Do you have hefty bout of Metaverse fatigue yet? *yawns*. It’s a thing.
If you do, it’s entirely understandable. There are millions of column inches already devoted to pretty much every aspect of the metaverse you can possibly think of, such are the hopes and fears pinned to the consequences of virtual worlds. But don’t worry, this isn’t the beginning of a Matrix-esque dissection of the nature of reality. Nor is it a thumping fanfare, hailing the dawn of a new world. Instead, over the course of five articles, we’re simply going to take a look at how the metaverse might shape itself around us every day. To begin, we’re going to think about how we might adapt to, accept and embrace the initial glimmers of the metaverse – before it even presents itself.
But first, we must settle on a definition of what the metaverse is and has the potential to be. Because, at this stage, there are near limitless trains of thought on where we currently sit on the zero-to-metaverse timeline. Some feel that our current hyper-digital world is a kind of metaverse ground zero, where the ‘real’ and the ‘online’ sort of melt into each other as we dip in and out of each. And while that is quite true, it’s not exactly the transcendent experience that’s promised by the name. After all, ‘metaverse’ combines the Greek word for ‘beyond’ with ‘universe’ – which is a lot to live up to. By comparison, where we currently sit is vaguely discomforting because, yes, we’re used to it, but we also still have a lot of complaints. At the very most it’s a kind of clunky ‘meta-beta-verse’, if you will.
Others pin their colours to Web3 as the metaverse we are looking for. And, yes, Web3 (sometimes called ‘the decentralized internet’ or Web 3.0) will no doubt have a huge role to play, as it promises to put the control of data into the hands of users rather than businesses and uses technologies (such as blockchain) to do so. But even though Web3 goes hand in hand with the development of a metaverse, it certainly cannot be the metaverse. I guess one might say that it’s an operational layer that will help us to reach it.
So… what will the metaverse be? Right now, it’s impossible to know for sure. But we know that across the world, people and organisations are working towards the model of a network of 3D virtual worlds that can be used by everyone, which has foundational financial and legal parameters that are not dissimilar to real life. The assumption is that it will look and feel like a single space, but in fact we’re likely to experience it as lots of different places, just as we move from one online – or real life – space to another. Because let’s be clear, the metaverse is not a monolith. Like the internet we currently live by, we travel from owner to owner, experiencing how they present their worlds to us. If we’re lucky, they care enough about user experience to make this a smooth and pleasing journey. If not (and we’ve all been there), it’s frustrating at best, intolerable at worst. Change, as they say, is the only constant.