The metaverse is the big tech buzzword on everyone’s lips these days. Celebrities are launching metaverse-based projects, people are flocking to them in mass, and there is endless discussion about how it is going to change the world.
These discussions, inevitably, are linked to the concept of web3, which is the next iteration of the internet as we know it and is what the metaverse is based on. Web3 is a whole other topic, with debate about how it will manifest and how it will work.
Daniele Marinelli knows this all too well. As an experienced entrepreneur, he has dipped into all sorts of industries. But his most recent project, Umetaword, cuts deep into the heart of web3 as the world’s first social media metaverse.
With web3 ever the hot topic, Marinelli talks about it and its connection to the metaverse.
It’s all the rage these days but what do you think will be the impact of Web3 on the world?
I think it can help rebuild trust. Everyone is focused on the COVID-19 pandemic but a major issue is bubbling under the safe which is that internet users do not trust the companies that serve them. This is particularly true when it comes to their data and privacy.
But Web3 is based on blockchain and offers a level of decentralization the average internet user isn’t used to. It could certainly help to rebuild the trust system that existed when the internet involved us as its main source of information.
The tech world is about innovation and we’re always on the lookout for what next technological innovation will stand the test of time. Which ones are you betting on?
Definitely the metaverse. Currently, all the focus is on what it can do for gaming but I believe it will be so much more. In terms of the user experience, we are looking at a future where the metaverse has mass adoption.
The sector will mature as viewing devices and glasses become cheaper, more user-friendly and transportable, allowing for mass adoption. As for what technology we will let go of, I suspect it will be more of specific tools rather than its underlying technology. Email, for example, will probably be replaced by messaging and I hope that we will lose digital signatures in favor of digital identities.
What makes one metaverse different from the other?
Our understanding of what the metaverse is is very flawed. That’s not really our fault because those who describe it to us make it seem like a virtual fantasy environment where you can socialize and play… or at most do a little shopping or visit an exhibition.
That’s not to say that those things won’t exist in the metaverse at all. But the metaverse is about so much more than buying territories or avatars that exist in the limbo of a virtual world in order to socialize in a decidedly boring way.
The side of the metaverse that should be made to stand out is the fact that it also offers the possibility of accessing content and services of all kinds from the comfort of your home, allowing you to experience them in a far more immersive, intuitive way than by simply browsing the web in 2D.
Is the metaverse really the future of tech? Or is it just a trend that will fade?
I don’t believe it will fade away. Instead, I think we will constantly find new things to do with it. There are many things we experience on the web in 2D now that the metaverse will usher into 3D. Buying a dress online won’t just be you looking at a picture but you ‘trying on’ the dress with your avatar.
We will be able to attend meetings or events “virtually live” – be they for business, educational purposes or pleasure –, as well as use services such as banking or public offices as if you were physically there. I see enormous potential in the metaverse and believe that we have now not even begun to touch on the incredible possibilities it offers.
It is truly the future of the internet.
You acknowledge that consumers are distrustful of companies when it comes to their data. How do your projects plan to combat this?
The whole world today has a big problem. They use so many apps and social media every day believing they are free, what they don’t know though is that they are paying the price of the app with their personal data. The solution is to use apps that protect data, which is what we believe in.
Naturally, at the heart of this is blockchain technology, which we use to create unique digital identities for our users that cannot be easily exploited.
It is important that the user has easy access to the information and data he is generating. This data can be analyzed but must not be linked to the specific individual who generated them (in practice, companies should be able to acquire the information that a user prefers red shoes over black shoes, but without having the possibility of tracing that information to a name and surname), and ideally, the benefits that the user receives in exchange for the use of their data must be clear and perceptible.
But do you think we can enter a world where users don’t have to share any data with tech companies at all?
Not if they want to get access to the services they like. Naturally, many people talk about wanting privacy but for me, it is not a matter of privacy: I am willing to give up my privacy (which I have already given up when I have a smartphone in my pocket). If this partial compromise serves to ensure that our privacy is not used solely for commercial purposes, but also to protect our safety.
Let’s try to reverse the concept: you would be happy if, thanks to geolocation technology, you were warned of a certain danger in a certain place in time to save yourself and your loved ones, right? Would you be happy if a terrorist was stopped before carrying out an act of violence or if the women in your family were safe from potential rape?
The answer is obvious… yet to achieve this it would mean being “spied on” anyway. This illustrates that the problem does not revolve around “protecting” our privacy, but rather protecting how data is used. In essence, you need to ask companies: Do you want me to be the source of your advertisements? Well then make sure that I am a beneficiary of part of the amount you paid to sell me your products through marketing and advertising content across web channels. Do you want to know where I am and who I am with? Well then make sure that I benefit from it in terms of security.
Another thing to consider is that perhaps those who fear the invasion of their privacy too much are those who have something to hide.
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