There’s no need to panic about the Metaverse
By Dario Betti, The Mobile Ecosystem Forum
Right now the Metaverse may seem like a trendy buzzword however it has got the potential to change how we will access and think about the Internet in the future. Our lives are likely to be different in a few years because of it. Taking time to reflect on what is going to come next could be a very profitable move for many companies.
The Metaverse – what are the big players doing?
Facebook has changed its corporate name in honour of the new trend. Microsoft’s CEO acknowledged that their latest and largest acquisition (the game maker Activision Blizzard for $68.7 billion) was a side bet in games but also a bigger step towards the Metaverse, and the next Internet.
Historically these two companies were slow to adapt to new technologies. And now they do not appear to want to miss the next evolution. Microsoft underplayed the Internet at first and had to manage an expensive (and very successful) turnround. Facebook was too slow to pick up the mobile internet, and it had to acquire emerging competitors such as WhatsApp and Instagram that were threatening to eclipse it via their mobile apps. Facebook is looking for a new growth story too, as its core business enters a level of maturity (user acquisition and usage in the social network is flattening). Both companies seem to have learnt the lessons, and do not what to miss the boat on this evolution of the Internet.
The list of companies offering a flavour of the Metaverse is growing. Google is working on a Metaverse updated version of its interactive glasses. Epic Games has raised $1bn to support their internal development of a Metaverse. If you are looking for a brief to excite a venture capitalist or technology enthusiasts, the word ‘Metaverse’ will help.
The metaverse is a virtual digital world where interconnected platforms replicate and improve real life experiences or create new digital and hybrid services.
‘Web 3.0’ is emerging now as a new form of the Internet, where AI and Blockchain can cut out intermediaries and make information and services more readily available, more private, and potentially more secure. This is still very theoretical and debated, but it assumes that society will work out solutions/services to problems (a distributed architecture) and it will reduce the dependence on big technology companies running large services for all.
The Metaverse fits here as it will be a contemporary of the Web 3.0 – it refers to the user experience rather than a grander role in society or technology. Imagine moving from the two-dimensional experience of a web browser screen to a three-dimensional virtual world where people, businesses, services can create a new presence or identity. You, or I should say your ‘avatar’, would move across the different shops, offices, theatres, meeting places in the Metaverse. The avatar will be able to talk with others, listen to concerts, buy items, conduct meetings and work, all without the need to be physically anywhere in particular. A lot of this is available today as virtual services without the new 3D interface (web conferences, video channels, e-commerce site).
It should also be noted that many of these three-dimensional worlds already exist in the form of games: Second Life, Minecraft, Roblox are good examples of virtual games turned into virtual worlds.
Many confuse the elements of Web 3.0 with the Metaverse. So far, the Metaverse refers to the customer experience elements only. The idea of the Metaverse is still based on a similar concept of the World Wide Web – it should be a global interactive platform where interoperable worlds are connected. Currently there are many meta-islands, or meta walled-gardens, smaller communities where you can build a service. The global standard for interconnections is missing. We will not see real global mass take-up of Metaverse services, until there is an interconnected model of the digital world.
Get ready to a long list of companies that want to build the new web interface: HyperVerse, Sandbox, Decentraland, Naka, Nakamoto, MetaHero, Star Atlas, Bloktopia, Roblox, Stageverse and Spatial are some of the names you will encounter. Few will still be here in three years’ time – many will be bought, merged, or abandoned.
The real innovation will arrive when, either a platform will become dominant, or when a global virtual standard will take place. Neither seems to be close.
Many companies seem to love the potential of the Metaverse and are happy to join in. But before a hasty move I suggest taking a moment to reflect. The creation of a new Internet experience is a big step: it allows us an opportunity to look back and see what needs to be adjusted or improved. There is much that needs to be improved, from identity to security, in today’s customer experience before we all start jumping into holograms.
Navigating the Metaverse today is still a traditional experience. For example, to enter Nike’s ‘Metaverse’ experience in Roblox you need to download the Roblox app, search for Nike (by typing) and then clicking on a 2D picture of Nike showing in the results. After that you will be able to play a basketball game against other real players. There are still a lot of old-fashioned web/app interactions in the early Metaverse experiences. New models and interface modes are needed to bring a new fresh experience. Otherwise, the Metaverse will die after a short gimmick-laden life.
Payments were not built for the web, and while credit cards are now commonly used this is another after-thought with shortcomings. The concept of Web 3.0 would often include a reference to ‘Crypto Currency’, or more simply digital currencies. In fact, most Metaverse platforms have built their own blockchain currency in their system. There is more work to be done there to clarify the legal compliance and security for most of these.
Adopting new technologies now
So, is the future already here? NO. But that is what makes the entire topic of the Metaverse so interesting. A new wave of usability improvements is coming, which will change the way we experience the Internet. These might not replace the web as we know it, but they will complement and expand it. We have time to understand, plan, test and deliver a new experience.
We might want to drop the term Metaverse for a while, but the technology behind the concept is worthy of a deep review. If you run a business this is an important moment to plan and prepare for what is coming next. Let other people squabble about definitions and discussion around the hype of Metaverse. However, you should consider the opportunities that a virtual 3D world provides for your business. It might not be the true Metaverse yet, but today virtual reality or augmented reality can help you build an advantage. Understand where there could be value for you. Do not join in just because of the trend.
You should consider the importance of digitalisation of your value creation: how can AI and blockchain support a new customer experience or production efficacy? How can a better digital payment better support your transactions? How can you secure the digital identity (or identities) of your business and your customers?
It is time to focus on these interesting questions about the Metaverse and make sure that your business is ready for the developments.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Dario Betti is CEO of MEF (Mobile Ecosystem Forum) a global trade body established in 2000 and headquartered in the UK with members across the world. As the voice of the mobile ecosystem, it focuses on cross-industry best practices, anti-fraud and monetisation. The Forum provides its members with global and cross-sector platforms for networking, collaboration and advancing industry solutions.