Welcome to the Third Connected Age: The Future of the Internet

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Cover image for  article: Welcome to the Third Connected Age: The Future of the Internet

There are four seminal dates in the history of the Internet.

October 29, 1969: At 10:30 p.m., a computer grad student named Charley Kline at UCLA sent a message to SRI (Stanford Research Institute.) It was the first connection between computer networks.

We set up a telephone connection between us and the guys at SRI…
We typed the L and we asked on the phone,
“Do you see the L?”
"Yes, we see the L,” came the response.
We typed the O, and we asked, “Do you see the O?”
"Yes, we see the O.”
Then we typed the G, and the system crashed…
Yet a revolution had begun …

January 1, 1983:This day is considered the official birthday of the Internet. Prior to this, the various computer networks did not have a standard way to communicate with each other. A new communications protocol was established called Transfer Control Protocol/Internetwork Protocol (TCP/IP). This allowed different kinds of computers on different networks to "talk" to each other. ARPANET and the Defense Data Network officially changed to the TCP/IP standard on January 1, 1983; hence the birth of the Internet. All networks could now be connected by a universal language.

August 6, 1991: Tim Berners-Lee published the first ever website while working at CERN, the huge particle physics lab in Switzerland.

August 30, 1993: CERN puts the World Wide Web software in the public domain. Later, CERN made a release available with an open license, a surer way to maximize its dissemination.

Until 1993 the Internet and its predecessors like ARPANET were difficult and highly limited in their use.

Beginning in 1993. due to CERN’s decision to make the World Wide Web software available to all with an open license, we entered The First Connected Age -- when the world began its 30-year migration into cyberspace.

The Three Connected Ages

In 1993, with the advent of the World Wide Web, we entered The First Connected Age where we connected to discover and connected to transact. This is today known as Search and e-Commerce, which are forces that have given rise to companies like Amazon and Google.

In 2007 we entered The Second Connected Age (which built on and did not replace The First Connected Age) when we were connected all the time, connected to everybody and connected to entertainment, due to smart phones, social networks and affordable and pervasive broadband. These three advances which we call Social, Mobile and Streaming have re-ordered society, politics and culture while creating juggernauts like Apple, Facebook and Netflix but also enabling everything from Uber to Airbnb to Dollar Shave Club to Spotify.

The world we live in today is hard to describe to someone thirty years ago. But we haven't seen anything yet. Four new forms of connection will re-order society, work and the future much more in the next decade than the past three decades.

These are the four new connections that will drive The Third Connected Age:

Data connected to data -- which is machine learning the form of AI that is most scaled.

Much faster and resilient forms of connection -- via 5G.

New ways of connecting-- including Voice, Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality.

New Trust Connection -- built on the Blockchain.

Web 3, Metaverse, Tokens and DAOs are connected but not the same.

The entire world of Web 3, Metaverse, Tokens/Wallets and DAOs -- all of which are different from each other but connected to each other -- are just one subset of all the changes underway in The Third ConnectedAge.

Web 3 is as much an ideology as it is a set of technologies. The central tenets of Web 3 are Open, Decentralized and Composable. And a belief that the creators, builders and users should have as much ownershipand benefits as investors and companies.

Tokens (NFTs or Non-Fungible Tokens) are one type of many different types of tokens including Governance, Security and DeFi tokens. Tokens are often stored in wallets and this combination of tokens and wallets will help orchestrateownership and value exchange.

Metaverse is a term that includes both Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR). Augmented Reality layers the digital onto the physical (think of a heads-up display in a car) while Virtual Reality creates a simulacrum of the physical world in digital space.Just like Windows and MacOS were the operating systems of The First Connected Age, and joined by iOS and Android in The Second Connected Age, billions being spent by Apple, Meta, Microsoft and others to create both hardware and software to operatebetween the physical and various manifestation of the digital world of The Third Connected Age.

DAOs are mission-driven communities with a treasury of tokens that enable ownership, governance and financial benefits that ideally will bring about a more transparent, autonomous, efficient and anonymous form of governance. It is the way the new world might be organized.

Web 3

The Internet was first designed to be decentralized enough to withstand a nuclear strike. By providing a free license to the World Wide Web, CERN engendered a belief in openness. Composabilityaccelerates innovation by enabling developers to build new use-cases on top of existing projects. The code of that new project, in turn, serves as yet another building block for someone else, leading to an ever-expanding library of code that developers can tap into to build their own ideas. Venture capitalist Chris Dixon described it aptly when he wrote, "Composability is the ability to mix and match software components like Lego bricks."

While all of us have benefited from the Internet, a significant part of the upside has gone to investors and some businesses -- but builders and particularly creators and users have shared very little of the wealth their content, their data, their networks, their attention and time have enabled. Think of all the content, data and time you give to Facebook. Zuckerberg buys islands in Hawaii, and you get to connect with other people and get likes!

The ideology of Web 3 is aligned with what most people want, which is to be recognized and rewarded without being charged rents of 30 to 70 percent for the benefits of using a platform.

There will be middlemen and women in this new world. Consider them "enablers" who will make it easy for us to use the new technologies, to be discovered or provide other services -- but they are likely to charge a tenth of the total value created versus taking the large slices of today's "aggregators."


Today most of the talk about tokens pertains to one type of token which is the NFT. But there are many other types of tokens. A way to think of tokens is that they provide some combination of four utilities: currency, status, membership and governance rights.

An analogy to tokens that we may all be familiar with are airline miles. If you fly a lot, you get rewarded with airline miles which you can use as a currency. When you fly a lot, this currency gets you the status of a higher level and provides membership into lounges and clubs and the airlines pay more attention to what you think about how they govern themselves. Most tokens are like airline miles where one person's airline mile on American is the same as another person's airline mile on American. Most tokens operate like this.

Non-Fungible tokens on the other hand add a form of uniqueness in that each one is different from every other one … and thus NFTs have been particularly popular with artist and creative communities. NFTs are significantly improving the rewards to people who create and their fans versus the platforms.

Tokens are usually collected and operated using wallets like Metamask. Increasingly many Web3 initiatives have a person signing in with their wallets and not their Facebook or Apple identities or their e-mail.

Think of tokens and wallets as the future of identity and CRM (Customer Relationship Management) if you are a business leader or a marketer. This new age is dawning.


In one way the Metaverse is here in the Web 2.0 world, and it is called gaming. Gaming is a $155-billion industry (bigger than TV, movies and music combined) and is seen as the gateway to the next generation of Virtual Reality. It is why Microsoft is willing to pay $67 billion for Activision Blizzard and both Disney and Comcast were rumored to be interested in Electronic Arts. Netflix is likely to regret that it did not leverage its once valuable stock to buy a major platform, like Sony bought Bungee.

Skeptics may snort "in your dreams" … and the answer to that is that 14.8 million people are dreaming.

These are the sales to date of Meta's Oculus Quest 2. (Try one; if you can't afford one get the $30 one). Now imagine the technology getting exponentially better and possibly cheaper as the next generation from Meta and the products that Apple and Microsoft have in development are released by early 2024 if not before!

Terry Kawaja, founder of leading digital investment bank Luma Partners, shared an insight that given the VR/AR nature of the Metaverse we may first experience elements of it at scale in automobiles! Step into a modern car, particularly an electric one, and you are in a world of screens with AR and Voice already deeply linked to its functionality.

It is not just technology but the underlying human need that these new technologies will enable that makes one believe of their future potential.

First, humans want to have God-like power.

The companies that enable us to cross distance and time such as Google,  which allows us to find anything with Search or visit places with Google Earth; or Apple, which allows us to connect everywhere projecting our images and videos; or Meta, which enables us to connect for free; or Amazon, which brings the worlds' bazaars to us, have become the most valuable companies in the world.

At one time it was the railroad companies and oil companies and telephone companies that allowed us to bridge distance and time. Pharmaceutical and medical companies allow us to live longer lives.

These new Third Connected Age technologies will give us amazing powers. We will gravitate towards them just as we have in the past.

Second, they allow us to have multiple identities.

Our minds are imagination machines, and they far outstrip the physical limitations of our bodies. Avatars and virtual worlds allow us to constantly re-invent ourselves, "try on" new lives and live in multiple worlds.

Third, we are about to see the greatest unleashing ever of human creativity.

This will happen as more and more people gain access to new ways to express themselves, to project their presence and be rewarded for their work.

The Signal/The Noise

There are many people who believe that the Web3/Token/Metaverse/DAO eco-system is a combination of BS, a Ponzi scheme promoted by a collection of hucksters, scammers, and the delusion-filled who are high on their own gas and maybe other substances!

Check out Molly White's site, which compiles many of these examples. Watch Dan Olson's "The Line Goes Up" video -- a brilliant take down of NFTs. Read Scott Galloway. Monitor the headlines of Celsius and other companies going into bankruptcy. Measure the plunge in engagement of NFT markets or speak to anybody who invested in crypto for the first time beginning nine months ago.

The bubble has burst! Fake! Big balls of BS! No practical use or problem solved! An uncertain set of technologies in search of problems that do not exist!


There were and probably will still be many Ponzi schemes. Much of what is called Web3 can be done without tokens, block chain or any of the new-fangled stuff. The Oculus Quest 2, while impressive, is still rudimentary. Most coins will be and should always have been worthless.

But …

Remember 2000 to 2002 when the Nasdaq crashed from 5048 to 1114?

That was the noise.

Internet usage almost doubled from one third of all households to two thirds of households during the 1999-2003 period with massive increases in broadband connections.

That was the signal.

The crashing prices of crypto and NFTs and the revealing of scam artists is the noise.

Be smart. Read about all the stuff that is going wrong. Be wary.

But learn by getting involved at minimum as an individual (a lot of future opportunities are likely to be available to people who are conversant with the new landscape) and ideally as a company (organizations and people tend to adjust slower than technology so it's not too early to begin to build centers of excellence and explore partnerships). You may see some signals that reveal the amazing potential of what is next.

This signal maybe discerned in the hundreds of billions of dollars companies like Microsoft, Apple and Meta are investing in the space even today. Or the $4.5 billion A16Z raised for their oversubscribed Crypto Fund.

The facts are these:

The best talent from the highest-rated universities is going to Web3 companies even this year in the middle of what looks like a meltdown.

A spectrum of musicians from Nas to Chainsmokers have embraced the new world at Royal.io while Tom Brady, Tiger Woods, Wayne Gretzky and others have done the same at Autograph.io.

Many marketers are trying to understand the opportunities and challenges of tokens and wallets for the future of identity and CRM programs.

Companies like Nike recently have bought RTFKT and filed for several patents in Third Connected Age technologies.

Leaders everywhere are working to re-think their businesses. As an example, insurance companies are wondering how to underwrite NFT losses or the purchase of Virtual Land.

There are a lot of signs that this period is like 1993 and 2007, which marked The First and Second Connected ages, respectively. They changed business and society, creating new opportunities and threats.

We are at the early days of what is likely to be the most compelling decade or more on the Internet.

Welcome to The Third Connected Age: The Future of the Internet!

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