Primavera De Filippi: “The metaverse is the new website”

The American Magazine Fortune named her one of the 40 most influential people under 40 in fintech. Lawyer by training, artist, militant activist for years for an “open” Internet and a new democratic governance based on the blockchain, Primavera De Filippi will be one of the star guests of the USI conference, which takes place on June 27 and 28. at the Palais Brongniart in Paris (, and of which L’Express is a partner. She explains to us why the technological innovations generated by the Web3 constitute a “potential revolution”.

L’Express: Blockchain, NFT, DeFi, DAO, metaverse… The “Web3” stirs up a host of terms that are still obscure for most of the population. So let’s start by doing a bit of pedagogy: for you, what exactly does this expression cover?

Primavera De Filippi: We have reached a stage where everything fits together, everything intersects, and it becomes complicated to define the precise contours of what is called “Web3”. For me, the term encompasses any web interface that communicates with some form of blockchain infrastructure. But we can put it more simply: the Web1 was the web limited to reading; Web2 has been enriched by writing, with the introduction of interactive platforms, which encourage users to create content. Web3 is the new stage, the decentralized web. Users are not only readers and contributors, but they can also claim ownership of resources with which they interact… The possibility is given to them, via the blockchain, to reclaim the value they have provided so far for free on the Web. It is a potential revolution.

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The metaverse, this booming virtual world, will be an essential part of it. How do you see it developing, structuring itself in the years to come?

We must first distinguish between Web3 and metaverse. It’s not the same thing. What characterizes the metaverse are the notions of territories, displacements, movements. A spatiality outside the physical world, through virtual or augmented reality, which the Internet is absolutely unable to offer. It remains to be seen what we will do with it… For the moment, we are in a somewhat embryonic phase, which brings us back to the days of BBS (Bulletin Board Systems), before the Internet, when we connected to servers premises which formed their own little digital universe, and which did not interact with each other.

The metaverse – or rather the metaverses – is a bit like this today: when you enter it, you enter a world completely disconnected from the rest, and you do not have the possibility of exchanging messages, of transferring resources in another virtual system. We are still really in a precarious, limited model, which makes us lose all the advantage of the Internet, namely interoperability, the ability to move without hindrance from one universe to another. This is why I think we will not be able to resist the urge to open up and create systems that are increasingly interconnected and compatible with each other. That, I would say, is the natural slope. But we cannot exclude that a large dominant player imposes its vision and its model, deploying a platform so powerful and dominant that it would no longer need to interconnect with others. The equivalent of Facebook at the time of Web2.

But by nature, blockchain technology and philosophy tends towards a very decentralized model. We are tempted to say that the new ecosystem will necessarily reject attempts of this type…

It’s not sure, and we’re living in an interesting moment from that point of view; sooner or later, there will be this bifurcation, the inevitable opposition between a very decentralized model, interconnected as the Internet had promised to be, and a dominant model with two or three large main platforms, alongside niche platforms which will not play on the same field and will not be able to compete. Once in place, will the giant platforms accept other people’s objects, their resources? That’s the whole question. And contrary to what one might think, the fact of using a blockchain is not, in itself, the guarantee of an open and decentralized approach. Look at what is happening on Sandbox and Decentraland: these decentralized platforms do not recognize objects between them… As a player, if you acquire such and such an object in their metaverses, you will be able to view it in one but not in the other. This proves that the battle for interoperability is not won.

Today, we see a succession of announcements from major brands, ready to spend a fortune on buy virtual land. Beyond the marketing coup, what does this mean?

Above all, we can see communication operations. But these brands don’t just do anything: there’s already a huge market in the metaverse. People spend hundreds or even thousands of dollars to dress up their avatar. When he hosted a concert on Roblox, American rapper Lil Nas X generated more merchandising revenue for spectator avatars than by selling tickets. Gucci, a pioneer in this field, launched a digital bag on Roblox which was purchased at a higher price than the physical bag marketed in stores!

Fashion is a matter of status. If we start spending time in the metaverse, selling avatar accessories will become a very good business. The other option, for brands, is to sell shopping coupons in the virtual universe. Boson, for example, is building the Metaverse Mall. What’s the idea? Instead of browsing an e-commerce site and ordering your clothes in a few clicks, you are offered a completely different experience: you stroll through a virtual store, find the clothes you are looking for, try them on your avatar, buy them and have them mailed to you. The metaverse is the new website. Right now it looks a bit ridiculous, but a few years ago no one would imagine buying a pair of shoes on the Internet. Now everyone does it.

Beyond the metaverse, what initiatives and innovations seem to you the most promising today in Web3?

Anything in decentralized finance is absolutely fascinating. DeFi is replicating all the functionality of financial applications, all trading and financing modalities, without the need to rely on centralized institutions. At all links in the chain, everything you can imagine in the traditional financial markets is being recreated in a decentralized way thanks to the blockchain. Very interesting projects are also emerging with NFTs (Editor’s note, non-fungible tokens). In both cases, we can already speak of fairly massive adoption. The rest, everything that revolves around DAOs, these decentralized autonomous organizations governed by “smart contracts”, is extremely promising and innovative. But this is still reserved for communities of “geeks”.

In general, should companies expect to see their business models totally disrupted by Web3?

The promise of Web3 is the disappearance of intermediaries, the idea that in the future, everything can be done peer to peer, but that’s not true… Total disintermediation does not exist. What will change, however, is the distribution of value. Today “crowdsourcing” is the dominant model: the large platforms on the Internet do not produce value themselves, they coordinate and aggregate what their users provide them with; it’s the heart of the business for all Airbnb, Uber, Facebook and Twitter on the planet…

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The intermediary, in these precise cases, monopolizes all the value; not only does the user provide him with resources, but in addition, he must pay to benefit from his services! Can we, tomorrow, imagine systems ensuring a fairer form of redistribution? With Web3, I think so, through tokens, dividends or governance rights. That’s the whole point. This is not a complete upheaval, but a profound evolution: we will no longer accept seeing everything confiscated by a centralized operator.


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Primavera De Filippi: “The metaverse is the new website”

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