Stop trying to predict the future of Web3, start studying the histories of Web1 and Web2
As experts rush to predict the future of Web3, Rattling Stick EP Jeff Shupe suggests analyzing the growth trajectory of Web1 and Web2 for a better understanding of how advertisers can utilize Web3 in the present.
Does anyone remember “Ask Jeeves”? The pre-Google icon would summon answers to every burning question and entertain with fountains of information, collected from…somewhere. That’s “Web1” in a nutshell: A reader’s Internet. When it was born, technology experts, educators and scientists envisioned a digitized era driven by unlimited access to information. We would all be connected, universally informed and smarter.
An understanding of Web1 and Web2 can inform how we think about Web3
Then social media happened. Hello Web2. The concept of forums, blogs, and social media invited a new premise: the user as a content creator. The Internet transformed into a social sharing tool for everything from the research paper to the cat video. Once audiences became abundant and transparent in their likes and dislikes, advertisers could reach them with more targeted content than ever before. The ability to know where your audience spent their time on the internet and tailor branded content just for them? That’s the dream!
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With Web3 on the rise, crystal ball wielders are throwing themselves at the early iterations of its technological infrastructure. It’s tempting to get messy while experimenting with novelty. But many new enterprises fade away as fast fads. We won’t know which brands “win” until far down the line. Unless… we can make informed predictions about the future.
Paying attention to the trajectory of Web1 and Web2 — and also to how advertisers conquered them — can teach us valuable lessons about how audiences will adopt Web3 and how brands can reach those audiences quickly, but with more authenticity, than throwing sh..spaghetti at the wall and seeing what sticks.
Hold out for a (hero) leader
Web1 waned when websites were texts and hyperlinks only. Enter Yahoo, which transformed a read-only static page into the disruptive concept of interactivity with one function: Yahoo! Answers (RIP). While its premise was simple, it allowed users to create content in posts they could own and edit. That was massive. This concept paved the way for forums as a whole, then social media à la MySpace, Facebook and beyond. Before Yahoo, Web2 struggled to get off the ground. A juggernaut like Yahoo had more Internet real estate and money to transform the emerging space.
We’re seeing this pattern play out again in real-time with Web3, with the growing popularity of Roblox as a pre-existing platform for those learning about the metaverse. For quick, hands-on access to consumers, advertisers would succeed by first meeting their audiences where access is still simple.
One platform will rise
The race to the top will eventually end and companies will fall in line, however briefly. Yahoo Answers set the Q&A standard, Reddit set the forum standard, and Facebook (at first) set the social media standard. Fledgling platforms created around the same time fell by the wayside. Which isn’t to say properties in power remain. If Roblox becomes the de facto Metaverse platform for now, there’s no guarantee it will stay as such. Otherwise, innovation — and looking ahead to the distant “Web4” — would never occur.
If Web3 follows Web2’s playbook, one predominantly used platform with easy access and a simple user interface will take the lead; the ideal home for advertisers to build out their branded experiences or inlaid ads aside and amongst consumer-crafted experiences. This platform would bridge Web2 and Web3 together, rather than striking out on its own.
Cater to cross-connectivity
Web2 differed from Web1 because the latter lacked smart-device connectivity. If you went on the internet, you sat through a few minutes of staticky dial-up and couldn’t use your landline the whole time.
By the time social media platforms arose, users had shiny new iPhones with internet applications built-in. Today, all manner of devices, from phones to fridges, can access the internet. For now, a novice Web3 (ie. Metaverse) question remains: how are people getting there? And which platforms allow access from multiple devices at the same time, interchangeable on a dime?
Peak Web3 would combine cross-connectivity on all platforms, including some yet-to-be-invented options. Imagine pulling on your VR headset and opening a metaverse app. Soon, you have to run an errand —you take off the headset and open the same app in your phone for continued access on the go. Get home, sit down to work on a computer, and pull open a web browser to re-log into the same metaverse. That’s a whole lot of metaverse, but an ideal Web3 experience would lower the barriers to access across all digital devices, all of the time. Brand marketers would be adequately prepared to craft interactive experiences (or virtual billboards, or inter-metaverse collectible items, etc.) polished enough for use on any apparatus.
We’re still in the very early days of Web3. Still, it follows enough growth patterns that if we truly understand where Web1 and Web2 peaked and waned, we can look ahead to the potential for Web3 with more clarity and accuracy.
Jeff Shupe is executive producer at Rattling Stick.