Metaverse meaning >> What is the Metaverse?
Facebook has a new name: Meta. The rebranding is part of the company's efforts to no longer be known as a social media company, but focus on building a part of the metaverse. Analysts believe the metaverse will become the hub of a whole new industry, like smartphones and apps or personal computers in the past. Newspapers are full of articles about the metaverse and Twitter is filled with questions and reflections. That begs the question: what is the metaverse?
What is the metaverse? The metaverse is an online network of virtual three-dimensional worlds. The user or visitor of the metaverse gets a sense of individual presence (whether or not represented by an avatar) and spatial awareness. The world of the metaverse takes place synchronously and in real time for everyone. You could see the metaverse as the next phase of the current internet: the (still) two-dimensional, flat internet is changing into a three-dimensional, spatial form. It is always there, for everyone. Just like social media has changed the ordinary internet for the ordinary internet. Good to know: The metaverse is still a future perspective. It is not finished yet'.
And the interesting thing is that in the metaverse, users can develop their activities cross-platform. So what works in one virtual world will also work in another world. What you earn or buy in one virtual world, you also own in the other virtual world.
In the metaverse, people can meet, for example to get to know each other, network, learn new skills, build relationships, provide products and services, collaborate, relax, play games, shop and consume. A user of the future metaverse can choose one moment to go to a virtual place that has a certain theme, and then quickly step over to a place where a specific activity takes place. What you as a user can do in each virtual space depends on what the creator makes possible. Most examples of current metaverse developments take place in the game world.
The metaverse also offers the possibility to build, create and participate in a virtual economy yourself. You pay with cryptocurrencies, euros, dollars or crypto tokens
Metaverse meaning >> What is the Metaverse in 2022?
As said: the metaverse is still a concept, an idea. It is still a vision of the future. Much of what is said and written about it is speculative; you can think of it as a mindset. But that doesn't mean it hasn't already started. There are already metaverse-like virtual environments. Think Fortnite, Roblox, Minecraft, Decentraland, Cryptovoxels, Axie infinity, NVIDIA Omniverse, Sandbox, OpenSea, and Facebook Horizon. The actual completion of the metaverse could take another ten years. But the technical and cultural foundations are being laid right now.
As diverse and broad as the current internet is, so is the metaverse, but to an even greater extent. We move from the web of objects (documents) to the web of places (coordinates). Just as social media has changed the static internet, so over time important parts of the current internet change to the metaverse. The internet in 2022 (information) will become more of a metaverse of activities, perceptions and experiences.
The term metaverse comes from Neal Stephenson's 1992 book 'Snow Crash', in which a pizza delivery boy escapes the daily grind of real life in his spare time by logging into the metaverse: a simulated world in which the residents can live as a avatar, in an always-on shared reality.
In 1990 it was impossible to foresee the current composition of the Internet. Back then, no one had imagined mainstream things like Etsy, Coinbase, Vinted, Chrome, YouTube, Twitter or Wikipedia. It is now equally difficult to predict the various parts, manifestations, aspects of the future metaverse.
For example, in the mid-1990s, we knew something was going to happen on the internet with “digital money,” but nobody could predict Bitcoin. We knew that social interaction would become part of the worldwide web, but TikTok couldn't predict anyone.
It is obvious that well-known parts of today's internet such as social interaction, entertainment, finance and sports will be present in the metaverse. But completely new, unknown, unexpected applications, environments and applications will also emerge.
Welcome to the Metaverse
The metaverse is therefore a virtual world that connects all other virtual sub-worlds and in which users can develop their activities cross-platform. There will be much resemblance to the existing physical world. However, the digital nature of the metaverse creates endless new possibilities; such as taking on different appearances (avatars) or challenging the limitations in the physical world such as being able to fly or being able to change length, shape, appearance. As a user, individual, avatar you will be able to participate in different virtual worlds.
A digital identity
In the metaverse, we own a digital identity that we can then dress up with different avatars. These virtual alter egos are becoming increasingly important. We are adopting a digital identity, just as we are now adopting a different identity on LinkedIn and Instagram. We are also becoming more and more accustomed to the idea that digital goods from the virtual world represent a certain value that can be expressed in money.
In the metaverse, individuals and companies will be able to create, manufacture and deliver an incredibly wide range of products and services; and for that they will be rewarded. All participating companies and individuals will be part of an anti-fragile virtual economy, as consumers or producers, based on cryptocurrencies, traditional currencies, NFT and other tokens that represent value. For example, a token can also be a membership card to a certain 'server' on the gamers platform Discord. Or represent a part of a small online media company that works together, worldwide, on manga cartoon videos.
Just like in the regular economy, we will own, buy, sell and also be able to invest in our own or someone else's digital property.
What is the Metaverse of the Future?
In the perfect metaverse of the future, there will therefore have to be flawless interoperability. This means that the various participating actors and digital materials involved are coordinated, so that cooperation, communication and the exchange of information are possible. This also applies to data and identity data.
You can transfer personal data from one platform to another. Your data (read: identity, stuff, tokens) always remain your own; that is often not the case at all.
When interoperable, your avatar for VRchat can also be used in Minecraft, while with digital Gucci sunglasses from Roblox you can dress up your avatar in Facebook VRQuest Horizon. Similarly, a car designed for Rocket League can also be used in Fortnite.
These are all contemporary examples, but look at them through the lens of the old school Internet applications of the 1990s, such as Netscape, Winamp, search engine Ilse, video game DOOM1, and AltaVista. In 2022 it is really metaverse early days…...
The future metaverse is persistent in the sense that there will never be a pause, reset, or end, just like the Internet today. And when I change something in the metaverse as an avatar, it is permanent (if I want to) and can also be observed by others. Access to the metaverse is via smartphone, desktop or laptop, for example, but this is also possible with Virtual Reality glasses or Augmented Reality glasses.
Integration will take place with the physical space, with sensors and data from our physical world. Through augmented reality, the metaverse becomes a layer over the physical world with which you can interact with others.
Creating the Metaverse
In the future metaverse, however, we can also break free from the physical limitations of the real world.
The first metaverse worlds are created by game studios, large technology companies and professional programmers. Think Meta (Facebook), Epic (Fortnite). Increasingly, however, these worlds will be created by the users. They will create their own content, digital stuff, digital media and trade them using cryptocurrencies, NFTs or other tokens. An expanded economy will unfold around the metaverse. There will be large groups of people who will earn their money by providing creative input for the metaverse. They get paid in euros Bitcoin, Ether, Doge or other cryptocurrencies.
In this way, the users of the metaverse will increasingly shape and co-create this world themselves. In order to build quickly and to shape this infinite Metaverse world, more and more use will be made of artificially intelligent software. It creates images, music, characters and entertainment. Generative systems that can produce an infinite amount of synthetic media for us in the metaverse. Landscapes, cars, buildings, interior design of houses. Artificial intelligence software as an infinite ideas machine. As a source of videos, images, conversations and music.
The developments of the Metaverse
However, the metaverse is in an early stage. In order for it to mature and function efficiently, countless new technologies, protocols, companies, innovations and discoveries are still needed. Despite tech companies wanting us to believe the metaverse is just around the corner; that is not true. Several more breakthroughs are needed until the adult metaverse is a fact. Meta (Facebook) is now going to invest in metaverse technology; that will speed up the adoption of the metaverse. But make no mistake. It is still a long wait for the complete and perfected metaverse. A few hardware and software breakthroughs are still needed; no matter what Mark Zuckerberg says.
Nor will the metaverse suddenly “be” overnight: there will not be a clear moment “Before the metaverse” and “After the metaverse”. It will grow slowly as different products and services integrate and merge. The foundations are being laid, but it will take a while before there is a complete metaverse.
For an open, fair and transparent metaverse we will also have to use open source software and open standards, but more on that later.
Success factors of the Metaverse
It is certain that the concept of the metaverse has emerged as a topic of conversation in recent months. In the number of searches in Google trends you see a huge increase in interest worldwide, especially since the announcement of Meta/Facebook that they want to become a 'metaverse company'. Certain circumstances have proved favorable for the development of the metaverse.
1. The corona pandemic
First of all, of course, the corona pandemic. People have spent more time online than ever for a year and a half. Minecraft, grew from 91 million users in 2019 to 131 million in 2020. The popular game Roblox had a revenue increase of more than 140% in the first quarter of 2021. Our lives have largely been 'digitized' via laptop, smartphone or VR glasses.
During the corona pandemic, digital developments that were planned for 2030 have been brought forward at high speed. Due to lockdowns, measures and working from home, everything shifted to the digital world at lightning speed. Partly because of this, we have become accustomed to spend time online with each other in the 'virtual world'.
Therefore, the concept of the metaverse has become more and more popular in recent months. This is also because the corona pandemic has led to certain technical building blocks developing rapidly and becoming available at a rapid pace. Moreover, the mind-state of people is more accustomed to virtual consultation, virtual entertainment and virtual social gathering.
2. Statements from big tech companies
Second, key figures in the technology sector have openly stated that they are working on some part of the future metaverse. First of all, Facebook, of course. In their big presentation at the end of October 2021, the vision of the 'metaverse company' was set out. The largest social media company in the world even changed its name to Meta. They have full focus on creating the metaverse and the entire ecosystem benefits from that. Not only has Facebook stated that it wants to become a "metaverse company", it also put $50 million into a metaverse fund and announced it was seeking 10,000 employees in Europe to build the metaverse. It is obvious that we can be critical of a company that continuously produces scandals surrounding disinformation, privacy and hate speech.
Epic games is also working on the metaverse. For example, founder Tim Sweeney (Fortnite, Unreal engine) said in the lawsuit against Apple's app store, "Our goal with Fortnite is to build something like a science fiction metaverse." Jensen Huang, the boss of Nvidia, an American chip maker, told Time magazine that he wants to "create a virtual world that is a digital doppelganger of ours." The management of Roblox also says they are working on the development of the metaverse. These candid statements by the world's largest companies in this field sparked the interest of stakeholders and consumers.
Third, there is the not unimportant aspect of the continued interest in cryptocurrencies, which we can see as a building block for the future digital native economy of the metaverse. In the corona pandemic there was a lot of trading in cryptocurrencies, resulting in exploding prices. People have become accustomed to buying and selling cryptocurrencies, laying a foundation of the metaverse economy.
NFT technology and the metaverse
In this context, the great interest in NFT technology as a way to create value in the digital domain should not be overlooked. An NFT is a Non-Fungible Token: an irreplaceable certificate of ownership. You can create this certificate digitally and link it to a digital object (such as an image) and also link it to a blockchain. This allows you to prove that the digital object is your property.
NFT technology can create value in the digital world and thus generate economic activity. It can create value because you turn a digital object into a unique one. Then the system of supply and demand will add this value. In the first half of 2021, several digital NFT objects changed hands for large amounts. So people are becoming more and more accustomed to the fact that digital objects can represent value. (These digital objects will be available in the metaverse in the future). That is an important step in the creation of the economics of the metaverse.
4. Improved digital infrastructure
Fourth, there have been improvements in digital infrastructure, both in software and consumer hardware. Think of better sensors, longer battery life, high-resolution screens, better VR glasses, sharper cameras, etcetera. To give some context, twenty years ago, the best computer microchips had about 220 million transistors; now there are 40 billion. There were just over a million broadband connections in 2002, compared to 27 million today. This results in much less delay when using the internet. The latter is important to get a real-time experience. Also on the server/cloud side there are hardware and software improvements that make it possible, for example, to play a game online with a hundred people without significant delay. Incidentally, at the moment the technology is still lacking to shape the future metaverse, in which hundreds – possibly millions! – people jointly participate in the same synchronous experience.
5. Avatar popularity
The fifth factor is the increased interest in avatars: the digital representation of yourself or of someone else. That does not mean that an avatar should look like yourself. You can dress up with different avatars in the future metaverse.
The Metaverse is not an endpoint. It is a process in development, just like the current internet still is. However, the start of the metaverse has already started. The first projects have already started.
Fortnite and the Metaverse
Fortnite is a very popular video game developed by the Epic Games company.
Players can play this game alone or with friends. You are dropped on an island and you have to take out your opponents there until the winner remains. Fortnite started in 2017 as a four-player game, but has since grown into a social platform, with its own in-game currency (VBUX) and a huge community.
Fortnite is not only a game, but also a social environment in which you meet virtual and real friends. Just like teenagers spent hours on the phone in the pre-internet era, teenagers now talk to their friends on Fortnite about news, boys, girls, school, movies, sports and… Fortnite itself, of course.
There are even live concerts on Fortnite, such as rapper Travis Scott. So far 160 million people have seen his concert on YouTube. In addition, 12 million people watched the in-game concert.
Facebook Horizon is a virtual reality online video game with an integrated game creation system developed for Microsoft Windows and Oculus Quest VR glasses. It is currently in an invite-only beta stage. More than any other company, Facebook has a lot to lose. Metaverse has the potential to become a new social media platform.
Decentraland is a 3D virtual reality platform where you are present as an avatar. You can own a piece of land and build buildings in Decentraland. Users can get their hands on parts of this virtual world, through the Ethereum blockchain.
There are several districts to which you can teleport yourself. The price of a piece of land varies a lot. In that it resembles the physical world. That price difference has to do with location. There are different districts with different themes. You'll find the most imaginative environments, such as a space abode, a medieval maze and entire villages designed by the community itself.
The virtual economy of Decentraland
The American company Boson has bought $700,000 worth of land in Decentraland to build a shopping center there. There is also a casino. By the way, people of flesh and blood work there (but then via their avatar) to show newcomers the way. Auction house Sotheby's already has a digital branch there.
Decentraland has a virtual economy where users can focus on a wide variety of economic transactions. They can earn money with the applications they build themselves. The cryptocurrency is MANA, which you can also buy on the crypto exchange. You can also make stuff with tools from the game.
Roblox is an online platform to create and program games, which can then be played by other users. You can play for free on Roblox. There are tens of millions of users every day, more than half of whom are under the age of 13. It is also telling that many young gamers are buying Robux, the platform's virtual currency. They spend hundreds of millions of dollars in real money every year. Roblox is incredibly popular in the US, played by more than half of children under 16.
Avatars in the metaverse
The term avatar has already been discussed several times in this article. The avatar is a virtual alter ego that is controlled by a user, for example in a video game or online forum. You can own different avatars in the future metaverse. Your actual digital identity may then be represented by a digital crypto wallet or a digital blockchain identity.
The avatar is your digital personification of this digital identity: an audiovisual digital body that represents you. The different avatars allow us to show different versions of who we are or who we want to be. An avatar can therefore be an instrument to play various roles in various environments. To experiment with different behavior or to pretend to be someone else. So your unique crypto identity can be linked by multiple avatars, multiple online personalities, with different roles.
In the ideal metaverse, you can take your different avatars to different worlds. You don't necessarily need an avatar for every application in the future metaverse. The current, traditional internet can still function well without using an avatar.
Your appearance in the metaverse
Just as we like to dress up and embellish our physical appearance with clothes, shoes, watches and sunglasses, so it will happen in the digital future Metaverse. A large part of the virtual economy will be based on this.
The Genies company is already working on this. The Genies app will also allow you to create your own Avatar in the future. For example, you can adjust your gender, hair color and appearance and also give different types of clothing. Fashion house Gucci collaborates with Genies. For those in the know, it's a bit like Snapchat's bitmoji.
Digital wearables in the Metaverse
Genies creates avatars for celebrities and athletes to sell virtual goods to their fans. These celebrities then 'drop' digital wearables that you can get or buy as a fan. In the closed ecosystem you as a user can buy stuff from celebrities.
Genies also works with celebrities, including Justin Bieber and Cardi B. The company has also already used the services of football player Mesut Özil. His avatar is wearing digital clothing that was for sale. In a Genies project in 2021, six NFTs (including virtual jerseys and cleats) were sold for a combined $500,000.
Economy of the Metaverse
The economic structure of the Metaverse of the future reminds me associatively of the 1980s. The 'Hot Wheels Color Changers' toy cars from the toy brand Mattel were in the store. These toy cars changed color when the temperature changed, for example by placing them in hot or cold water.
Back then, as a child, you regularly put aside pocket money to buy these cars. In 2022 you will spend your pocket money on digital wraps of the cars in the car game Rocket League. A good example of how fandom and associated economic traffic has moved to the digital world.
In the digital world of the Metaverse, economic traffic therefore concerns digital items, mutually performed activities and the link with the real economy of physical items. In the future, for example, H&M could sell you not only red pants that you wear in the real world, but also a digital copy of the same red pants that you can wear online in the evening when playing Fortnite. Provided, for example, that you have reached a certain level of skill in that game.
The value of digital stuff
As consumers, we are also becoming more and more accustomed to the fact that digital items represent a certain value. The exchange, buying and selling of digital stuff has really taken off. In March 2020, the gaming industry had global revenues of $180 billion. In games like World of Warcraft, League of Legends, Fortnite and Roblox it is the most natural thing in the world to spend digital currencies.
The economy of the metaverse will mainly be fueled by cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin or Ethereum or in-game tokens that represent a certain value, for example Robux, SAND, VBUX or MANA. Traditional currencies such as euros and dollars will also continue to play a role.
The economy of the metaverse will probably be comparable in important parts to the current (online) economic system. We produce, exchange, use currency, invest, collect the profit (or loss) from it. We produce goods, offer stuff on marketplaces, advertise, hire people. We watch advertisements to receive products for free or sometimes have to perform an action (fill in data, level up in a game, earn certain tokens) before we can access certain products, services or worlds. The same goes for the metaverse.
Business models of the metaverse
The boss of Epic games (Fortnite), Tim Sweeney argues that the Metaverse must be based on an economic model, otherwise insufficient activity will arise. After all, economic rewards activate companies and individuals to get started with the metaverse concept. Sufficient revenue models must therefore be developed. In addition, Sweeney argues that customers in the metaverse should above all feel treated fairly. Fraud must be combated.
The metaverse economy must be anti-fragile. Tim Sweeney says the metaverse can only be successful if most of the money goes to the designers, the designers, the creatives. And not when the company that made the platform takes the majority of the profits (think: Apple, Facebook, Google). A solid foundation of this open economic structure of the metaverse relies on two developments: DeFi and NFT technology.
DeFi ‘decentralized finance’
DeFi is an abbreviation for 'decentralized finance'. It is a movement that operates in the world of cryptocurrencies and focuses on the decentralization of financial products. Money is currently (still) managed by banks, but the enthusiasts of the DeFi movement want consumers to take matters into their own hands. With DeFi you decide what happens with your money and investments, of course with cryptocurrency as the basis.
The acronym stands for Non-Fungible Token: a non-replaceable certificate of ownership. It can be linked to digital objects such as artwork, videos, images and even tweets. Blockchain technology guarantees the ownership and uniqueness of the NFT object.
An NFT can represent "in-game items" such as weapons, vehicles, characters, and more. But also virtual clothing for your avatar, for example. NFTs are especially interesting because the digital goods you buy in the Metaverse can be taken to other worlds via decentralized blockchain technology (although we still need a long development to get there). NFTs, blockchain technology, open source software and Defi lay the foundation for an open economic structure of the metaverse of the future.
In the digital world we often have a certain appearance. The need for personal expression/vanity will lead to a vibrant virtual fashion economy. Virtual fashion refers to clothing that is worn in the digital world, including by avatars. These fashion items are the exclusive property of the owner. A classic example are the 'skins' in Fortnite for which young people regularly feel their pockets. For the younger generation of gamers, the virtual appearance is sometimes just as important as their appearance in the physical world, because they spend a lot of hours online.
Fashion brand Gucci also sees this and therefore collaborates with online game platform Roblox. In that virtual world there is now a Gucci collection of handbags, sunglasses or hats. That is easy to explain. Companies want to connect with the younger generation and in turn young people want to express their personality in the virtual world. They do this by wearing A-brands. Just like in the physical world. Roblox has its own marketplace where items can be traded. Some time ago, the Gucci Dionysus bag was resold for more than $4,100 in Robux money – that's more than the price of a real Gucci Dionysus bag in the physical world.
Challenges of the Metaverse
After this description of all kinds of existing concepts and new developments, it may seem that the Metaverse is coming soon. That we are on the tipping point towards a new world. However, that is not the case. Before the metaverse becomes a reality, there are still hurdles to be overcome.
Today's internet must be prepared for the transport of large amounts of data that can be moved worldwide in real time, without delay. The amount of computing power and cloud storage required for this is unprecedented.
In addition to the technical challenges, there is also the need for a substantial financial investment to be able to build and complete it. Then the next question is: who is going to pay for all this? And more importantly, what do the long-term investors and lenders get in return from the user of the metaverse? Money? Dates? In other words, how is our privacy in the metaverse ensured?
Interoperability of data and identity is also extremely important for the economic fabric of the metaverse. After all, if you are going to produce, make, build or invest something in one world, you want to be able to benefit from it in another world. Then you don't want it stuck. Your products, work and investments should not be held in a lock-in by a large American or Chinese company. Concrete example: Oculus VR headset users who have voluntarily linked their Facebook account to their Oculus account cannot delete their Facebook profile without losing access to the purchased games. Talk about lock in.
The interaction between humans and this future virtual world also deserves our full attention. We already live in a world where many people prefer to live their lives very much online. We are so glued to our phones, laptop, smart TV, because for many it is more pleasant to be in the digital world than in the capricious, unpredictable, physical world.
So how can the virtual simulation be prevented from becoming the primary living environment for a large part of society? That the virtual world of the metaverse becomes a refuge to escape current unpleasant living conditions, emotions or tensions? That it becomes very easy to escape from the daily worries and that people disconnect too easily from the shared physical reality? That people literally no longer feel connected to our shared world? That is one of the many issues that will have to be tackled in the coming years.
And who sets the rules of the metaverse? Can you just shoot anyone, even if it's digital? Or will that feature be disabled? Can you clone someone's avatar and undress it? How do you curb theft of property, obstruction of play and other forms of crime? How are tech companies going to monitor this? Or will certain actions be made technically impossible? Who determines that then? Can you still smoke in the metaverse of the future? Or perform sexual acts? Are there still critical voices in the metaverse? Is there room there for minorities that give our current society the necessary fringe? Think of vaccine refusers, homeless people, squatters, conspiracy theorists, strict reformers or government wappies?
Dark side of the metaverse
And like any technological advancement, the metaverse definitely has a dark side as well. We should not close our eyes to that. It is better to face this dark side, these risks early so that we can prevent them from becoming a reality. That is our joint responsibility. Not just the responsibility of the big technology companies.
Big tech eats our data
As you can taste in this article: the large companies with commercial intentions are eager to get to the door. The risk is that the problems that already exist in today's internet are magnified. Theft of our data, invasion of our privacy, influencing commercial objectives, damage to our autonomy and mutual polarization.
When you look at Facebook's presentation of the Meta verse, you can't help but feel that Facebook wants to collect even more data: especially biometric data. What are you looking at? How long? Are the pupils getting bigger or smaller? And don't forget, what they show us in this presentation is, of course, the world without noisy ads. But that they come in the “Facebook metaverse” is of course clear.
The metaverse is probably entered through our digital form, our digital representation. The avatar.
The dark side of this seems clear to me: by placing ourselves even more outside of ourselves, we distance ourselves from our physical body.
When looking briefly back in our history, we naturally know this from the rise of social media. Our digital representation, often the photos we share on social media, is often quite separate from our actual physical appearance. We have all kinds of Photoshop and filter options to make ourselves look better. But this development also has a dark side: young people are increasingly insecure about their physical appearance. Photos on social media create a negative self-image.
If, for example, we were to spend two hours a day in the Meta verse in the future: to what extent does that increase the distance between head and body even more? To what extent does that affect the perception of our own body even further? Or the link with your own emotions?
And not only do we disconnect from our own body, our physical appearance, we also disconnect from encounter in the physical world. In the future, it will be much easier to engage in social interaction in the digital world. Just from your living room or anywhere in the world. Sometimes that can be a huge advantage, for example when traveling is far. But the risk is that we will interact less in the physical world. Less sitting next to each other, shaking hands, laughing with each other, sitting around the campfire. Being in connection and contact with each other in the physical world. Getting to know each other as human beings. Feeling cohesion. And cohesion is extremely important because it increases commitment to our shared environment.
Addiction / Escapism
The virtual world is likely to become an enticing place to be. Visually impressive with all kinds of possibilities that we cannot yet imagine. What is unpleasant can be filtered out. No homeless people, hooligans, cross thinkers, vaccination refusers or other "difficult" people. A world like the Truman show: every hedge trimmed tight, every lawn raked. The virtual Metaverse is perfect for escapism. Perfect for escaping the unpleasant, whimsical world. It is the perfect way to easily avoid unpleasant situations and feelings. You put on your VR goggles and you're in a nicer place. Entertainment addiction in a new guise.
We live in a world full of real, concrete problems. The aftermath of corona, poverty, climate problems, corruption, child abuse, exploitation, war, hunger and the power of large technology companies. Why on earth will we focus globally on a future fantasy world when the world is crying out for concrete solutions? Shouldn't we just stop putting our precious time, attention, energy, money and intelligence into the metaverse and focus on solving the problems in the physical world? Isn't the metaverse relatively meaningless compared to existing problems?
Future of the Metaverse
What does the future of the metaverse look like? There are currently more questions than answers. And to clear up another misunderstanding: the existing current internet will not disappear with the arrival of the Metaverse. For some applications you use the traditional internet, while for others you log in to the metaverse. Just as you would rather do some activities on your smartphone than on your laptop or vice versa, in the future you would rather do some activities on the two-dimensional flat internet than in the three-dimensional Metaverse.
We naturally also develop many of our current activities in the metaverse. But there are also new possibilities: for example attending a sports tournament in a Virtual Reality arena. Being able to shop in a virtual mall for both digital and real clothes. Being able to skydive from the top of the tallest buildings in the world.
Completely new professions will also emerge. Many people start making money creating content and delivering products to other users. They earn their money as designers of virtual clothing such as skins and wraps.
Maybe you can hire other people to be your avatar for a new world. Or have a virtual real estate broker assess whether the purchase you have in mind in Decentraland is worth the investment. Just like you now have financial advisors dedicated to cryptocurrencies, some brokers will opt for specialization in the virtual metaverse. You can have houses decorated by a metaverse interior designer.
Art consultants specialize in digital art and NFTs to assess for their clients what is valuable to invest in and what is not. Professional gamers and e-athletes are the celebrities of the future and have personal trainers who specialize in exercising in the digital world.
Skilled gamers help inexperienced users for a fee to level up in their favorite game. So that they can, for example, claim certain tokens, items of clothing or access privileges. These professional level boosters are paid in regular money, cryptocurrencies or special tokens. Given the international nature of the metaverse, it doesn't matter where these 'level boosters' are located.
New vacancies will also arise in the service sector. You can already see in Decentraland that people of flesh and blood are being hired as avatars to guide visitors in the digital virtual casino. People around the world make their money by screening the metaverse for inappropriate or violent content.
It is very important that the Metaverse evolve from the original goals of the early Internet. At the time, universities, research labs and military organizations focused on creating an open and public network that was easily accessible and equally accessible to everyone. Its purpose was to serve society. Only a few saw the commercial potential. How different it is with the Metaverse. Here you can see that the initiative mainly lies with commercial companies: Roblox, Epic games, Microsoft, NVIDIA and Facebook.
The Metaverse Ecosystem
Try to look through the eyes of these types of companies if they had been at the cradle of the internet. The internet had then become nothing more than a channel for commercial sales, an overload of advertisements, harvesting user data and excluding healthy competition.
Open source technology
For the metaverse of the future, we must therefore make use of open standards and open source technology. From (decentralized) systems where all digital applications are well coordinated, can be mutually integrated, are device independent and can run on different types of hardware and software.
Self sovereign identity
We need systems that create a metaverse ecosystem in which individual contributions benefit the whole and put pressure on commercial (paid) products and services. Essential is open software that enables interoperability: switch providers, integrate third-party software and move data and digital goods autonomously throughout the metaverse. User data that can be controlled by the users without a lock-in from commercial companies. With this so-called Self-sovereign identity, your user is in charge of your own identity and data; you decide with whom you share your data.
The ideal Metaverse
There are countless hurdles that still need to be overcome to complete an open, transparent and inclusive Metaverse. And it will be difficult to reach industry-wide consensus on the above thresholds and pitfalls. After all, many companies are already working on their own standard.
As far as I'm concerned, the most important question has to be: what do we want the ideal Metaverse of the future to look like? What do we actually want? What purpose should it serve? What are the odds? What added value? What are challenges? What unexpected consequences? Why could this still fail? Why should this fail? What rules should politicians formulate?
In the coming years, we will have to look at the above questions and challenges from several angles. The Metaverse is currently being built and now is the time to design it according to our wishes.