Hustling for the Metaverse

Hustling for the Metaverse

BY JENNY LIDDLE

The Metaverse. Everyone wants in.

It all started a few weeks ago when Facebook unveiled their change of name to Meta …. And Mark Zuckerberg declared that Facebo…. Sorry we mean Meta, would be the pioneers to build the Metaverse, a fusion of the physical and digital worlds where humans can live, work and play in avatar form.

It wasn’t long before Microsoft hustled into the race to become masters of the Metaverse too, with their vision of creating virtual workspaces.

Then it snowballed with the likes of Nike launching virtual footwear, Dropbox offering to be the virtual version of a storage container, and Unity positioning themselves to be the architects to design and build this digital world.

It’s starting to feel like the Internet is going a little Metaverse-crazed. There’s even an entire recruitment site advertising careers in the Metaverse.  Don’t believe us? You can take a look for yourself here… Developers, UX Designers, Engineers… get in line now for your dream job.

Metaverse: origins

First things first… The Metaverse… what is it exactly?

The Metaverse, in a nutshell, is the digital world where we can create anything we want. Essentially, it is a digital universe that is shared and open to all. A collective utopia where we can all build our own virtual lives, work, play and interact with each other as avatars.

The Metaverse, or the concept of the Metaverse had been around longer than you would think, long before Facebook Meta HQ started tweeting about it.

The term “Metaverse” was first coined by Neal Stephenson in his cyberpunk novel Snowcrash, nearly 20 years ago in 1992, way before Facebook was conceived, and has nothing to do with Facebook. 

Stephenson envisioned a virtual reality which he termed the “Metaverse” where people could go and interact with each other in avatar form, escaping the totalitarian reality of the real world that they lived in. If you take a step back and think about it, we’ve been gradually building such a space, and immersing ourselves in it with email, social media, apps, smartphones… we are living most of our lives digitally through our screens, and interacting with others online rather than face to face.

In a nutshell…

“The Metaverse is what happens when you mix the Internet, virtual reality, and social media”.

Derick David

And as our lives go deeper down the digital rabbit hole, where does it end? How long will it be until we are living our entire lives through screens? Will we wake up one day and plug in to work and interact socially?

Anyone else getting Matrix vibes here? Or just us?

The first rule of the Metaverse is...

At face value, Meta, formerly known as Facebook, appears to be on the road to Metaverse domination.

But hang on a minute… isn’t the Metaverse supposed to be for everyone? A decentralized virtual utopia where we can all live, work and play?

Let’s lay down some ground rules for a moment.

The first rule of the Metaverse is… there should only be one Metaverse.

This space is a collective total of virtual realities that are all open and available to access on a global network. It is, therefore, accessible to ALL.

Which brings us to a second point. The Metaverse is for everyone.

But do people even want the technologies and equipment required for the Metaverse? Or can they even afford them? Even in the Metaverse, social mobility (or lack thereof) is still a problem. The Metaverse is ideologically a digital universe for all to access, to “live” in. But if we think about how only a small minority of humans are going to be able to afford the technologies required to access the Metaverse (with VR headsets and haptic gloves), then this utopia isn’t looking so accessible after all.

Anyone else getting flashbacks of Nintendo’s Power Gloves here? (We still haven’t decided whether that one was a good idea or not).

And above all… when it comes to the Metaverse… NO ONE controls the Metaverse. It is a decentralized space, free of central control by one entity.

Certainly, if tech companies are hustling to be the architects of the Metaverse, this quest for domination goes against the very ideology of the concept of the Metaverse itself. If you step back and think about it for a moment, it’s like saying: “I want to control the internet.”

With Blockchain, NFTs and Web3 technology set to play a critical role in the evolution of the Metaverse, the attempts of any single corporate entity to control the space is a clash of socio-political ideologies, which one can imagine leading to virtual anarchy.

The meta Future?

Currently, there isn’t one single metaverse. Instead, all the tech giants are all jumping onto the Metaverse rocket and proposing their own visions of how the Metaverse will look and feel. One can’t help but wonder how is this actually going to work? How will all these differing spaces align? Or will there be a number of different ‘verses’ that connect so you can jump easily from one to another. In the way that different planets in the OASIS in Ready Player One have various rules with content and commercial paradigms.

In principle, no one can own the Metaverse, since that defeats the premise of the entire Metaverse altogether. And if the Metaverse by definition, is for everyone and for all to access, such a world would be decentralized, not governed by one corporate entity.

The Metaverse requires a decentralized economy in order to be a truly open system not controlled by one corporation. Decentralization is after all more fair, trading with cryptocurrencies is more sustainable and efficient and prevents any one company holding the keys.

But even the Metaverse isn’t immune to the problems surrounding privacy. Facebook, Google, Apple, Zoom, WhatsApp have all had their share of privacy and security controversies so how secure will the Metaverse be?!

The truth is, while all the tech companies hustle to control their own experience of the Metaverse, the Metaverse is already here. Such a space has already been created in the form of Minecraft, Grand Theft Auto, Fortnite et al. And according to some people, Web3 is the Metaverse. The difference now is that we finally have the tools to create a platform that is open and accessible from all devices including mobiles, computers, VR and AR.

But where does that leave the Metaverse? We’ll have to sit back, wait and see. While the race to (re)build the Metaverse continues, and every brand tries to control their own experience of the Metaverse… meanwhile, we’ll be immersing ourselves in the Icelandverse… or whichever verse comes along next.