The internet was a clunky technology in 1995 that promised to change the world. Consumers didn’t understand it, and pundits mocked its significance. The internet, as we know it, eventually went on to transform the world, emerging as one of the most significant technological leaps of our lifetime.
Now, twenty-seven years later, we find ourselves at a similar juncture. Web3 promises to turn our world upside down and make the advances realized by the internet seem small by comparison.
And yet 99.9% of my sophisticated network (and the rest of the world) can’t comprehend it, explain it, or appreciate the life-changing impact that it will have. To put it bluntly, nearly everyone has no clue what’s coming.
Perhaps one of the most misunderstood concepts in Web3 is the metaverse. It is a concept that has been ridiculed just like the “World Wide Web” before it. Yet, the metaverse is merely a term that reflects a future iteration of the internet. Let me explain.
A Generational Technological Shift Upon Us
The internet is a massive collection of interconnected computers that can be easily explored through a centralized set of navigation tools and standardized address schemas. Web3 is the next generation of the internet.
We are in the early stages of transforming the back and front end of the internet into something much more powerful and meaningful. The ultimate goal is to mirror our offline experience in an online format.
Undeniably, the current iteration of the internet delivers a digital experience that is convenient and efficient but at a cost that most people don’t realize. Yes — it provided streamlined communication. However, it simultaneously disconnected us from our family and friends.
Case in point, our children no longer talk to each other and instead choose to communicate through texts, apps, emojis, and GIFs. We stopped printing pictures to decorate our homes with curated collections for our visitors to enjoy. Instead, we post them on social media, chronicling our lives for our followers to consume at their leisure.
Even the digital shopping experience is flat and more akin to the days when people browsed the Sears Roebuck catalog that they received in the snail mail. Intimate connections with people and experiences are rapidly disappearing in this vacuum.
The metaverse promises to move us forward by bringing it all back!
Recreating The Offline Experience Online
Let’s go back to the digital shopping experience for a brief moment. When you shop on Amazon for a TV, you’re browsing a digital version of a printed catalog you would have formerly received in the mail or newspaper.
The difference is that it can be updated instantly and is integrated with social media features that allow you to see what other people think about it. Moreover, it is connected with ecommerce tools that enable you to instantly consume what you want rather than placing a phone order or visiting a store.
Shop Instacart for groceries, and you’re essentially doing the same thing — scrolling through a dynamic two-dimensional digital catalog to pick out foodstuffs. With the metaverse, that experience will be relegated to the past, delivering all of the positive aspects of visiting a physical store without the inconvenience.
The first phase of the metaverse involves reconstructing the web from a flat two-dimensional experience into an immersive, interactive three-dimensional experience that resembles a massive multiplayer video game like Fortnite.
Instead of scrolling through a digital catalog to buy your groceries, you will enter a supermarket with an avatar representing your identity. That avatar will be pushing a digital cart down the aisles as you pick up food items, examine them, and deposit them in your cart before moving on to the next aisle.
The new customer journey will resemble the real-world experience of shopping that is threatened with extinction by Web2. The metaverse allows us to reclaim our past while still preserving the efficiencies powered by the internet, like dynamic content, ensuring we see the latest products as soon as they arrive instead of awaiting the next catalog in the mail.
Back To The Future
Phase two of the metaverse is a few years away and will take us even further into our past. In the next version, avatars and the cartoonish objects of today’s metaverse experience will be replaced with virtual reality.
You will put on a VR headset before entering a virtual supermarket and walking down virtual aisles that look and feel like you are actually there. Consider the Zoom experience that is quickly replacing phone calls and in-person meetings. The metaverse will bring you closer to the real world in a digital format.
Still, like any progressive technology, some externalities present challenges. For instance, when you can experience reality virtually, why leave your home? Today, the internet makes shopping more efficient because it’s quicker and cheaper than going into a store.
The tradeoff as you forego the experience that traditional merchandising delivers — the curated visual and tactile experiences. Furthermore, you lose the sensation created from being in a crowd experiencing the reality as you.
Movie theatres and sports venues still exist for that very reason. Being surrounded by people in the same venue amplifies the sensations enveloping our experiences. If the metaverse solves this missing link in Web 2, reality as we now know it will be replaced by its virtual counterpart and deliver everything but the physical act of walking through the store.
Now, let’s return from the metaverse store to our virtual home in the metaverse. Instead of sharing your life linearly on social media, you’ll be able to invite people into your home and offer a curated experience, sharing your life in an immersive format that mimics someone visiting your offline reality.
This is just a glimpse of what the future of the metaverse will provide from a front-end perspective. For just a second, consider the benefits of community-based ownership and governance models, trustless transactions, transparency, and so much more underpinning this from the back-end. Although metaverse technologies applied to the front-end of user experiences exhibit so much unrealized potential, more lies beneath the surface, just like an iceberg.
I’ll share more about this in my next article exploring the metaverse’s underbelly.
Dan Nissanoff is a startup technology entrepreneur. He has founded leading companies in Web1, 2 and 3, and is currently the CEO of Game of Silks (silks.io) a derivative metaverse porting the thoroughbred horse racing industry into web3.
How The Metaverse Promises The Real World Experience The World Wide Web Shunned was originally published in Entrepreneur’s Handbook on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.