This is the start of a reading list on three interrelated topics: Web3, the Metaverse, and Blockchain.
People are talking about Web3. Is it the Internet of the future or just a buzzword?
November 21, 2021
There’s a buzzword that tech, crypto and venture-capital types have become infatuated with lately. Conversations are now peppered with it, and you’re not serious about the future until you add it to your Twitter bio: Web3.
It’s an umbrella term for disparate ideas all pointing in the direction of eliminating the big middlemen on the internet. In this new era, navigating the web no longer means logging onto the likes of Facebook, Google or Twitter.
Think of it this way: The nascent days of the Internet in the 1990s were Web 1.0. The web was seen as a way to democratize access to information, but there weren’t great ways of navigating it beyond going to your friend’s GeoCities page. It was pretty disorganized and overwhelming.
Then came Web 2.0 starting in the mid-2000s. Platforms like Google, Amazon, Facebook and Twitter emerged to bring order to the Internet by making it easy to connect and transact online. Critics say over time those companies amassed too much power.
Web3, SoftwareICs, MicroTransactions, and Component Software
Fred M. Beshears
Web3 in Education Isn’t Very Interesting
by Michael Feldstein
26 February 2022
It’s been a while since I’ve written much on e-Literate. Sorry about that. I’ve been super busy with my new start-up, Argos Education. I’ll be doing more again soon; here, on the Argos site, on Blursdays, and so on. I thought I’d start today with a warm-up post.
Rebecca Koenig published a piece in EdSurge a few weeks about the potential for Web3 in higher education. Koenig is a decent journalist who gamely tries to tackle a genuinely confusing topic. Something about decentralization and taking the internet back from big corporations (while possibly giving it to other big corporations) and stuff like that.
I don’t claim to have clarity or answers about Web3 yet but I do have two hypotheses:
- Blockchain, the technology upon which Web3 is premised, doesn’t add a whole lot to the ability to decentralize education in ways that were not possible before.
- In any event, the real challenge with decentralization isn’t the technology. It’s the humans. Blockchain doesn’t really help there in any way that I can see.
How AI, VR, AR, 5G, and blockchain may converge to power the metaverse
26 December 2021
Emerging technologies including AI, virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR), 5G, and blockchain (and related digital currencies) have all progressed on their own merits and timeline. Each has found a degree of application, though clearly AI has progressed the furthest. Each technology is maturing while overcoming challenges ranging from blockchain’s energy consumption to VR’s propensity for inducing nausea. They will likely converge in readiness over the next several years, underpinned by the now ubiquitous cloud computing for elasticity and scale. And in that convergence, the sum will be far greater than the parts. The catalyst for this convergence will be the metaverse — a connected network of always-on 3D virtual worlds.
The metaverse concept has wide-sweeping potential. On one level, it could be a 3D social media channel with messaging targeted perfectly to every user by AI. That’s the Meta (previously Facebook) vision. It also has the potential to be an all-encompassing platform for information, entertainment, and work.
There will be multiple metaverses, at least initially, with some tailored to specific interests such as gaming or sports. The key distinction between current technology and the metaverse is the immersive possibilities the metaverse offers, which is why Meta, Microsoft, Nvidia, and others are investing so heavily in it. It may also become the next version of the Internet.
What Is Happening to the People Falling for Crypto and NFTs
5 May 2022
To understand the latest incarnation of the colossal crypto grifts that continue to engulf the internet, I suppose we should start with all those bored apes, because how could we not?
I don’t mean real apes — little of what’s in this column is about stuff you could call in any tangible sense “real.” Instead I’m talking about the collection of digital art known as the Bored Apes Yacht Club. Created about a year ago by a quartet of mysterious, pseudonymous cryptocurrency enthusiasts, Bored Apes is a collection of thousands of “programmatically generated” hypercolor drawings of coolly disheveled primates, the kind you don’t bring home to mama.
The arms race to build the metaverse
by Derek Robertson
4 May 2022
If the most optimistic predictions about the metaverse come true, it will be the result of a lot of good old-fashioned computing power.
Consider the sheer scale of the technological demands that a metaverse would make: A theoretically limitless number of users, interacting with each other in real-time in a constantly evolving virtual space.
Matthew Ball, a venture capitalist who started an fund of metaverse-related stocks, asserted in a widely-read blog post last year that it will require “the greatest ongoing computational requirements in human history.” Intel VP Raja Koduri wrote in a December essay that it would need a “a 1,000-times increase in computational efficiency.”
That has real-world consequences. Even a modest version of the metaverse would entail a huge spike in demand for chips, for networking power and for advances in device manufacturing. It means the race to build a virtual world could be a major question of national competitiveness in the physical one.
What is Web3?
18 March 2022
Web3 is the name some technologists have given to the idea of a new kind of internet service that is built using decentralized blockchains — the shared ledger systems used by cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin and Ethereum.
The term has been around for years, but it has come into vogue in the past year or so. Packy McCormick, an investor who helped popularize web3, has defined it as “the internet owned by the builders and users, orchestrated with tokens.”
Proponents envision web3 taking many forms, including decentralized social networks, “play-to-earn” video games that reward players with crypto tokens, and NFT platforms that allow people to buy and sell fragments of digital culture. The more idealistic ones say that web3 will transform the internet as we know it, upending traditional gatekeepers and ushering in a new, middleman-free digital economy.
But some critics believe that web3 is little more than a rebranding effort for crypto, with the aim of shedding some of the industry’s cultural and political baggage and convincing people that blockchains are the natural next phase of computing. Others believe it’s a dystopian vision of a pay-to-play internet, in which every activity and social interaction becomes a financial instrument to be bought and sold.
A blockchain is a growing list of records, called blocks, that are linked together using cryptography. Each block contains a cryptographic hash of the previous block, a timestamp, and transaction data (generally represented as a Merkle tree). The timestamp proves that the transaction data existed when the block was published to get into its hash. As blocks each contain information about the block previous to it, they form a chain, with each additional block reinforcing the ones before it. Therefore, blockchains are resistant to modification of their data because once recorded, the data in any given block cannot be altered retroactively without altering all subsequent blocks.
A metaverse is a network of 3D virtual worlds focused on social connection. In futurism and science fiction, it is often described as a hypothetical iteration of the Internet as a single, universal virtual world that is facilitated by the use of virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) headsets.
The term “metaverse” originated in the 1992 science fiction novel Snow Crash as a portmanteau of “meta” and “universe.” Metaverse development is often linked to advancing virtual reality technology due to increasing demands for immersion. Recent interest in metaverse development is influenced by Web3, a concept for a decentralized iteration of the internet. Web3 and The Metaverse have been used as a buzzwords to exaggerate development progress of various related technologies and projects for public relations purposes. Information privacy, user addiction, and user safety are concerns within metaverses, stemming from challenges facing the social media and video game industries as a whole.
Web3 (also known as Web 3.0 and sometimes stylized as web3) is an idea for a new iteration of the World Wide Web based on blockchain technology, which incorporates concepts such as decentralization and token-based economics. Some technologists and journalists have contrasted it with Web 2.0, wherein they say data and content are centralized in a small group of companies sometimes referred to as “Big Tech”. The term “Web3” was coined in 2014 by Ethereum co-founder Gavin Wood, and the idea gained interest in 2021 from cryptocurrency enthusiasts, large technology companies, and venture capital firms.
Some experts argue that Web3 will provide increased data security, scalability, and privacy for users and combat the influence of large technology companies. Others have raised concerns about a decentralized web, citing the potential for low moderation and the proliferation of harmful content, the centralization of wealth to a small group of investors and individuals, or a loss of privacy due to more expansive data collection. Others, such as Elon Musk and Jack Dorsey, have argued that Web3 only currently serves as a buzzword.