The term “metaverse” is the buzzword of the day. What is it supposed to be, though? And, more importantly, where is it? Is it possible to observe the metaverse right now? Is it simply Mark Zuckerberg’s imagination? Is it something more? A clarification attempt.
The “metaverse” is the hot topic in computing right now, with investors and Internet businesses pouring billions into its development, yet many people are skeptical. And it’s no surprise: the metaverse is nothing like the big technological developments of recent decades: smartphones, cloud storage, and voice assistants were all new and untested, but most people could envisage them.
Various explanations are made.
The Metaverse, on the other hand, is a different story. Even specialists have a hard time explaining what the Metaverse is meant to be, despite the fact that the press and technology gurus have been talking about it since last fall. And when they do, they frequently strike a variety of tones: A group of scholars from the University of Nebraska recently wrote, “The Metaverse presents a future full with potential.” A journalist from PC Gamer magazine recently wrote, “The Metaverse is crap.”
So, where does all of this ambiguity and diversity of viewpoints come from? It’s not only because every new technology is excitedly debated at first, and supposed glimpses of the future are repeatedly proven to be false. It’s partly due to the fact that those debating the metaverse today don’t even agree on what the term implies.
There are three possible interpretations.
When you see the term “metaverse” in a news item or report today, it can have three different connotations. These meanings are intertwined and, in some cases, overlap. They are, nonetheless, distinct.
So, if you want to grasp the metaverse, you must first realize that there are three different metaverses, each of which elicits different responses.
The Metaverse of Mark Zuckerberg
This is the version of the metaverse that Mark Zuckerberg revealed to the world in the fall of 2021, using it as an excuse to rename his worldwide firm Facebook to Meta.
Zuckerberg shared his vision for a virtual world in which users may stroll about with computer-generated avatars, explore magnificent landscapes, and meet up with their best friends, even if they are hundreds of kilometers away, in an hour-long presentation. Virtual reality technology makes this possible. To put it another way, cutting-edge headsets will be able to transfer us to even better and more sophisticated worlds in the future. In Zuckerberg’s vision, his firm will make this universe available to everyone and merge all of its apps into it. For example, in Zuckerberg’s vision, we should be able to receive WhatsApp messages while moving about in virtual reality.
Facebook’s user base is dwindling, and Instagram is gaining ground.
Above all, the Zuckerberg metaverse is a wager on his company’s future. For the first time in its history, Facebook, the meta company’s core business, is reporting dropping user numbers. For the first time in a long time, Instagram, the second most popular meta-app, has a genuine challenger in the form of TikTok. It’s also not possible to simply acquire firms and buy the next big technology because US antitrust regulators are now keeping a close eye on Meta. It’s up to Meta to figure out how to do it.
As a result, Meta is relying on its virtual reality business, which is currently very tiny, and consequently on its subsidiary Oculus. It’s debatable whether this will be enough to establish the future of social networks in virtual reality. Zuckerberg, on the other hand, is running out of time. If Facebook and Instagram have a crisis in the coming years, and the meta-metaverse isn’t warmly received by people, Mark Zuckerberg’s vision of the future may be dashed before it really gets started.
The metaverse of brands.
“Kaufland makes his foray into the Metaverse.” This story made quite a stir in the news in January, not only because Internet technologies don’t instantly conjure up images of grocery chains, but also because it raises the question of how a brand can enter a market that doesn’t yet exist. After all, even Mark Zuckerberg refers to the metaverse as something that will only exist in the future.
However, many well-known brands mean something different when they talk about the metaverse: when Kaufland, Nika, Adidas, and Gucci talk about virtual game worlds in which their products are available in virtual form, they’re referring to virtual game worlds in which their products are available in virtual form. This could suggest that in the popular Nintendo game Animal Crossing, a Kaufland-themed island can be visited. That Roblox users can purchase virtual Gucci bags, or that Nike sells sneakers that are only available as virtual memorabilia and can never be worn by a real person.
Many of these virtual platforms, such as NFTs, rely on blockchain technology. This is where another important future phrase, Web3, comes into play. That’s how blockchain proponents describe their vision for the Internet’s future: Web3 will be defined primarily by the usage of decentralized technology as the successor to Web 2.0, which we are currently experiencing. These, in particular, might ensure that through cryptotechnology, artists, developers, and users are directly involved in the ownership and operation of the Internet. For this, cryptocurrencies and NFTs (digital tradable items) will be used.
If marketers want to establish their spot in virtual worlds now, it’s also to have a head start on the competition if virtual worlds become more relevant in the future. They are, however, mostly technological gimmicks at the moment. In the literal sense, they are not a complete metaverse.
The metaverse that has yet to be created.
Although the term metaverse first appeared in the science fiction novel Snow Crash, it is now widely used thanks to a series of writings written by Matthew Ball, a Silicon Valley investor. The latter made waves in January 2020 with a work titled “The Metaverse: What It Is, Where to Find It, and Who Will Build It,” which he expanded into a nine-part sequel in 2021.
Matthew Ball’s idea of the Metaverse combines various future trends and visions into a single primary vision that produced such a stir in Silicon Valley that Mark Zuckerberg declared Matthew Ball’s works obligatory reading for his staff. In this sense, Matthew Ball’s version of the metaverse is the first, as well as the one with the most ambiguous definition. Ball sees the metaverse as a “successor state to the mobile Internet,” linking it to a wide range of ideas and concepts but refraining from making specific predictions.
Essentially, the metaverse is characterized by several factors:
- The Metaverse is a self-contained, massive virtual world with its own virtual economy and society, in which the overwhelming majority of humanity can take part.
- Virtual services and items will be traded in the metaverse in the same way that physical services and objects are transferred.
- Virtual reality, augmented reality, and traditional screens will all play a significant role in the Metaverse.
- In the Metaverse, we will be able to seamlessly flip between digital realms, transfer objects from one virtual world to the next, and these digital worlds will communicate with one another without our knowledge.
- We will be able to retrieve spaces from the analog world in digital form (for example, a completely three-dimensional Google Earth map of our surroundings) and fill them with digital artifacts and gimmicks in the metaverse.
- The metaverse will not appear overnight, but huge portions of the Internet will migrate there over time.
- The future of the metaverse is still many years away.
Only speculation exists as to what cultural and sociological impacts the metaverse’s evolution will have. Furthermore, with every vision of the future, there is always the risk of putting too much faith in the wrong horse.
However, only the future itself can show whether the metaverse is actually the future. Last but not least, there remains the possibility that some of the scenarios described here will actually come true, but that the term metaverse will then be obsolete. The future therefore remains unpredictable.