There’s lots of hype around Web 3.0 and the Metaverse.
So in this update, I’ll clarify what it is and share my view on its future.
Let’s start by clarifying the lingo:
Web 1.0: This was the one-way World Wide Web, where people put up static content that others could view.
Web 2.0: This is the two-way web, where people can save and exchange data on centralized online platforms, commonly social media.
Web 3.0: This is the decentralized blockchain-based web, where users own digital assets they can share, sell or show off. In cryptocurrency, people own coins; in the Metaverse people own land; and with NFTs people own digital art.
A key concept in Web 3.0 is the Decentralized Application, called a Dapp. In Dapps, smart contracts fix the rules of how a technology implements rules in a way that cannot or should not be changed. Then the Dapp is like a regular interface, only it’s constrained by the rules of the smart contracts.
Imagine if when you joined LinkedIn, Facebook and Google, the rules existed in a smart contract that never changed and anybody could interact with their database?
If that were the case, there would be fewer concerns about privacy abuses, and we’d own much more of our data, according to the original policies when we first joined.
When some companies send you an email announcing that they’ve updated their policy, this usually means you’re about to be exploited more.
The advantages of Dapps have more to do with power relations. Smart contracts can empower users, limit the ability of owners to abuse the community and provide a record of events that provides protection against those who rewrite history.
In my 20+ years career, I’ve seen trends takeoff and flop. Generally, I bet on technologies with obvious advantages and crazy adoption. Sometimes, I bet on technologies that satisfy human needs better than others.
For Web 3.0, I have mixed emotions. I’m not convinced by the Metaverse, as I’ve witnessed VR failing to be “the next big thing” for two decades. I visited several corporate islands in Second Life ten years ago, only to find empty storefronts with no engagement. That hype bubble didn’t last too long.
But this time, blockchain technology offers emotional advantages. The fusion of the Metaverse with Dapp architecture is something I believe can grow. But I think with today’s technology it will stay small.
For UX and behavioral design, there are some exciting opportunities in Web 3.0. In Dapps, “code is law”, which means smart contracts are like legal agreements. Once executed, they’re irreversible and recorded on a public ledger. We’ll need to develop a new visual language to communicate with users, help them understand smart contracts, and guide their behavior.
I also see Web 3.0 in revolutionary terms. People tend to resent those who exploit them. We’re motivated to escape exploitation. The opposite of customer loyalty is customer resentment or even hatred. Company-name-sucks.com websites exist for a reason.
Most humans on the planet are trapped in exploitative technology contracts that they resent and wish to escape. Every such business is now ripe for Web 3.0 technology that can destroy their monopoly and take their customers.
Web 3.0 can grow fast because it has a motivational advantage, with empowerment and large cost savings. With Dapps, small tech teams can replace banks, centralized social media, and many businesses–but with the advantage of user ownership, transparency, and smart contracts. And let’s not forget the massive cost savings.
Of course, this is my idealistic view. In practice, I’m seeing a lot of exploitation in Web 3.0, but nonetheless, the idealists can win this battle. As more technologies empower people, Web 3.0 will explode and we’ll witness the next wave of tech winners and losers.
I’m taking Web 3.0 seriously, and keen to explore how we use behavioral science in this new ecosystem.