How Off-The-Wall Ideas Resulted In The Metaverse: Lessons For Web3

Elie Ohayon, CEO and Founder, Master the Monster.

Not a day goes by without an announcement about the metaverse since Mark Zuckerberg made it a buzzword and solidified it as a new frontier—what I see as a new El Dorado. Serious research institutes like Gartner predict that 25% of people will spend at least one hour a day on the metaverse to work, educate, entertain, shop or socialize. We are also told that the virtual fashion market for avatars and other metaverse-related technology will be worth $55 billion by 2030.

In 2000, the phone company Orange said: “The future is bright” and advertised consumers watching videos on their mobiles. Around the same time, the internet bubble burst. The dot coms that had promised the moon disappeared for lack of a viable business model. This was largely due to some notable omissions that the industries failed to account for.

From this experience, and others, we can draw lessons for the deluge of Web3 proclamations today.

The wildest promises often end up being kept, though not exactly as we first imagined. I remember a CEO of a major telco asserting that, yes, we’ll have video on our mobiles, but we will never want to watch a movie or a football game on this device. The future always happens; it’s just a matter of time.

The time it takes for the technology to make the proposed services or products accessible is never as quick as innovators market their promises. WAP never succeeded, and it took eight years to make both 3G and 4G accessible to everyone and thus make the use of Web 2.0 comfortable. How long will it take to mainstream 5G and Edge computing, i.e., the ability to process data directly through the device that produced it? Adoption cycles are not going to go away, and even if they do shorten, it is unrealistic to think it will take less than five years.

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It also takes time for a device to naturally integrate into society and make its technology transparent to users. This is what the iPhone (and its ubiquitous entrance into the cultural zeitgeist) has done in a masterful way, and yet it took two years to get 3G and really deliver on the promise of mobile internet. What will be the iPhone of the metaverse? The battle is raging between the multiple internet giants over the device that will lead you into this web space: Oculus for Facebook, HoloLens for Microsoft, etc.

There is a process to inventing business models and then getting them monetized. We now understand that true innovation happens from the outside in, with culture and access dictating the speed at which startups build upon legacy infrastructure. Only then do the big brands figure out how to innovate. For example, Adobe and Photoshop incorporated neural networks years after other much smaller companies brought image manipulation into the AI realm.

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The continued momentum of mass enthusiasm is a fickle beast. Early adoption will have its share of critics, and brands constantly look to see where they’ll be least maligned in these sparse spaces. For example, the general public is still skeptical of the early metaverse infrastructure simply because the first looks are still basic.

The free and paid advertising models have accelerated. This has facilitated the wide adoption of the internet with all the consequences in terms of privacy that we have discovered along the way. From this perspective, I believe NFTs and blockchain will be unavoidable. But with 25 transactions per second for Ether or Bitcoin against 50,000 per second for Visa or Mastercard, we are far from the mark.

Even if some more confidential or less used blockchains like Avalanche end up reaching 100,000 transactions per second, the environmental cost is already huge for such a niche use and would become unacceptable in mainstream use. No doubt, green blockchains (i.e., will emerge, but how long will it take for the manufacturing cost of an NFT to be absorbed by a selling price while leaving an acceptable margin for the seller?

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• Disruptive innovation is only embraced if it makes everyone’s life better. A large technological shift needs to bring something radically new or greatly improve on existing solutions: smartphones versus previous mobile phones, streaming versus DVDs, electric versus non-electric cars, etc.

This is where brands will have to start testing and exploring what Web3 and the metaverse will allow in order to conceptualize tomorrow’s models— the ones that will help change lives.

We can’t avoid thinking about the human cost of the metaverse, including its addictive dimension. Thinking of this can help prevent reproducing the mistakes we make with social networks. Oftentimes, if innovation goes awry, like the mental health impact of Facebook and Instagram on youth, in hindsight, there’s remorse for bringing these technologies to life.

We can predict some of these innovations and the general timeframe they will be adopted. Let’s take this time of Web3 emergence to raise the right questions: At what cost will the metaverse continue existing? How sustainable will it be? Is it helping humanity collectively become better? What do we lose when we make something more desirable than real life?

We should seriously consider these questions, for I feel there is a thin line between the promised utopia and the dystopia the metaverse could create.

Forbes Business Council is the foremost growth and networking organization for business owners and leaders. Do I qualify?

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