Trends for 2022: Crypto, Web3, VR, and the Metaverse

What are the macro and strategic trends in the tech industry? Matthias Schrader shares his thoughts about Benedict Evans' annual presentation.

The last month of the year is a time for gift-giving. And there’s one special present I look forward to each year: the annual presentation by NEXT speaker Benedict Evans, in which he gives the grand sweep of current macro trends. This year, it’s all about crypto, Web3, VR, and the Metaverse. So what’s hype, and what’s hope?

Benedict Evans at NEXT21

Evans’s deck this year reflects the uncertainty we face with the current hyped themes. These are trends in which hope still prevails, and analytical calculus reaches its limits. That’s why in the emerging trilogy of the Internet, which opened with Web 1.0 (1993-2006) and continued with Web 2.0 (2007-2020), is getting exciting again in the next volume with Web 3.0 (2021-?).

Here are my favourite slides from his presentation:

1. Users claim control of the network

(Slide 14) The paradigm of Web 3.0 is that users, rather than platforms (FB, Insta, Twitter, etc), control the network and monetize in the creator age. Use cases such as NFTs show that here the cultural effects of pop culture blend with social distinction (and some patterns are even reminiscent of a Ponzi scheme).

2. Self-expression still beats gaming

(Slide 16) Games like Roblox are repeatedly referenced as pioneers of the Metaverse. However, Evans points out that self-expression and pop culture are the driving forces, which is why even the biggest blockbusters in gaming are still smaller than Web 2.0 platforms such as Snap. And while smartphones have managed to become a global mainstream after a decade, game consoles, for example, have remained a (large) niche even after four decades.

3. Sometimes adoption of great technology is very slow

(Slide 32) Fascinating new technology doesn’t always have to become part of the future. Or, at least, not immediately. Many things take much longer than initially thought, and after a hype wave, there are sometimes “winters” that last more than 3 decades, until technological breakthroughs finally enable the technology’s everyday use. For example, look at Artificial Intelligence, where it took the hack of using the GPUs of powerful graphics cards combined with access to the big data of user-created Web 2.0 content to finally make the algorithms of the 1980s fly. A mainstream Metaverse requires hardware (like glasses) that doesn’t exist — yet.   

4. Software is still eating the world

(Slide 42) In the here and now, however, we are already seeing a Cambrian explosion of software through SaaS and the cloud. The monolithic, packaged software solutions of the past (think: SAP, ADBE, SF) tend to become less critical, and our clients are using more and more niche and custom-build solutions in the cloud. At the same time, everything the Internet has done to the music and newspaper industries is being applied to everything else, too. Evans shows this with actual numbers for the TV industry (Slide 56), logistics (Slide 64), and retail (Slide 65).

5. Small brands can get big fast

Two slides I find intriguing when viewed in conjunction:

(Slide 70) The channel change — from car-commerce to e-commerce — means a massive shift toward small brands. They already represent two-thirds of consumer spending, and super small niche brands now account for one-third of the market. These brands could not be discovered and efficiently distributed physically in the past. The trend of self-staging and social distinction in the digital world is thus materializing in atoms, too.

(Slide 72) Shein is undoubtedly the fashion shooting star of the year. But the way the addictive cocktail of UX, app, media, price positioning, logistics chain, and reverse production logic left established brands like H&M and Zara behind within 12 months gives the term “fast fashion” a whole new meaning.

All slides have been taken from Benedict Evans annual presentation ‘Three Steps Into The Future‘.

Photo by Richard Horvath on Unsplash.

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