Right now, we’re turning the page on the next chapter of the internet, entitled ‘Web3’ 

Depending who you ask, this next chapter is either pencilled in, only half written or entirely blank! Whatever your take, it’s important you and your organisation understand how you can be a part of writing the future from a practical standpoint.

Start by starting, as we say at &us. And a good place to start is by being well informed and filtering out the noise.

Keyword map of Web3 search terms. Massive, disconnected and confusing.

But - and this is a big but - a fundamental aspect to adopting Web3 technologies at scale, is the cultural shift that needs to take place to be ready to embrace it.

It begins with the customer.

Web3 will undoubtedly have an impact on customer behaviour, whether directly or indirectly. To understand the potential impact, we need to first look at people’s relationship with the internet through the years and how technology has largely dictated their use of it.

In phase 1, roughly 1990-2005, the internet largely consisted of static websites and some eCommerce where organisations published content that could be consumed by the masses. There was little user generated content and as such Web1 is commonly referred to as ‘read-only’. People were largely consumers of content provided to them by other sources with little to no control over what they were able to see.

In 2005, newer, more innovative technologies emerged giving way to Web2, a more social internet that was ‘read-write’. The one-sided relationship was reset with people now able to create content, interact with others and provide feedback. Web2 brought to life the ability to blog, zoom, scroll, upload and manipulate content, and social media platforms exploded. Google Maps illustrates this really well. Today, people are able to directly influence what they see by adding data, reviews and photos on a company page to a specific place, and sharing that with others through social media channels.

Whilst more control now sits in people’s hands, there is still a huge dependency on ‘Big Tech’ to ultimately provide the services, websites and apps that people can interact with.

And this is the key differentiator between Web2 and Web3. ‘Read-Write-Own’ Web3 looks to usher in an era where origin and ownership of data, applications, and digital infrastructure is decentralised.

What does decentralised mean? The evolution of television - or more specifically the content that we consume on it - illustrates this well. TV started off as a medium through which people could watch programmes at scheduled times in the day with a small selection of channels. Think of this as the ‘read-only’ phase.

As time and technology progressed the ‘read-write’ began to emerge. The ability to pause and record live TV, and to stream content whenever and wherever people wanted, made media consumption far less prescriptive and put customers more in control.

However, there’s still a big reliance on technology and service providers to create, curate and deliver content to a device. TV channels still exist and are heavily regulated, streaming platforms offer huge libraries but are oligopolies with ever increasing costs for their services. Content creators, whilst able to push content far easier than before, still don’t fully own their content or receive all the revenue generated by it.

Now imagine a time where all that is broken down; decentralised. The creation, delivery and consumption of media could be far easier, with ownership and royalties more fairly distributed and the ability to consume that content regardless of geographic location, medium or method of payment. This is what the ‘read-write-own’ phase could begin to look like.

In short - what this means for customers is a fundamental shift in the way they understand and interact with the internet and ultimately organisations like yours.

The evolution to Web3. An explainer.

What does this mean for organisations?

Seeing how potentially disruptive and game changing Web3 might be for customers, the same applies to businesses. This view isn’t entirely speculative either, as history has shown what can happen with the emergence of technology and capabilities that aren’t fully understood. 

Take the dot-com bubble of the late 90s. It saw technology companies soar in value and take the Nasdaq index to new heights but ultimately come crashing down in early 2000. People saw the potential, but the use cases weren’t clear, the technology infrastructure (think broadband and wifi) didn’t exist and the audiences weren’t there. Yet. It’s the Yet that’s the critical word here, as it’s this mis-match between potential and actual that led to a lot of over-promising and huge over-inflated valuations, and subsequent under-delivering that meant those promises couldn’t be realised, resulting in a massive market recorrection. If this sounds familiar, it’s because it’s something we’re witnessing around the emergent tech of Web3 (Crypto and NFTs) so this is an incredibly valuable lesson to take note of.

Nasdaq index between 1995-2010

It’s imperative that businesses remind themselves Web3 tech is emergent, and understand the way customers interact with the internet - and with their brand - will be a constant evolution.  

Tracking the change

Let’s take a look at the trend in worldwide Google searches for the word ‘bitcoin’ between 2015 and 2019. The interest in the popular cryptocurrency, and arguably the trailblazer in Web3, had a massive spike in interest in December 2017 just as the world was becoming more aware of what it was. People flocked to learn more about it and find out how to get their share of the pie for all but a fleeting moment in time.

Google trends data on the search term ‘bitcoin’ between 2015-2019

In contrast, here is the Google trends graph for the terms ‘Web 3.0’, ‘Web3’ and ‘Web 3’. There’s still a spike in interest in these search terms, but there is then a sustained interest lasting over the 12 months following. It’s indicative that people and businesses alike are looking to get more clued up on the next phase of the internet.

Google trends data on the search terms ‘Web 3.0’, ‘Web3’ and ‘Web 3’ between 2018-2023

What’s important to take away is not necessarily to look for the trending topics or features surfacing in the Web3 space and react to them, but rather to understand the way in which people are looking to use and gain value from the products and services you offer, which means always listening to the customer and the market.

History is a great teacher and we can call on one of the biggest ‘missed the boat’ lessons in recent times - Kodak and the digital camera. Kodak was arguably the biggest player in the film photography industry. The 2000s brought about the dawn of digital photography but rather than shifting with the times and catering for changing customer needs, Kodak hunkered down and continued doing what it did best and had worked and been profitable for such a long time. Kodak was so blinded by its success in film photography that it completely missed the rise of digital camera technologies and eventually filed for bankruptcy in 2012. The irony of it all - the digital camera was invented by Kodak.

It’s important to note that perpetual innovation is key. To continuously seek out and proactively move into unknown territory is key to survival in the modern day.

How to approach Web3. And innovation.

There’s a misconception that innovation has a start and an end and that’s usually because after ‘shipping’ new products or services, organisations tend to think of them as done and to reap as much from them as possible. In reality, we should always be innovating. Be it in product improvements, or creating new ones, innovation is synonymous with progress. When companies forcibly try to stop innovation, that’s when they can have a Kodak moment, and not the good kind!

Top tips for success when innovating in Web3:

  1. Prioritise customer needs over technology
    It’s easy to get swept away by the shiny new things that Web3 has to offer and use them for the sake of it. For purely research and development, that could be fine, but when planning to create customer facing products, it’s customer needs that must guide you.
  2. Focus on the problems, not the solutions
    Web3 is still in its infancy and the full extent of what it has to offer is still unknown and it will undoubtedly surface new problems to solve. The ‘Why’ behind your innovations should be the problems your customers face and not the solutions you assume they need. Focusing on those problems and proactively trying to pre-empt them (with evidence) will lead to better and more valuable innovations and solutions.
  3. Balancing the risk
    Find the right balance between risk taking and caution and align that with your company’s strategy. Realising that you’re not going to win at everything and that there will inevitably be some failures along the way will set you up to iterate and move as quickly as possible.
  4. Be agile, be bold
    &us has developed 5 bold moves that you and your organisation can take to start or enhance your journey through innovation.

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