Metaverse 101: A Quick Guide

Thought Leadership • Posted
Image Credit: Ready Player Me

Today, we're at the beginning of a whole new digital era. It's partially driven by innovations in technology and access, such as 5G. But more importantly, it is driven by people's desire to integrate their digital and physical realities more seamlessly. As consumers' digital experiences become increasingly immersive and deeply personal, the potential for metaverse experiences continues to evolve.

It's important to start with a shared understanding of definitions. Read on for a glossary of terms our teams use as we create meaningful, memorable experiences that meet consumers in whatever new digital landscape they may be.

For our purposes, the metaverse is the philosophical future vision of the internet, steeped in ideas of synchronous 3D immersive worlds where we will also live.

Web3 is the next version of today’s internet—one built upon blockchain technology that supports open, decentralized, crypto-economic networks with the goal of improving upon Web2 (our current internet).

Closed v. Open

Closed Metaverse image

The Closed Metaverse

This view is championed by established platforms, such as Meta Horizons, Fortnite, and Google. These platforms harvest user data within their closed environments and sell it in the form of ad targeting in exchange for seamless user experiences within those walled gardens.

Think:

  • Immersive or VR/AR experiences
  • ”Direct-to-avatar” commerce and brand integrations
  • In-game media sponsorships and partnerships
  • Opportunity audiences in specific platforms
Open Metaverse image

The Open Metaverse

The more radical “permissionless” future vision—one without central authorities where every consumer has greater control over their personal data (although with no expectation of privacy at the moment). This is the space where crypto-communities, NFT marketplaces, and DAOs proliferate. Currently owned by builders and users and orchestrated by cryptotokens within those walled gardens.

Think:

  • Wallet-driven engagements
  • Token experiences that unlock collectibles and community interactions
  • Creator partnerships
  • Small, direct audiences with potential for earned media
  • Investment opportunities for future infrastructure

Common Terms

Here are just a handful of common terms that are helpful when navigating the metaverse/Web3.

Blockchain

A digital, distributed, decentralized database that by nature is more transparent (cf. closed server-based tables) and therefore open to audits and public accounting. Blockchain also enables a key differentiator of Web3–”portability” of key data via distributed ledgers.

Cryptocurrency

Different blockchains maintain distributed ledgers of digital currency, most of which are volatile. They can also be linked to an external source, like U.S. dollars (these are called “stablecoins”).

Wallet

Wallets act as digital signatures with public and private components. Cold wallets store their keys offline; hot wallets are browser plug-ins. Independent of blockchains, wallets are a proof-of-concept for the next central form of digital ID.

Gas Fees

The overhead generated by any action that the blockchain needs to process, with variable amounts dependent on how complex the request is, and how busy the network is at time of request.

NFTs (Non-fungible tokens)

Many assets on the blockchain can be interchangeable. These tokens can hold value, unlock participation in DAOs, events, or offline experiences, and more. Comparatively, non-fungible tokens are unique assets. Think: collectibles, special editions, and limited series.

DAOs (Decentralized Autonomous Organizations)

Communities engaged in co-ownership and collective action – in pursuit of goals both on and off the blockchain. In theory they are decentralized and autonomous (and organized), though in practice not all DAOs express these traits.

Web1, 2, and 3

The Read-Only Web / Web 1
Static websites and forums, decentralized and stateless (no data capture), built on open protocols. Think DNS, SMTP/email, FTP/data transfer, etc.
The Social Web / Web2
Centralized, collaborative, searchable, participatory. Where tech companies provide convenience, services, and seamless front-end experiences for consumers and brands alike in exchange for a “walled garden” of detailed user data, which the platform monetizes.
The Metaverse / Web3
Machine-to-machine, decentralized, portable, interoperable, personal, open, permissionless, and verifiable.

Five Key Branding Principles

In the metaverse, experience is everything. From unique consumer engagements to transformative business models, amazing experiences will drive adoption. For now, the following principles serve as guideposts for entering Web3 and preparing for what’s next.

  1. 1.

    The Web3 consumer experience is more important than the marketing message.

  2. 2.

    Web3 speed-to-market is critical for building brand equity and running tests while establishing a diverse footprint that future-proofs business impact.

  3. 3.

    Brands need to start figuring out their Web3 governance playbook today in order to be ready for wider consumer adoption.

  4. 4.

    It’s not one or the other — Web3 is additive to Web2 brand ecosystems.

  5. 5.

    The only thing a brand has to offer any Web3 audience is purposeful and authentic engagement.

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