the third wave of the web, or Web 3.0, is a term first coined by Gavin Wood, co-founder of Ethereum, in 2014. Its definition is much broader and more difficult to nail down. Still, it generally refers to storing users’ data on a blockchain and giving them control, using a decentralized blockchain-based mechanism.
Web 3.0 is a significant step forward from Web 2.0 (the second wave of World Wide Web development) in backend and infrastructure change. While Web 2.0 was about bringing the web to the masses, Web 3.0 is about decentralization and taking back control from centralized authorities. The most significant difference between Web 2.0 and Web 3.0 is that the latter is based on blockchain technology. Blockchain is a distributed database that allows for secure, transparent and tamper-proof transactions. It also makes it ideal for developing decentralized applications (dApps), which function on the public blockchain or peer-to-peer networks.
Web 3.0 is composed of decentralized networks supported by blockchain technology. It also employs cutting-edge technologies, like artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML) and the Semantic Web (a new form of web content that focuses on the meaning rather than the structure of data), to provide a more democratized, efficient and personalized user experience. It prioritizes collective ownership, personalization and content sharing.
On the other hand, the metaverse is specifically designed for virtual worlds. Building blocks of experiences in the metaverse include AR, VR and MR (mixed realities). AR integrates virtual items into the physical environment around us, whereas VR technology enables you to enter a 3D virtual world through 3D computer modeling. AR glasses and VR headsets are some of the devices that take us to the metaverse.
Possible use cases
Decentralized autonomous organizations (DAOs), decentralized finance (DeFi) and non-fungible tokens (NFTs) are some use cases emerging from Web3.0. For instance, users can now own pieces of the internet by buying tokens that exist on blockchain networks: both fungible (e.g. cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin and Ether) and non-fungible (e.g. NFT art collectibles).
As for the metaverse, we see different sectors, like gaming, social networks/entertainment and real estate, are now diving into virtual reality technology to offer more realistic and immersive experiences for the users. For instance, Horizon Worlds is a social VR platform published by Facebook (or Meta) where one can interact and play games with others. You can also schedule work meetings with your colleagues in the metaverse with virtual office applications, like the Nth Floor. Another major use case for it would be new marketing opportunities. Many brands, like Nike, H&M and Walmart, are creating their own metaverses where users can purchase products and connect to the brand. Also, there are blockchain use cases in the metaverse, like the virtual world Decentraland and the video game platform Sandbox. These applications are fully decentralized, meaning that they are owned by their users or controlled via a DAO.
To conclude, while the two concepts are not fundamentally the same, they are surely interconnected in many ways and revolutionizing the internet and the world.
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