The Sparkloft team was among 70,000 attendees at last month's Web Summit 2022, the "world's largest tech conference." Each year, Web Summit gathers the biggest innovators, changemakers, and world leaders—from the Head of Product at Meta to the Queen of Jordan—to discuss how technology shapes the future of business and society.
Here are 6 key trends our team took away from this inspiring week:
The metaverse isn’t a dream; it’s here.
For the past 4-5 years, speakers at the Web Summit have been heralding the arrival of the metaverse. However, it was clear from the volume of sessions at this year’s summit that the metaverse is no longer a hypothetical dreamscape. It has fully arrived.
Web Summit ‘22 could have been renamed “Meta Summit,” with the number of sessions featuring brands, creators, and other industries activating and engaging audiences in the metaverse to high degrees of success. A couple of the most exciting activations included Walmart’s Universe of Play which gamifies its product catalog, allowing users to test out toys and other products before making an IRL purchase. And TSX—a company that’s recreating the physical architecture of Times Square in a virtual world so users can attend live performances and interact with artists.
Whether the metaverse evolves into a single connected virtual world or a series of independent metaverses is yet to be seen. But what is certain is that the concept of built worlds where people gather to connect, engage, and be entertained is here to stay. Brands must quickly evaluate which audiences they will activate and engage in these new virtual worlds.
From privacy to avatars, how we’ll present ourselves in the metaverse is changing.
Social media platforms have always required users to have a profile. In the earliest days of Facebook, creating a profile on the account was first restricted to college students with a .edu email address before it was opened to the public, who could register with real first and last names only. Over the years, the dark side of social media, from data privacy concerns to cyberbullying and platform trolls, has raised issues about how we might present (and protect) our identities in the future.
Enter the avatar-centric metaverse, which allows users to show up not as who they are but as who they aspire to be. These new virtual identities not only provide a creative and playful outlet for users but also present safer ways to navigate the internet. This is even more true for marginalized groups and communities with avatars (in theory) that can navigate the space more safely.
Currently, each metaverse has its unique avatar style. But there are innovative companies like Ready Player Me, which is building avatars that are portable across up to 20 different metaverse collections. Blockchain technology will also allow "verch" or virtual merchandise purchased in one metaverse to become portable to another metaverse, meaning you could attend a virtual conference concert in Roblox and take the artist's concert t-shirt over to a Sandbox experience.
While the metaverse's current appeal is the things you can do once you're there, the future power of the metaverse might just be who you can be once you've arrived.
Web3 is rising and requires a whole new vocabulary.
Although the metaverse dominated Web Summit headlines, web3 was the other buzzy topic of the week. While the metaverse is currently the most tangible expression of web3, the underlying technology, infrastructure, and philosophy of this new era of the internet is starting to take off.
Web3 is the emerging "read, write and own" era of the internet, built on blockchain technology and powered by decentralized finance models, which allow for greater data privacy, ownership of your profile, and portability of communities. The most interesting thing about web3 is that it's building the economic guardrails of this new internet up front in a manner that puts ownership and royalties into the hands of creators and communities instead of a singular platform that will monetize your data via advertising. Web3's vocabulary (GM!, mint, PFP, stake, floor) from the outside might feel exclusionary, but it's really about reclaiming the discourse and giving participants a fresh start.
Whether web3 will manifest itself in a browser through a social app or the metaverse is yet to be determined. But what is most exciting about this emerging landscape is the entrepreneurial spirit of the builders and innovators pushing the web3 mission forward. This wild west feels akin to the early days of social media, where anyone can connect, build, and create the future.
Tiktok is doing for music what Instagram did for photos.
Tiktok is completely changing the music game from discovery to how popular music is created, shared, and marketed. Where Twitter revolutionized text-based messaging, Instagram turned photography upside down, and YouTube made everyone into a filmmaker, TikTok is democratizing music creation. With music licensing the biggest hurdle to creating content on TikTok, apps like Overtune are solving this by making beats and original music creation simple for any user. Overtune’s beats pack and autotune features allow users to create songs for any mood or video trend. While the current music industry landscape can feel like a mountain of red tape, TikTok is bringing music creation to the masses, and record labels will soon need to catch up. The music industry is often at the forefront of technology. Now with NFTs, creator rights, and live concerts in the metaverse, music is quickly becoming one of the most exciting verticals innovating in the web3 landscape.
Forget first-party data, Blockchain will allow zero-party data (that users own).
Forget the challenges of a cookie-less world; the excitement behind web3, built on blockchain technology, is that the user would entirely own data, meaning they can choose when, how and to whom to disclose it. We've already seen this movement in web2 with the new creator economy, where creators are becoming less reliant on brand-sponsored content and instead developing ways to directly monetize their audiences through paid subscription models and merch sales. This evolution will be the crux of web3, where blockchain will not only allow users to maintain their privacy but also put them in the driver's seat and charge brands to get access to their followers. If a platform changes its terms and conditions, users/creators can take their followers. This dynamic power reversal makes web3 incredibly appealing and unknown territory for brands.
No one knows what social media will look like in Web3.
What will web3 look like? While the infrastructure and economic guidelines are being built, it is still being determined whether web3 will manifest itself as a social app, metaverse environment, or defi wallet. Several startups are trying to bill themselves as the web3 version of [insert platform here]. Mastodon caught headlines after it gained $1 million followers following Elon Musk’s Twitter takeover. There are plenty of platforms in the web2 social media graveyard. So what’s to come isn’t a matter of an “if” but a “when” and “who” will start to gain traction with everyday users.