This is part 2 of a 3-part blog series on a Cisco futurist’s perspectives on some buzzy terms and technology trends.
At Cisco, I’m responsible for looking at the future of human-machine interaction, and there are a ton of buzzy terms and trends being bandied about. Internally, I’ve fielded questions that range from NFTs and crypto, to the future of the Internet. Through that process, I’ve developed some informed but somewhat divergent perspectives.
If you haven’t read the first installation of this series on human-machine interactions of the future, I highly recommend digging into the definitions of some of the concepts I’m going to share here. With that foundation, let’s move to my first unpopular opinion about the Metaverse.
The Metaverse will be more powerful as an augmented experience than a virtual one.
Gartner announced that by 2026, 25 percent of people will spend at least an hour a day in the Metaverse.* But, how we define the Metaverse stands to reason. Many individuals associate the Metaverse with Virtual Realities and Worlds, commercialized by the Facebook rebrand to Meta. This immersive, virtual reality is critical and core to the embodied web concept – but even with Apple’s announcement of their long-awaited VR headset, I don’t foresee us living our real lives largely in virtual worlds.
However, Augmented Reality is also rising as a valuable asset in creating the Metaverse. Webex Hologram is a great example of that physical-digital hybrid through Augmented Reality collaboration. Although Webex Hologram leverages AR headsets, other AR applications like Google Maps and Pokémon Go! show us that even a mobile phone can unlock meaningful, powerful extended reality experiences.
Unlike VR, AR is more accessible to devices across the socio-economic spectrum. It has more use cases. It takes less bandwidth. It generally makes more logical sense. I believe the most powerful Metaverse will be accessible by all, via mobile devices that aren’t just reflecting virtual worlds, but devices that add a digital layer to augment the physical world.
That said, my next unpopular opinion reflects my belief that these interactions won’t all live on the blockchain.
There are two types of Metaverses: Open and Closed.
In my opinion, are two Metaverses: the Open Metaverse and the Closed Metaverse. I’ll explain the difference, but their core concept is how each relates to Web3.
In mass media, the Metaverse has been characterized as this collection of virtual worlds, where people are represented by digital versions of themselves – typically with avatars or in volumetric video. However, I consider the Metaverse as consisting of immersive and extended reality experiences – which encompass fully virtual reality worlds, but also augmented reality experiences that include a digital overlay on the physical world, haptics, voice assistants, gesture control, and more.
“The Open Metaverse is an interoperable world where users can carry
with them their proverbial blockchain-based baggage like NFTs.
The Closed Metaverse is where it gets stopped by customs.”
When you’re engaging in the Metaverse, the experiences you have are often tokenized and require digital payment. Today, your purchases can be made by buying tokens in a world – just like in Fortnite today, or even the Chuck-E Cheeses out there – and then using those tokens to pay for experiences or digital assets. However, in open Metaverse worlds that run on Web3, the currency is a cryptocurrency built on blockchains with multiple connecting smart contracts.
These two back ends, a blockchain backend (likely Ethereum) for Web3 and a Web2 backend, will support the development of Extended Reality Metaverse spaces. Both will contribute to it – not just the decentralized web. But that difference in the backend creates an issue that although the vision for our Extended Reality experience is a unified one, I don’t foresee an easy route to evolving a Web2 backend to include persistent assets on the blockchain.
Thus, I’ve been using “open metaverse-closed metaverse” terminology to represent the XR experiences that will be interoperable (open) and those which will be separate (closed) based on whether or not they will be blockchain-based.
The decentralized Web3 paradigm requires a blockchain backend. But I, and others like me, see the future of the Internet as being less like Web3 and more like what I’ve been referring to as “Web2+.” That concept was also cited in the Exponential View podcast episode, albeit referred to as a “centralized Metaverse” and a “decentralized Metaverse.”
I personally like open-closed nomenclature because I think it provides a strong correlation to the experience I foresee users having. The Open Metaverse is an interoperable world where users can carry with them their proverbial blockchain-based baggage like NFTs. The Closed Metaverse is where it gets stopped by customs.
I even foresee Closed Metaverse applications that have select integrations with blockchain – but which are not built fully on the blockchain itself. There will be myriad iterations of centralized-decentralized, open-closed experiences, which leads me to my next unpopular opinion.
The entire internet will not be fully decentralized.
The movement towards Web3 has gotten so much press and has a tremendous amount of investment and support. But many aren’t talking about how today’s Web3 is actually largely running on the backbone of Web2. Right now, even cryptocurrency trading has high costs, and many of the platforms are built on Web2 infrastructure. Although many wish it wasn’t so, Web2 is woven into the fabric of Web3.
This perspective was also discussed in the podcast, and at SXSW this year, I spoke with some Web3 investors who confirmed their perspective on the same. Other developers are saying the same. In addition, many large enterprises have spent considerable time investigating Web3, and they too see the value of Web3 in certain areas and contexts – assuming that we can solve the interoperability problem, which analysts estimate will take another 8-10 years.
According to Ghose in the podcast episode, the ideal he foresaw was that on a person’s mobile phone or personal device, you could seamlessly switch from Web2 to Web3 applications. The user experience of Web3 should mirror that in Web2, and they use the same front-end technologies (Java, CSS, HTML, etc.), but the backend shifts from the cloud to the blockchain. Web3 developers have some of the same tools in their toolkit, but then they add a few new ones depending on what they’re building and where. For example, Web3 SDKs like web3.js, web3.py, and ethers.js are essential for building any decentralized application, and programming languages like Solidity and Vyper are also key skills a Web3 developer needs.
To be sure, there are purists who are focused on a complete reinvention of the Internet, but that isn’t my perspective. I believe that consumers and companies alike will, in the future, toggle between Web2 and Web3 experiences, focusing less on the ideology and more on the value.
Whereas many Web3 advocates predict it as the future of the Internet, others believe that Web3 will exist alongside Web2, but not replace it. I tend to agree with this concept of coexistence, a movement I’ve referred to as Web2+. Web 2+ has proven to be a pretty unpopular opinion, but I stand by it based on what I’ve read and heard.
In the next installation, I’ll dig more deeply into decentralization, Web3, and the Internet of the Future, so stay tuned!
What are your thoughts on my unpopular opinions? Do you share them or disagree? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below!
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*Predicts 2022: 4 Technology Bets for Building the Digital Future, Gartner, February 2022.
Thanks Annie. Metaverse and Web3 ideas/visions come in diverse flavors, depending on who you ask – and you are helping to clarify a range of the adjectives for the technologies, business models, and user experiences involved, including open and closed, decentralized and centralized, virtual and augmented, etc.
I agree, Jim – and I’m always interested to see how others describe them and define them. Thanks for reading!
Excelente blog de IA
I think Web2 will have to work alongside of Web3. Legacy systems and Governments Systems are always Last.
Absolutely. Interoperability is key. Not just between Web3 properties, to your point – but between Web2 and Web3. I think the future will be less Web3 and more of what I call Web2+. And that’s not just because legacy systems are slow to adopt – but that they have the most complex or security-sensitive use cases. Government, Healthcare, Financial Services – these verticals have a super high threshold for trusted applications and very serious outcomes when trust is breached. With a glaringly obvious Web3 security gap, it will take time, governance, and basically an entire mindshift before we see Web3 adoption for some applications in certain industries.
Will be interesting to see what the future brings
Agreed, Steven. We are seeing things emerge that both inspire me and scare me a bit.
I look forward to more information – Nice Job with the explanation.
Thanks for reading, Jack!
Thank you for the explanation as you see it, interesting reading and I’ll be looking forward to reading your next articles (you say it won’t be fully decentralized, please, elaborate).
Thanks for the comment and the question! By “not fully decentralized,” I mean that the Internet of the Future will indeed have elements of Web3 – transactions that run on a distributed ledger like the Ethereum blockchain. However, cloud and on-prem networks will still play a part in the internet. Think of it like today’s hybrid cloud, but add blockchain ledgers. The infrastructure layer will include a combination of on-prem (but less than today), colo, and cloud – all considered Web2), but also distributed ledger backends (Web3 tech). There will be interoperability between Web2 and Web3 – but Web2 will still have a place in the future of the internet.
I agree, Andrew!
Absolutely, David – thanks for reading!
Metaverse and Web3 are interesting concepts, but nothing more. Like mentioned, to succeed they’ll need to meld with current technologies, not replace them.
I agree with interoperability. It’s critical. And right now, there is so very much buzz that it’s hard to know whether it’s real or it’s fluff. Frankly, I consider these fairly nascent trends/technologies, as does Forrester. I spoke with someone about Web3 earlier this week and I said, “blockchain makes sense only in certain use cases. If there is an absence of trust, the answer could be blockchain.” And I define the Metaverse in limited terms, as an embodied experience, oftentimes experienced in a social context. That said – the Future of the Internet overall won’t be decentralized, but parts of it will. The beauty is that even with a blockchain backend – the UI is the same, so most people won’t know (or care) if they’re on a chain. They’ll have a similar user experience no matter what, if it’s done right.
Will be interesting to see how things evolve and interact in the future.
Interesting to see the tendency
Agreed – and to see the different perspectives folks are offering around the topics.
Metaverse is a reality, and is growing everyday; it’s important to know how it evolves since Gartner’s prediction says that in 2026 25% of people will spend at least 1 hour/day in metaverse
I LOVE that stat. Everyone thinks the Metaverse is a VR gaming cloud, but it’s not. It’s so much more. Another fun fact: Accenture sends a VR headset to all of its new employees because it onboards them in the Metaverse.
“Web3 is actually largely running on the backbone of Web2” – This is such an important point which I don’t see pointed out very often, well said!
Thanks, Scott! I’m working on another piece where we look at a recent announcement of a company moving into the Metaverse – and my team breaks down the pieces that are Web3, and the ones that are Web2. Plus the ones that are ambiguous! The industry is creating APIs that connect crypto wallets to SaaS products, applications that run on AWS but which allow for trading of NFTs across the blockchain, etc. It’s an exciting time for us to figure out how to harness the full power of decentralization where it makes sense – and connect it with cloud where Web3 just doesn’t make sense.
Sure thing, Simon!
Web3 will be interesting technology, fascinating progress from forgotten Gopher.
I had to look that one up, Dominik! Seems like the Gopher protocol is what we should be referring to when we say “semantic web” because of the nature of its search and retreival functionality. Fascinating stuff – thanks for sharing!
sounds good, but Web3 could also be just a good idea that will never come
I’ve often called Web3 an “idea” instead of a “thing” for that reason. There are so many hopes for what Web3 really is – but it is a heavy lift to build an entire internet, with a critical mass of the components that provide decentralized infrastructure, platforms, applications, security, and devices that support all the content and experiences on the web. Eventually, we will have more of those things built with “decentralized-first” thinking. As of now – it’s a very long and uncertain game indeed.
Absolutely, thanks for sharing!
Great insight into the future of the Internet and I tend to agree with the points you’ve made here. Especially regarding a fully decentralized Internet. I think coexistence will be the way forward.
Welcome to unpopular opinion-ville! Co-existence is a beautiful way to phrase it.
Interesting to see how docker can be used for the metaverse
This is very insightful 🙂
Interesting information! Great take outs!
Looking forward to the new web3 experiences of the future.
Same, Brad! I’ll say that the front-end UI is supposed to be the same, but the backend runs on a distributed ledger – so I think that once we start actually having these experiences, ultimately unless they’re immersive with persistent assets, the blockchain piece will be invisible.
Very interesting read,thanks
This follow-up regarding Docker was very beneficial, it helped to clear a lot of things up for me. Thank you so much for the blog!
I think Web3 and Metaverse are two concepts that are a huge distraction from real technical innovation which I’d like to see Cisco stay away from. We’ve just added a robotic surgeon to our hospital, an AI radiographer, cloud based robotic process automation workers.. all real digital innovation, real technology leaps… and not a single monetized web3 or a metaverse concept in sight, ….and that how I see the industry going outside of the folks distracted by the concepts mentioned in the blog. I have to be honest about this!
I really appreciate your response, Neil. There is a ton of VC funding pouring into Web3 and Metaverse, with very little thus far to show for it. As far as Cisco goes, in the future of the internet, no matter how companies do or don’t use blockchain and immersive technologies, some problems are indisputable. People will trust institutions less. The future of work will be global, remote, and digitally collaborative. Media consumption will demand a tremendous amount of bandwidth and low latency. The increasingly complex fabric of IoT devices will require connections and interoperability. From the way that humans will connect with each other, through the interaction, application, security, platform, and infrastructure layers – we must take note of the signals, project out the macrotrends, and reverse engineer these possible futures, to invest in the kinds of things that our customers will need and demand. Trust that whatever investments our M&A and Innovation teams are making align with the parts of the future that align with our core competencies.
Interesting opinion, thank you !!!!
Good explanation of the future tech and where it is going and how it will evolve. I don’t see any of this happening any time soon. At least not in the majority of the world. The more developed countries with tech elites will test it out but the rest of the world will be slow to adopt. And governments will almost certainly be last. Thank you for your insight, looking forward to the final installment.
Great thoughts, Larry. I think there is a bell curve, and we are definitively at the very tip of the early-adoption portion of it. In that small segment, we have the first world, especially given the current state of global bandwidth access in the third world. That said — I think that innovations around energy and compression will be interesting bedfellows for democratizing immersive experiences across socioeconomic lines. Until then – it indeed is an important intellectual, empathetic exercise for us to pause to think about how fortunate we are that we get to imagine how such a vibrant experience could be ours within a few years.
The Metaverse and VR with blockchain! It seems that the Cisco world is in another dimension! Very hard to grasp!
Agreed David! And beyond just grasping it is trying to vet what will actually gain critical mass, and what will, like Furbees, fizzle out and disappear from popular culture.
Great blog, nice inside
The Metaverse makes for a new training environment that really grabs your attention.
100%. Training is a critical and dynamic way the Metaverse will actually make sense in office environments. It won’t make sense everywhere, to everyone, all the time. But if we limit our thinking about the Metaverse to Facebook Horizon virtual worlds, we’re losing visibility into some of the most powerful immersive experiential applications in the Future of Work.
Nice Job with the opinion piece & explanation. I look forward to more information
Thanks for reading, Philip!
Very insightful and interesting points.
Thanks, Yasin! Some are considered unpopular, but I’m finding some excellent validation from folks in the know.
As long as it creates more jobs for IT guys I support it, other than that it is just another entertainment hype. Change because of a change not because of a need.
“Change because of a change not because of a need.” Absolutely. What a great comment. If often say, “companies don’t often innovate for the purpose of innovation – they do it to solve a problem.” This is why I’m cautiously optimistic. People still aren’t quite clear on what it is, and they don’t all agree. The use cases are very limited and the technologies are early. Change is coming, though – and it would be prudent for all of our technologist customers and industry partners to pay some attention to the skills this new landscape requires.
Modular technologies that are built not to solve a problem known now may be repurposed as part of solutions later, potentially reducing costs.
Cool stuff, thank you!
Great series of blogs in such an insighful
Seems like new government agency will be created soon in attempt to regulate all new staff created in attempt to decentralization. )
Agreed, Victor. As is evident by Biden’s recent executive order, there are certainly going to be public resources poured into the topic. That said: related specifically to the decentralized finance economy, some interesting things have developed, like governments trying to establish ownership of crypto assets for the purpose of taxation. It’s like a Swiss bank without a country: who benefits from – and is responsible for – cryptocurrency transactions? I’m certainly keeping attuned to the developments.
Thanks for sharing.
Thanks for sharing.
Thanks for sharing that idea
More functionality and integrated functionality will add value for some users, not for others. The accountability on the digital blockchains provides value for some users. Some value that users derive from the functions of AR and VR is exchangeable at a rate. Whether this currency means anything to people in real life is up for discussion.
Michael – I totally agree. The value of blockchain – and immersive experiences – is, to many, nebulous. To others, we’re still in the early days and the opportunity is immense. I straddle the line: I think that there is value in mixed reality, and in transparent, immutable transactions – but not for every single transaction. Similarly, I believe there is value in digital twins, but not for every transaction. These emerging technologies are tools we can use to build better stuff, better experiences, and a better future. But I envision our future being composed of a comprehensive, sophisticated, varied fabric of technologies, rather than all being sewed together in blockchain-based cloth.
Excellent insight, looking forward to the next blog
The final blog is live! https://blogs.cisco.com/learning/human-machine-interactions-of-the-future-unpopular-opinions-part-3
Food for thought, thanks for the article!
IA from a different perspective.
Love to learn more from it!
yes, very helpful because ML is will the most using.
“The Open Metaverse is an interoperable world where users can carry
with them their proverbial blockchain-based baggage like NFTs.
The Closed Metaverse is where it gets stopped by customs.”
Spicifics are the boundaries of each zone.
Exactly – the boundaries are limited by interoperability – which is why that topic is such a cool one to follow right now. Where do Web2 and Web3 applications and platforms mingle? How does Web2 API with select Web3 integrations? It’s gonna be fun.
I am interested in the Internet of the Future
Very powerful, Great post.
Thanks for the post, Annie. I agree that AR is, and will continue to be, more accessible and also has more real-world applications versus VR. The Metaverse will be a combination of the two, but AR will take up a larger share. Also, I like/prefer your open/closed nomenclature and think The Metaverse will be made up of a lots of closed metaverses having connections into one or more open metaverse. And yes, Web 3.0 is being built on Web 2.0, just as Web 2.0 was built on Web 1.0.
Absolutely, Kevin. I totally foresee the future of closed Metaverses, operating independently and very well outside of distributed ledger technology. However – I’m also keen on following companies and entities that are working on interoperability – so that we can have solutions that connect where connection is key (blockchain-based identity, for instance), and which stay isolated where it makes sense (on-prem networks protecting IP). At the end of the day, there will be immersive, spatial B2B experiences outside of the vaporous gaming clouds that people think of when they think Metaverse. And I am so here for it.
hmmm….interesting point of view.
Fantastic article! It will be interesting to see what happens next.
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