Silicon Valley: after Metaverse comes Web3

Status: 08.12.2021 10:45 a.m.

At first, there was a lot of talk about the metaverse, but in Silicon Valley, the most important topic is Web3: it’s supposed to be a blockchain-based decentralized online ecosystem – controlled by users.

By Marcus Schuler, ARD Studio San Francisco

Web3 wants to be the radical alternative to the Internet as we know it today. It should be a network that many Silicon Valley pioneers believe belongs to the users. A decentralized web based on what is called the blockchain. With that, it could become a digital repository: anyone can own a piece of it. It should not belong to tech companies like Google or Facebook, nor to banks or political systems. It’s a logical progression, explains Alex Wilhelm of the TechCrunch technical department in the Twit podcast:

The Web3 is a rebranding of the blockchain. And that in turn comes down to cryptocurrencies. In recent years, the term has continued to develop. First we talked about Bitcoin and LightCoin, later it became blockchain.

Web3: tokens and crypto-currencies

For most people, these terms still seem very utopian. But Web3 has been around for a long time. You can earn tokens on gaming platforms, in discussion forums such as Reddit, you also receive tokens based on your participation and thus get more attention.

The best known are cryptocurrencies. However, their reputation is not particularly good. Currencies such as Bitcoin, Ether or Cardano suffer from significant fluctuations these days, and there have been repeated cases of fraud on smaller exchanges in recent months.

Nevertheless, the experts agree: these are start-up problems. The biggest advantage of this technology: the blockchain makes each transaction transparent and therefore traceable. “Web3 also includes NFTs or games that you can play on the Ethereum chain. Something has changed here in the last few months. If you want to look cool, you use the term Web3 now,” Wilhelm explains.

No state control, no supervision

There’s a kind of libertarian spirit about Web3 right now. No state control, no supervision – anyone can participate. However, it has not yet been decided if this will actually happen. A decentralized web would have a major advantage for users. It would be easier for them to take their blockchain data with them to other offerings. The short message service Twitter would therefore like to rebuild its infrastructure accordingly.

Billions are currently flowing into blockchain technologies. Even football clubs like Real Madrid or Paris Saint Germain issue fan tokens. German sporting goods manufacturer Adidas recently purchased a virtual land called “adiVerse” in the blockchain-based world “The Sandbox”. The goal: to sell virtual goods like shoes and clothes.

Web 1.0, Web 2.0 and now Web3?

It all started with Web 1.0 in the 1990s. With static websites that barely allowed any interaction. Web 2.0 began in the 2000s and marked the rise of user-generated content on social platforms such as YouTube, Facebook or Twitter. The Internet no longer means only consumption, but also participation, that is, getting involved.

Money comes from venture capitalists

The big money for building this Web3 comes mainly from venture capitalists. They are located along Sand Hill Road in Silicon Valley. With their financial commitment, however, they thwart the spirit of the decentralized web, critics say, because they manifest a kind of central power with their commitment.

Facebook recently rebranded itself as Meta as it wants to invest more in an internet metaverse in the coming years. It is above all a question here of a future Internet in three-dimensional spaces – in virtual spaces. The exciting question will be which term will eventually become the umbrella term and which will be subordinate – Metaverse or Web3.

Web3 – be careful without saying “point zero” – wants to democratize the network. If it spreads, it could well pose a threat to the business model of big tech companies.

Each user controls their own data

Users can not only trade digital currencies and buy goods here. Everyone can take their data with them to other offers because they are stored in the blockchain – a digital directory hosted by many computers. As a result, there could no longer be data silos such as those currently maintained by Google or Facebook. An example of tokens are NFTs – certificates of ownership. Virtual art objects have made headlines here in the past, but a much more practical application would be a digital medical record. And each user controls their own data.

After Metaverse comes Web3

Marcus Schuler, ARD Los Angeles, Dec 8, 2021 9:25 a.m.

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