The internet as we know it is over. At least that’s what proponents of the metaverse and Web3 – a blockchain-driven, decentralised internet – believe. Given the proven market for virtual worlds, it’s no surprise that the metaverse has attracted serious corporate attention. In 2020, $54bn was spent globally on in-game items, more than was spent on acquiring the games themselves (Statista). Crypto investment firm Grayscale predicts the metaverse is a $1tn revenue opportunity.
Meanwhile, it’s hard not to root for Web3’s David and Goliath vision of “the people” seizing back control of the internet from Big Tech. Yet critics dismiss it as hyperbole. The Register amusingly reappropriated Douglas Adams, dismissing the concept as “a fairy story. It’s what parents tell their kids about at night if they want them to grow up to become economists.”
Whether the tectonic plates of the web are shifting or not, business leaders need to keep their eyes open. Because the future is being designed by (mainly white, young, male) software engineers, and it’s happening so fast that governments, society and much of the corporate world can’t keep up. It’s what Azeem Azhar calls “the exponential gap” in his thought-provoking book Exponential, where he urges society to end the unchecked power of the technologists so the rest of us still have a say in humanity’s evolution.