The terms Web3 and metaverse are certainly generating a lot of hype in the tech world today. And in some of the press coverage, the two words appear to be used interchangeably. So it's understandable that some might think they refer to the same thing - but they don't. While Web3 and Metaverse are connected in many ways, they're distinct concepts.
In this post, we look at the differences between Web3 and the metaverse to better understand each of them.
In a nutshell, Web3 is the decentralized internet. It's called Web3 because it's considered the third significant evolution of the internet. Web1 was essentially read-only. Web2 focused on user interactivity and spawned social networking. Web3 is an internet built on distributed technologies like blockchain and decentralized autonomous organizations (DAO). And it's a far cry from the way the internet works today, relying on centralized servers that are owned by large corporations.
Decentralizing the internet has a democratizing effect. That's because we won't have, like today, a single entity controlling and storing the information transiting over the network. In Web3, the servers hosting the applications and storing the data will belong to the users of that network. Those users will have voting rights regarding the platform's rules and regulations. And because Web3 is built on the blockchain, users can also exchange goods and services without any intermediaries, like banks or governments. Web3 brings self-governance to the average internet user.
The metaverse, as it stands right now, is really just another expression for "virtual worlds." An immersive virtual reality space where users can interact with apps, services, and each other. And those interactions can be anything from socialization to commerce. It's like an internet where 3D virtual environments replace traditional websites.
The term "metaverse" is borrowed from Neal Stephenson's 1992 sci-fi novel, Snow Crash, in which the term denotes precisely what we're building today: an immersive virtual reality space.
One thing to note about the metaverse is that because the term is typically used in the singular, it gives the impression that it’s all just one virtual space. But that’s not the case. The metaverse will consist of many different virtual environments brought to you by various metaverse platforms.
And it's not because Web3 is decentralized that all metaverse will be as well. Some will build upon Web3's distributed technology and offer decentralized platforms (i.e., Decentraland). Others, like Meta's (i.e., Facebook's) metaverse, will stick to the old centralized model and provide us with a centralized metaverse platform.
Why do they get lumped together?
There appear to be three main reasons why these terms tend to be confused for one another.
- Web3 and the metaverse are in their infancy and are both very much under construction right now. And the individuals and organizations involved in building these technologies all have different ideas about what exactly the finished products will look like. So basically, part of the confusion stems from the fact that, at this point in time, both Web3 and the metaverse are so broadly defined.
- Furthering the confusion is the fact that both Web3 and the metaverse are sometimes referred to as "Web 3.0". That happens because both technologies are being touted as the next major evolution of the internet. Other expressions that can fuel this confusion are "the decentralized web" and "the immersive web." The former refers to Web3, while the latter refers to the metaverse. But both terms are actually used to denote "Web 3.0" - the third iteration of the internet.
- Finally, another big reason why both terms tend to be used as synonyms is that the two technologies crossover in many ways. Things like blockchain, smart contracts, cryptocurrencies, and non-fungible tokens (NFTs) are primordially tied to Web3. But they all have massive implications for the metaverse and what will or will not be possible in those environments.
So those are the main differences between Web3 and the metaverse as we understand them today. But this space is evolving at a furious pace, and by the time we reach the endgame, both Web3 and the metaverse may well be very different. Nonetheless, the above should still apply to a large degree.
Hopefully, this post helped you demystify both concepts and understand more clearly what they have in common and what sets them apart. Insofar as both Web3 and the metaverse will likely be integrated into our lives sooner than we may think, every little bit helps.
Modev was founded in 2008 on the simple belief that human connection is vital in the era of digital transformation. Today, Modev produces market-leading events such as VOICE Global, VOICE Summit, an award-winning VOICE Talks internet talk show and THREE, the event for the Transformation Economy. Modev staff, better known as "Modevators," include community building and transformation experts worldwide. To learn more about Modev, and the breadth of events offered live and virtually, visit modev.com.