This article is brought to you by the letter “M” for the metaverse. A place that doesn’t yet exist but is said to be the next big thing and it could upend the internet as we know it.
Recently Facebook made news by changing its name to Meta Platforms or simply “Meta” for short to reflect its ambition to be a big player in the metaverse race. Already I started seeing social media posts spreading misinformation about what Facebook was doing and its relationship with the metaverse. One thing that many “posters” were getting wrong is that Facebook isn’t single-handedly creating the metaverse. The name change may be one way the company is distancing itself from the Facebook app, and some of the things that have come to light, such as the documents that showed that Facebook knows the platform is riddled with flaws that cause harm.
What is the metaverse?
The metaverse is a massive virtual world accessed in real-time using an avatar, a digital representation of the user. Think of it as the internet you’re inside of rather than viewing through a 2D lens. The word metaverse is rooted in science fiction like Ready Player One and the Matrix. Neal Stephenson is credited as coining the phrase in his 1992 novel Snow Crash. Today it is a hot buzzword where many tech giants compete to establish themselves in the metaverse since they see it as the next evolution of the internet. It’s considered a convergence of physical and digital, where your digital lifestyle is catching up to your physical lifestyle. The technologies that will help shape the metaverse include VR, AR, blockchain, NFTs, AI, cloud computing, and 5G. Right now, the early Metaverse platforms look like video games. Still, it will evolve into a more polished environment that might someday rival the physical world.
How will the metaverse work?
Mark Zuckerberg, the CEO of Meta Platforms (Facebook), believes that the platform will not be owned by any company or organization. Avatars will move freely between the virtual spaces, but the problem lies in connecting the different platforms. Some platforms are already established, like Roblox, where users can create and experience games and environments with other users. Another platform is from Epic Games, known as Fortnite. Both games have a vast user base that increased substantially during the pandemic. Both companies have their sights on the metaverse. They hope to build it beyond what it is today and incorporate technologies such as VR, AR, NFTs, and blockchain. In fact, Epic Games has said that it raised $1 billion in funding to support its vision for the metaverse by looking into potentially working with blockchain developers, which is a signal of some level of openness. Also, Microsoft is focusing on strategic game company acquisitions to help give them a foothold in the metaverse space. They already have the Xbox and recently closed a deal with video game company ZeniMax Media and were in talks with Discord.
When will the metaverse become a reality?
Meta Platforms (Facebook) is hoping to have their platform for the metaverse in about 5-10 years. However, four things need to come together: demand, software, hardware, and standardization.
Will Meta Platforms (Facebook) dominate the metaverse?
There is a good possibility that Meta Platforms will help make a significant push through their immense R&D efforts. Will this give them a leg up on the competition? Possibly, but even Mark Zuckerberg realizes that the metaverse is a joint effort. No one company alone can control the metaverse. This collaborative effort will be challenging to navigate for a company like Apple since, in their perspective, they fundamentally believe that they own both the user relationship and the developer relationship. It could impede the development of the next generation of the internet. There will be many different companies trying to compete with whichever points of leverages they have, such as payment infrastructures, hardware, and software. If Zuckerberg’s Meta Platforms is genuinely working to make the metaverse an interoperable platform, I support his efforts. However, if this is a ruse to control what the metaverse will become, we should be concerned. Then again, if the metaverse doesn’t pan out to be such a good idea, then we simply don’t participate.
Brian Lundgren is a marketing professional, musician, and family man living in the Southeast region of Massachusetts.