Five emerging trends that could change our lives online

The way we live our lives online is rapidly changing. New technologies are set to transform the online world, affecting everything from social media to how people and businesses make money from their creativity.

If you’re feeling confused by the pace of change, here’s what you need to know about five trends on the cusp of making a major impact.

1 Generative AI

The uses for AI and the more specific field of machine learning (where software improves at a task with experience) are only likely to grow. The AI-powered chatbot ChatGPT is a high-profile example. Microsoft recently invested US$10 billion (£8.2 billion) investment in the chatbot’s parent company showing how seriously these online tools are being taken.

It was seen by some journalists as the start of an “AI war” between Microsoft and Google. The latter company has been incorporating AI into its search engine to improve the answers people get. is another forward-thinking use of AI. This online service generates written content for blogs, social media posts and letters.

2 The metaverse

The “metaverse” is intended to make the online world more like the real one, through the use of virtual reality (VR) headsets. Instead of interacting with a two-dimensional profile on social media, you would don your VR headset to be represented by an avatar in a 3D virtual world. Your avatar would be able to communicate with other ones in a space modelled on the real world. Online shops could take the form of 3D virtual spaces so customers could browse in much the same way they would in their everyday lives.

YouTube and Meta are both building libraries of 360-degree video and images, as well as computer-generated objects and backgrounds that can be used to build the 3D environments that your avatar would explore in these virtual worlds.

3 Digital certificates

The owners of 360-degree video and computer-generated landscapes designed for use in the metaverse will want to sell their digital creations. To prevent unauthorized use, a kind of token called an NFT can provide these items of digital content with certificates of authenticity and ownership.

These non-fungible tokens allow the content to be bought and sold with confidence, something that’s increasingly happening with the use of cryptocurrency. Despite a recent drop in the NFT market, forecasts by the US stock exchange Nasdaq suggest the tokens could perform well in 2023.

4 Blockchain

A kind of digital record, or ledger, called a blockchain could help underpin private networks of people online, providing a safe space for them free from trolls, stalkers and fraud. These networks have discarded the top-down management used elsewhere in favor of a more democratic form of governance with no central authority.

5 ‘Workfluencers’

Businesses have taken note of the rise of social media influencers and are adopting their approach to reach target audiences. They are making use of what’s called an employee advocate, or “workfluencer.” Companies have realized that employees’ social media profiles and posts may better convey the brand than corporate accounts.

When crafted thoughtfully, social media posts by employees can seem significantly more authentic to other users than corporate PR. People have grown more honest about day-to-day work life, rather than only producing stories on professional milestones and achievements.

Organizations are likely to build procedures to encourage teams and employees to communicate and distribute material on the company’s behalf. The Conversation


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