Since its inception in the 1980s, the internet has come a long way. The first iteration of the internet was mainly focused on content consumption with a few users posting content and the majority consuming it passively.
The second iteration was the social internet where users both generated and consumed content, and there were a few platform providers powering the channels for content generation and consumption.
The third generation – called Web 3.0 – will transform this paradigm by introducing a fully decentralized and democratized internet, which is not controlled by a single or handful of entities.
Alongside Web 3.0, the Metaverse will be another important factor determining how we generate and consume content. In the Metaverse, users exist and interact in virtual reality (VR) and can gain from interoperability between different VR spaces. Here’s how the two concepts are linked, how they differ from each other, and their similarities.
Defining Web 3.0
Web 3.0, or Web3, refers to the next iteration of the world wide web, which is democratized and based on semantic web technology.
The semantic web is a concept first suggested by Tim Burners Lee in 1999 as a type of internet crawling mechanism where machines can read and understand online data and form meaningful correlations.
Some analysts suggest that Web 3.0 will also have a spatial interaction layer, where the mechanisms internet users leverage for using the internet also change.
Instead of typing in a search query, users will depend more on voice, visuals, and immersive interactions that convert the internet into a spatial experience.
Web 3.0, therefore, is defined by three key characteristics:
It is democratized – Web 3.0 will be built on a decentralized blockchain protocol where there is no centralized ownership of content, services, or platforms. It means that web 3.0 content creators will be compensated fairly and there will be less red tape around content access.
It is semantic – the semantic web is not identical to Web 3.0, but is an underlying technology for the third generation of the internet. It would allow multiple internet pages to be correlated using a semantic protocol so that the relationships between pages are apparent, indexed, and searchable.
It may be spatial in nature – While Web 1.0 and Web 2.0 offered two-dimensional experiences, Web 3.0 may be immersive and offers spatial experiences similar to the real world. To achieve this, there will be a spatially-interactive layer on top of the digital information layer, which uses sensory triggers and controls like voice, gesture, biometric commands, and others.
It is this last characteristic that makes Web 3.0 similar to the Metaverse, but the two technologies are distinct from each other.
What Is the Metaverse?
The metaverse is an immersive three-dimensional space powered by augmented, virtual, and mixed reality, which allows users to interact with 3D objects.
It aims to create a virtual replica of the real world, with designated spaces for work, play, and social activities. All of these spaces would be interoperable with each other, and the metaverse would be hosted on the blockchain so that there is no single entity controlling it.
Companies like Decentraland, The Sandbox, and Meta Platforms Inc are currently developing the Metaverse, but is yet to see truly widespread adoption at par with the internet.
Web 3.0 vs. the Metaverse: Key Differences
The Metaverse differs from Web 3.0 in five ways:
Intrinsic immersiveness – Web 3.0 is not intrinsically immersive and will have digital information layer processing using semantic web technology, with spatial interaction layers overlayed on top of it. Web 3.0 can also work without the spatial interaction layer, which is not the case for the Metaverse as it relies on spatial interactions in an immersive environment mimicking the real world.
Use cases – Web 3.0 will continue to serve largely the same purposes as our current Web 2.0 iteration of the internet. Users can look up information, connect with others, create and consume content, gain from online services, and so on. The Metaverse also opens up new use cases like 3D virtual collaboration for teams and social VR.
Underlying technology – Web 3.0 will also rely on the latest version of the Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP), enhanced by artificial intelligence (AI) to map semantic relationships. The metaverse will be built using VR, human-computer interaction methods, 3D design and modeling, and others, along with AI.
Stakeholders developing it – Developers will create Web 3.0 using an entirely open-source codebase. Just like no individual entity has built the current internet, it will not be possible to attribute the development of Web 3.0 to one person. However, the Metaverse will rely on concerted efforts from a few companies for development, at least at the early stages. Once the platform is in place and the tools are democratized, the code base may eventually become open-sourced.
The current state of availability – Web 3.0 is still in an ideation stage and there is no proof of concept as such. In fact, the precise definition of Web 3.0 can vary across analysts, researchers, and commentators, indicating its very early stages of maturity. Converesely, the Metaverse is currently under development, with several platforms available for adoption.
Similarities Between Web 3.0 and the Metaverse
Despite these five differences, Web 3.0 and the Metaverse are interrelated, and in many ways, they are both part of an ongoing revolution in how we interact with digital technology.
Content consumption has always been a passive process, configured and managed by a few large entities, but both Web 3.0 and the Metaverse are built on a blockchain architecture, enabling an unprecedented degree of democratization.
Also, they will both use AI to make the experience more seamless – Web 3.0 will use it for semantic correlations and the Metaverse will use it for 3D reconstruction. Finally, the Internet of Things (IoT) is expected to play a role in the rise of both technologies.