Web 3.0 vs Metaverse: What’s the difference?

Web 3.0 vs Metaverse sounds like a battle of the hype giants. In fact, both terms are currently receiving a lot of attention.

Therefore it is even more important to understand and to be able to distinguish them from each other.

Those who know me know that I am not a fan of hypes and buzzwords. I prefer to look behind the scenes.

My firm conviction is that both topics are highly exciting. Web 3.0 and the metaverse will have a lasting impact on our future.

This makes it all the more important to understand what lies behind the two terms. Then we can also delve deeper and work out the differences. And also answer the question whether it is Web 3.0 vs Metaverse at all.

A brief history of the Web

When software is numbered with a sequential version, I always associate it with an an evolutionary process. But I don’t think that captures the essence of Web 3.0.

Here we are talking more about a revolution.

So what is Web 3.0?

On Twitter, a user asked if someone could explain the term in baby talk. I thought one answer was good:

  • Web 1.0 = Read
  • Web 2.0 = Read/Write
  • Web 3.0 = Read/Write/Own

This is a sufficient simplification to gain an initial understanding. Yet a bit more information is still important.

Let us therefore start with the origins.

Web 1.0 or the Classic Web refers to the original World Wide Web as conceived by Tim Berners-Lee. In terms of time, typically the period from 1991 to 2004. Here the focus was on providing documents (Read) as HTML pages that are accessible via a browser.

In contrast, Web 2.0 was developed on this basis. Unlike Web 1.0, its development was primarily driven by corporations. Often, an app is used rather than a browser. The focus here is on the so-called prosumer, who not only reads, but delivers content himself (Read/Write). Think of Twitter, Facebook, etc.

Therefore instead of Web 2.0 we often say Social media. But don’t forget E-Commerce.

Both areas have in common that they are based on the platform economy. This may now be disrupted by Web 3.0, as we will learn soon.

What is the Web 3.0?

So what is the next step and why is it more of a revolution?

Let’s get one thing straight right away. As with all things in the making, there is not yet a clear-cut definition of Web 3.0. Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the classic web, thinks of the semantic web as the next big step.

The semantic web has the big goal to make all the content of the internet machine-readable. Wait, you would say, that’s what Google has been doing for decades.

In parts that’s true, but Berners-Lee’s vision, which dates on Google first birthday, goes further:

I have a dream for the Web [in which computers] become capable of analyzing all the data on the Web – the content, links, and transactions between people and computers. A “Semantic Web”, which makes this possible, has yet to emerge, but when it does, the day-to-day mechanisms of trade, bureaucracy and our daily lives will be handled by machines talking to machines. The “intelligent agents” people have touted for ages will finally materialize

Tim Berners-Lee, Weaving the Web, 1999

Today, we have Siri and Alexa, which I’d already declare as intelligent agents. So, what could be a more relevant definition?

Web 3.0 Today

Since 2020/2021, there is another idea of Web3, and it is inspired by a new form of technology: Blockchains. At its core is a new wave of decentralization.

You may be saying, “But the Internet is decentralized. All I can say is: It was (Web 1.0). Today, large parts of the web are in the hands of a few platform giants and highly specialized technology companies.

But let’s stick to the point.

Besides decentralization other key topics related to Web 3.0 include Decentralized Autonomous Organizations (DAO), Non-fungible-tokens (NFT), and Decentralized Finance (DeFi).

So Web3 is about nothing less than creating a new financial world, defeating platform giants, and introduce a new form of collaboration. In the following, I refer to this definition of Web3/Web 3.0.

Decentralized Economy, Vilo, CC BY-SA 4.0

Small technical side note at this point, I think blockchains are not suitable for doing this.

For a scalable new internet of massive depth and width we need next-generation DLTs. I see the projects IOTA or HEDERA as promising.

What is the Metaverse?

I have already published several articles on Homo Digitalis on the subject of metaverse. These shed light on many aspects, such as what the metaverse is – besides the hype, whether a hardware revolution is necessary as a basis or what an Industrial Metaverse would look like.

Therefore, I will only briefly discuss the metaverse, but recommend the articles for further reading.

That said, let’s give a brief definition of metaverse: The metaverse is a space where virtually augmented physical reality and physically persistent virtual space merge.

Too complicated? One more try.

The metaverse is a digital world that is meant to feel as real as possible and can represent all concerns of human existence. From leisure to work.

Fabian Schmidt, Homo Digitalis, 2021

Interestingly, just like Web 3.0, the metaverse is often referred to as the future of the Internet.

Here’s a quick snippet of what the current state of Meta’s Metaverse looks like:

Web 3.0 vs Metaverse

Okay, we’ve now learned about both Web 3.0 and the Metaverse. Is it now Web 3.0 vs Metaverse? Does one condition the other? Or what the heck is going on here?

Now both are concepts in the making. And it is in our nature to call things by different names. Especially when they are blurred. Just as Web 2.0 was once more often referred to as social media.

Nevertheless, I believe that some points of intersection, as well as demarcations, are already visible today.

Differences

As I described above, Web 3.0 is definitely about power to the people. Decentralized finance that makes banks unnecessary is one example. Another is decentralized autonomous organizations that do not indulge in shareholder value thinking.

Unfortunately, I fear that none of this will create the metaverse in which we will live in the future. As nice as the thought would be.

My thesis is that, as with the platform economy, the network effect will win out. Nobody wants to be in an empty, isolated metaverse.

Another difference is that in Web3 presence does not matter. In the metaverse, however, it is everything.

Similarities

At the same time, Web3 and the metaverse do have some things in common. Ownership is the great common denominator.

People have always thought in terms of possessions and always will. Some more, some less. This starts with fashion, continues with cars and vacations, and ends with real estate.

All of this will be transferred into the Metaverse.

Web3 will lay some groundwork with NFTs and DeFi.

Already today, in the forerunners of the metaverse such as Sandbox, land is passing to the new owner for tens of millions of dollars. It goes so far that I have already predicted the first virtual real estate bubble.

Conclusion

As I mentioned at the beginning, I think both topics are highly exciting. In the article, I emphasized that both topics are in the process of being developed, and thus much is still vague.

My personal opinion is that the metaverse will shape our future the most, but that Web3 also brings some potential for change. Furthermore, I assume that Web3 will be seen earlier and will lay some foundations for the metaverse.

What is your opinion? Let me know, here or on Twitter.

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4 Comments

  1. I find the concepts behind what Tim Berners-Lee once imagined to be web 3.0 incredibly interesting from a technical perspective – semantic web, linked data, ActivityPub, etc. Unfortunately, they never really took off, I feel.

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