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Out with web3, in with AI? Here’s why marketers should be wary of tech hype cycles

By Ricky Bacon, Vice President of Technology

February 23, 2023 | 7 min read

Tech trends change like the seasons. It’s important for marketers to take a step back and see the larger picture, writes Critical Mass vice-president of technology Ricky Bacon.


Today’s exciting new technology could be tomorrow’s laughing stock. / Adobe Stock

Netizen. Digerati. The Information Superhighway. Cringe, right? Thank god no one uses those terms anymore. Do you know what else we’re not hearing too much about these days? The metaverse and web3.

Where did they go? Were they voted off the island, leaving only AI to reign supreme? (I should say “generative AI,” but one day the word “generative” will probably be cringe-worthy too). Are they victims of their own hype cycle, or are they fading only in name and not in utility? The truth may be that they’re simply in an ebb – temporarily backgrounded, but not totally dead.

Let’s take a look at where these technological trends currently stand, and where they might be headed.

The future of the metaverse

Some early proponents of the metaverse claimed that though it was the future of the internet, the requisite technological infrastructure just wasn’t in place yet. We’d just have to be patient. But there will never be a single moment when the metaverse suddenly appears, fully formed. Rather, it will evolve over time, gradually becoming a more natural and immersive part of our everyday lives.

This evolution is what marketers need to pay attention to. AR is poised to emerge into mainstream consciousness, and VR is continuing to grow and improve. Apple could release a mixed reality (MR or XR) headset as soon as next year. Infrastructure and hardware are evolving to support immersive 3D experiences, and digital twins are increasingly being used by brands and everyday people to merge the physical with the digital.

The metaverse may not currently be as popular as AI, but that doesn’t mean it’s been abandoned.

Where art thou, web3?

Some argue that web3 is a solution in search of a problem. But it may be a solution in search of a better name.

Ever since the crypto frenzy amplified the promise of distributed services and led to a digital gold rush – which then crashed hard – the worst way to sell a web3 solution has been to call it a “web3 solution.” But behind that tarnished name are assets like NFTs (which can still be marketable) and distributed services (which can still be useful).

Like the metaverse, web3 isn't dead – it's just developing behind the scenes. Marketers would be wise to not write it off entirely.

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Is AI hype really here to stay?

Could AI hype eventually wane, like that which not so long ago surrounded the metaverse and web3?

It’s a fair yet somewhat odd question, considering AI has been around for around 80 years. Most of us use it every day, even if we aren’t aware of it. But something about the latest AI surge feels different – like we’re truly living through the early days of a world-changing technological revolution.

The latest crop of AI tools – such as ChatGPT, Microsoft’s new and improved Bing, and Midjourney – are certainly impressive. And we’re witnessing a large-scale rush from brands to capitalize on the hype (regardless of whether or not a product fit exists). It’s possible that AI hype and innovation could continue to develop unabated. But if there’s one thing we should learn from tech hype cycles in the past, it’s that some of them don’t withstand the test of time. This time next year, we could be looking at tools like ChatGPT the way that most people now look at cryptocurrency.

Bottom line: hype cycles come and go and tech is always evolving. Marketers would be well-advised to take a step back and adopt the long view before they get swept up in the latest trend.

Ricky Bacon is vice-president of technology at Critical Mass. For more on the latest happening in AI, web3 and other cutting-edge technologies, sign up for The Emerging Tech Briefing newsletter here.

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