The vision of virtual reality
ORIGIN OF THE TERM "METAVERSE"
The term "metaverse" was first used in 1991 by the US science fiction author Neal Stephenson in his novel "Snow Crash". In it, he describes the metaverse as a virtual reality that represents an alternative to the physical world. Every person is given a digital counterpart, an avatar, with which they move and act.
The concept of the metaverse, however, is not due to said Neal Stephenson, even though the term originated with him. A few years earlier, in the 1980s, another science fiction author named William Gibson created his idea of virtual reality and called it "cyberspace".
WHAT IS IT ABOUT THE METAVERSE THAT FASCINATES SILICON VALLEY SO MUCH?
Both Marc Zuckerberg and Tim Sweeney, CEO of global company Epic Games, refer to tech expert Matthew Ball and his essay "The Metaverse: What It Is, Where to Find it, Who Will Build it, and Fortnite" from 2020.
In his work, the author defines seven principles that form the core of the Metaverse:
The Metaverse runs continuously; it cannot be paused or stopped.
Everything takes place in real time. Timed events are possible, just like in the real world, and the Metaverse itself is live.
The number of participants is not limited.
A separate economy exists within the Metaverse. Individuals and companies can invest, buy and sell tangible as well as intangible goods, and be paid for work services in the Metaverse.
The Metaverse spans both the digital and physical worlds. Within the platform, there are additional closed as well as open platforms that can be used.
The digital goods purchased can be used anywhere within the Metaverse. Ball cites video games as a counterexample, where digital objects can only be used within the specific game.
The metaverse is filled with experiences and content that originate from the participating parties - i.e., individuals, groups and companies that move within the metaverse.
WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE TO THE CONVENTIONAL INTERNET?
The possibilities of the Metaverse - apart from the virtual reality factor - do not seem to differ greatly from existing possibilities of the Internet. However, Ball sees a high relevance of the metaverse for the further development of global consumer behavior - and refers to the fact that the ten largest stock corporations in the world are currently Internet groups which have replaced the old, traditional companies. Ball predicts exactly the same in his essay for the current big players, such as Amazon and Meta, if they miss the boat on the metaverse.
WHEN DOES THE METAVERSE START?
Expectations for the metaverse are high, even though development is still relatively early. Neither Ball nor Zuckerberg nor Sweeney can say with certainty when the technology will be at the stage of realizing a true metaverse. In his essay, Ball also assumes that there will be no clear point in time when the metaverse will start. Instead, new products, services and capabilities will be launched successively and will slowly develop into a metaverse and merge with each other. One example of this is the virtual world of Roblox, which already exists today and is particularly popular with young users as a gaming platform with virtual avatars.
He compares this process with the transition to the age of mobile technology. Here, too, the technical means had been available ten years earlier with the Blackberry, which had already enabled a mobile version of the Internet with WPA. But the actual breakthrough and the development toward mass suitability did not come until years later with the iPhone 3G. Just as this development has changed almost every area of modern (working) life in one form or another, the Metaverse is also intended to bring about a gradual transformation in our use of computers and the Internet.
The question is no longer whether the metaverse will come, but when it will come and what influence it will have on our lives. The potential of the opportunities it brings is enormous and almost all major tech companies are now investing in this field, even if the metaverse is not yet relevant in business life.
So the high level of expectation is clear - Mark Zuckerberg didn't rename his company from Facebook to Meta for nothing. It remains to be seen how quickly the technology will develop in this direction and when the Metaverse will become a completely normal part of our everyday lives.