February 14, 2022

Understanding The Immediate Future Of The Web

Understanding The Immediate Future Of The Web

As someone who grew up during the 'dot com boom', I consider myself fortunate that as I get older I've been able to see the internet grow and evolve.

From the early days of sitting at school telling people I've just sent them an email even though they were mere metres away (such was the excitement of doing so), to being scolded by my parents for using the dial-up connection before 6 pm when it was more expensive.

So the vast changes that happen to the online world are just one of those things that I've learned to embrace and adapt - especially now as it is a part of my job.

Even now though, in my mid-thirties, I find myself veering slightly towards an 'Old Man Yells At Cloud' mentality as the web evolves further and in ways that would have only been postulated in an abstract sci-fi.

No doubt you've heard of the words 'Metaverse', 'Blockchain' or 'Cryptocurrency' (or just Crypto, because we're lazy by nature and those last syllables are too much effort).

And it's probably enough to make you sigh wearily, wonder what those darn kids are up to before settling down with something far more comforting and relatable.

But what are they? Where is the web going in the future? And why is it going out dressed like that?

Where are we, and where are we going?

I'm not going to go into great detail into each concept as this would be an incredibly long post, but I want you to think of the Internet in phases.

In the beginning, there was web 1.0. This was the birth of the internet, where there were very few websites (compared to now) and purely for information provided by a select group of organisations (now seems a good time to share a link to the First Ever Website).

Fast forward some years and the web evolved into web 2.0, which is what the vast majority of people know the internet as today.

Where web 1.0 was just 'read', web 2.0 is 'read and write'.

Web 2.0 allowed people to create their own websites. New technologies were incorporated to make sites more interactive (remember Flash sites, anyone?) and online communities began to spring up. From the early days of social media with web forums and guestbooks, to the emergence of blogging platforms and the social media behemoths that infiltrate our daily lives, like that emotional crutch you just can't kick.

So if web 1.0 was 'read', web 2.0 is 'read and write', then web 3.0 is 'read, write and execute'.

The aim of web 3.0 is, to quote Rage Against The Machine, 'Take the power back'.

The decentralised blockchain technology means that the users have control. (Blockchain is a system of recording information in a way that makes it difficult or impossible to change). This is the heart of where Cryptocurrency's potential lies, even if the lines are being blurred somewhat.

One thing that is important to understand is that such concepts are still in their early stages of life. Trying to understand and explain this can sometimes feel like you're trying to explain the Internet to someone in the 1970's - it seems confusing, weird and frankly insane.

The metaverse is a perfect example of this. Currently, it is just something of a catch-all term, and how it will be defined is still to be fully realised...it could be a virtual marketplace where people can create, buy and sell goods to a full Virtual Reality existence where you can interact with people, view live events and travel to different places.

One argument against this is that people feel it already exists. For example, there are huge online video games like World Of Warcraft, or the popular Fortnite game where you can already attend concerts...but saying that Fortnite is the metaverse, is like saying that Google is all of the Internet; there's so much more to explore.

What does this mean for businesses and marketing?

Well, this is the exciting bit because its potential is currently unknown.

Businesses are already making the move towards this digital future. Large companies are buying space in the metaverse and planning to build a retail outlet that can be visited, products can be bought etc.

The growing popularity of non-fungible tokens (NFTs) shows that this is growing from an idea to a viable method of promoting and marketing in the web 3.0 space.

Sure, nothing is perfect and there is a lot of trepidation surrounding these new technologies: Do people want to buy an NFT relating to your business? What if the market crashes and loses value? How do we even get started with this?

The key thing to take away from anything related to web 3.0 is that yes it is here, but it is also very new.

We are at the birth of it, much like we were when web 2.0 arrived. Few people envisaged being able to buy a house through Instagram, or how simply by videoing your daily life can make you a multi-millionaire, but this is the reality - the new real-life world we live in.

So strap on your VR headset, make sure you know where you're storing your Cryptocurrency and be prepared. Who knows where the next phase of the Internet is going to take us...?

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