Low-Code 'Metaversing' and What it Means for the Creator Economy
A little over a year ago, McKinsey announced that COVID-19 crammed 10 years worth of expected growth in e-commerce into just 90 days (a claim I think is open for debate). While the world focused on e-commerce, spectacular growth was actually occurring in another part of the market: Web 3.0.
It’s fair to say that we’ve seen a decade’s worth of low-code innovation in the Web 3/non-fungible token (NFT) space condensed into an 18-month period. It will take us a lot longer to fully understand the implications of it all.
Like many people, I assumed that the metaverse was still a few years off. But when Threekit announced the beta launch of Threekit for NFTs in mid-January, I realized that the metaverse will be mainstream much sooner. (In case you missed it, Threekit for NFTs will allow users to create and mint NFTs from the Threekit platform.)
Threekit has a history of pivoting to meet the next challenge in e-commerce. The company began its life offering 360-degree product videos, which then gave way to building 3D visuals, and then augmented reality (AR) that allowed consumers to place 3D assets within their own spaces (e.g., place a 3D visual of a couch in a photo of their living room). The fact that the company has launched Threekit for NFT is notable.
This development followed on the heels of Shopify’s announcement that users will soon be able to mint and sell NFTs on its platform, essentially paving the way for any of its 2.6 million stores to jump into the metaverse economy.
These developments are a big deal because they signal the recognition of a traditional e-commerce business’ futureproofing for the next wave of disruptive technology. Said another way: we’re seeing traditional e-commerce SaaS companies signaling that they’re all in on the metaverse. Are they simply forecasting? Responding to client demand? Or are they willing the metaverse into being, Pygmalion style? It’s hard to say with certainty, but as the adage goes, build it and they will come.
Low-Coders and the Creator Economy
Just as with Web 2.0, low-code solutions lower the barriers to entry into Web 3.0, enabling any brand to get into the game quickly and cost effectively. Once that happens it will keep the creator economy rolling in work for years to come.
For instance, launching an NFT begins with creating a ton of unique artwork (as it happens, Upwork now has an entire section for artists who specialize in NFT art). Next, the NFT owner needs an ERC 721 smart contract, which is what actually gets published. Once upon a time, brands had to hire a developer to write that code and deploy it to the blockchain, but that’s changing, thanks to businesses like NiftyKit, a company that absolutely should exist. NiftyKit provides a no-code solution for NFT smart contracts that solves a ton of challenges. I think it could become the Shopify of NFTs. What’s mind blowing is NiftyKit cropped up in 15 months, whereas it took the Magento’s and Shopify’s of the world 15 years to launch their cloud-enabled products.
OK, with a smart contract in place the next step is to build a website to host the mining experience, which is easy enough to do now that website building is pretty much a low-code process. Lots of web developers will find work.
Finally, brands will need to manage all their files and publish them to the IPFS (Interplanetary File System), which is a distributed file sharing tool. Think of it as a crypto version of Dropbox. This part of launching a NFT is a monumental pain because a brand can easily have 10,000 separate files to manage, making it ripe for low-code innovation.
But while we’ve seen a lot of no- and low-code innovation, there’s still a lot of work to be done before Web 3.0 is as plug-and-play as launching a Shopify site.
Who Will Be the Low-Code Enablers of the Near Future?
There are all sorts of interactions that happen with smart contracts, which in turn require NFT owners to write, test and deploy code to the blockchain. There isn’t a solution that automates smart contract code yet, but I suspect there will be soon.
A solution may come from Zapier, a company that automates interactions and interoperability between web apps. Web 3.0 use cases seem a natural pivot for the company. If not Zapier, then some other event-based no-code automation will rise to the occasion.
The market also needs an iOS Passbooks-type app with a digital loyalty card that’s based on the presence of a NFT in the wallet. Such functionality will allow companies to restrict part of their shopping experience to holders of their NFTs. Theoretically, Zapier can support this, as it has the ability to interact with Ethereum.
Digital-to-physical connections are another thing that don’t exist as of yet but should. The market is seeing demand for NFT activity that has a tangible benefit to the physical world. To get there, we'll need a single sign-on solution that connects the two worlds for traditional e-commerce companies. We also need a single sign-on, no-code solution that can identify and check out shoppers on e-commerce sites based on a qualifying NFT. Perhaps a company like Authy will step up to the plate.
All of the Web 3/NFT innovation we’ve seen to date occurred in a shockingly condensed time frame. We’re just 14 months into the current NFT innovation cycle, which brings me back to my earlier question: What’s driving it? It could be client demand (there’s been no shortage of big CPG and luxury brands launching NFTs).
Or it could be the byproduct of an excess of liquidity. VCs deployed $30 billion into crypto-backed startups in 2021 alone. Wow. With inflation rising, and T-Notes and money markets leaving investors uninspired, the metaverse may seem like a better place to park one’s money. Whatever the cause, we now have the ideal environment for startup innovation.
As Chief Commerce Officer at Rightpoint, Phillip Jackson acts as head of commerce strategy, partnerships, and evangelism.
As Chief Commerce Officer at Rightpoint, Phillip Jackson acts as head of Commerce strategy, partnerships, and evangelism. With over 15 years of experience creating unique online customer experiences, he has both built and managed ecommerce for some of the world’s most recognizable brands. Phillip also hosts the successful podcasts Future Commerce and Merchant to Merchant, with over 1 million downloads.