Forget Marc Andreessen and his ramblings about Web3. Do you know who really was a Web3 and Metaverse futurist?
"Everybody has a voice" was the greeting on BowieNet in the late 1990s.
Bowie's plan was to offer worldwide Internet access including a few special perks for subscribers like personal homepages with 20MB of storage.
BowieNet itself was a 3D chat client that was launched alongside it. Called BowieWorld, it launched years ahead of Second Life and was built on the “Worlds” virtual community platform.
“I wanted to create an environment where not just my fans, but all music fans could be part of a single community where vast archives of music and information could be accessed, views stated and ideas exchanged.”
Everyone (I hope) has seen that Newsnight interview from 1999 where Bowie spoke about the impact of the internet on Jeremy Paxman.
“The actual context and the state of content are going to be so different to anything we can envisage at the moment – the interplay between the user and the provider will be so in simpatico it’s going to crush our ideas of what mediums are all about."
Bowie understood the human connection with the technology of the internet to the point he was talking about Web3 before people like Marc Andreessen tried to claim it for their own.
He was envisioning something we all take for granted now – that link between creator, Twitter, Instagram, fanbase, and culture. Bowie was an expert manipulator of media – be it music, art, or video. It was inevitable that he would spot the potential of Web3 if he were alive today and not just as a mass marketing technology but as a new way to make, share and expand upon creativity.
Maybe he could have been at the forefront of NFTs and the metaverse but we'll never know, we have to suffer two-dimensional thinking for a while to come.
As an artist and a human, I miss David Bowie. The world lost a hell of a lot of its color the day he died.
But as a true futurist who could see the real potential and not the pop culture phonies on LinkedIn we have today, the world lost a lot more.
The above image was a flyer for BowieNet - it literally reads like a requirements list for today's web3 experiences for creators and artists, music metaverse projects and music-based NFTs are starting to become a hot topic, especially where the creator or artist is looking to develop an entirely immersive and community-based experience around their work.
An NFT represents not only access to their work ahead of release but a way to engage fans to create brand new levels of loyalty and ownership. Forget limited JPEGs of album covers, the ability for fans and audiences to be rewarded for being part of the artist's journey beyond concert tickets is going to explode.
We're already seeing the start of this with projects like PIXELYNX from Inder Phull and Dean Wilson with Deadmau5 but I look at where Bowie was in the late 90s and can't help but think that we could have been so much further down this road if the technology wasn't so limiting.
Where we have websites today I expect to see worlds tomorrow - and as BowieNet promised, it'll all be in the hands of the artists and their communities as the true owners of the content, not the music labels.