Metaverse? demystify! debunked! Design! To deliver!

The tech world has – as often happens – gone seriously crazy about a new trend: the Metaverse. Would you? Well no. However, keep reading this article; the Metaverse has the potential to change the way we access and think about the Internet in the future.

It may not be immediately, but your daily life will probably look different in a few years. Thinking about what’s to come can be a very profitable move for many companies. And getting a few facts under your belt could provide some good protection against the current Metaverse hysteria.

 

The Metaverse is cool

Looking at what other big players are doing, it turns out that the Metaverse is hugely important. For example, Facebook changed its company name in honor of this trend. Microsoft’s CEO acknowledged that their latest and largest acquisition ($68.7 billion for game maker Activision Blizzard) was a sideline in games, but also a bigger step toward Metaverse and the next internet.

The history of these two companies shows that 1) they were slow to adapt to new technologies; and 2) now they don’t seem to want to miss the next evolution. Microsoft initially underestimated the Internet and had to make an expensive but very successful turnaround. Similarly, Facebook was too slow to pick up the mobile internet. As a result, it had to take over emerging competitors such as Instagram and WhatsApp that threatened to overshadow the social network with their mobile apps.

Facebook is also looking for a new growth story as its core business matures (user acquisition and usage in the social network is declining). Both companies seem to have learned from this and are not missing out on this evolution of the internet.

There is a growing number of companies offering a taste of the Metaverse. Google is working on a Metaverse updated version of its famous interactive glasses. Epic Games has raised $1 billion for their in-house development of a Metaverse. If you want to excite a venture capitalist, the word “Metaverse” is a plus.

 

Defining the Metaverse

The Metaverse is a virtual digital world where interconnected platforms replicate and enhance real-life experiences or create new digital and hybrid services. This definition may not provide the clarity we need.

Let’s look at this in context. The first time I used the Internet, I saw green text codes on a black screen accessed through a noisy dial-up modem. This was the ‘Web 1.0’: it had hyperlinks and it linked publicly available databases. Many millennials would struggle to understand this historical reality.

It wasn’t until the late 1990s that the web browsers, the graphical interface with images, colors, audio, and eventually video became available. Today we call this the web: first a PC interface, nowadays more often a smartphone-based two-dimensional screen experience.

In the mid-2010s this was followed for the experts by ‘Web 2.0’ or the social element of the web including social networks. The web was not only a repository of content, but also a platform to ‘meet people’ and create content and services. The concept of the Cloud fits here.

Now “Web 3.0” is emerging as a new form, where AI and Blockchain can cut out middlemen 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 our dependence on big technology companies that perform great services for everyone.

The Metaverse fits here, along with Web 3.0. It’s more about the user experience than a larger role in technology or society. Imagine moving from the two-dimensional experience of a web browser screen to a three-dimensional virtual world where people and businesses can create a new identity or presence.

You, or rather your ‘avatar’, move through the various shops, theaters, offices and other meeting places in the Metaverse. The avatar can chat with others, buy items, listen to concerts, conduct meetings and work without being physically present anywhere. Much of this is available today as virtual services without the new 3D interface (web conferencing, video channels, e-commerce site).

Of course, many of these three-dimensional worlds already exist in the form of games: Second Life, Roblox, and Minecraft are good examples of virtual games turned into virtual worlds.

How do you navigate this new world? Possibly through voice assistants (instead of URL addresses) and using Virtual Reality headsets or Augmented Reality interfaces – these will place virtual objects on a smartphone screen pointing at the area next to you.

In the future, instead of VR headsets, you may be able to see holograms in front of you, and thanks to Web 3.0, the elements of digital currency (blockchain) and AI assistants will help navigation. It sounds like an episode of Star Trek, that’s because a lot of the technology we use today would fit right in with the original TV series.

 

Debunked the metaverse?

Many confuse the elements of Web 3.0 with the Metaverse. In the future, the terminology will likely be modified to provide greater clarity and separation. However, I expect continued confusion for a few years. At the moment, the Metaverse only refers to the customer experience elements. But even these are far from easy to deliver.

We don’t have a ‘Metaverse’ yet. The idea of ​​the Metaverse is still based on a similar concept to the World Wide Web – it should be a global interactive platform where interoperable worlds are connected. Currently, there are many meta-islands, or walled gardens, and smaller communities where you can build a service.

The global standard for interconnections is missing. History has not been very kind to digital walled gardens, the internet model has supplanted disconnected services. The same goes for the Metaverse. We won’t see real global mass adoption of Metaverse services until there is an interconnected model of the digital world.

Get ready for a long list of companies looking 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’ll come across. Three years from now there will be few left – many will be bought, merged or abandoned.

The real innovation will come when either a platform becomes dominant or when a global virtual standard takes place. Neither seems to be close.

 

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Design: time to design a new world

Many companies seem to love the potential of the Metaverse and are happy to get involved. Before we rush into things, though, we recommend taking a moment to think. Creating a new internet experience is a big step: it gives us the chance to look back and see what needs to be adjusted or improved. There is a lot that needs to be improved in the current customer experience before we all start jumping into holograms.

Today, cyberspace is a great tool, but it has some major flaws. Customers and companies do not have a ‘real’ identity on the Internet. A libertarian point of view would welcome that, and the potential to create secondary or anonymous persona should be supported. However, the history of fraud and crime in digital media shows that society must address identity, not as an afterthought, but as a core issue. It is time to make decisions that will positively impact the lives and safety of many, including the vulnerable and minors.

Navigating the Metaverse today is a traditional experience. To access Nike’s ‘Metaverse’ experience in Roblox, you need to download the Roblox app, search for Nike (by typing) and then click on a 2D image of Nike that appears in the results. After that, you can 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 dies after a short life full of gimmicks.

Payments are not made for the internet, and while credit cards are now widely used, this is another thought with shortcomings. The concept of web 3.0 often includes a reference to ‘Crypto-currency’, or more simply digital currencies. In fact, most metaverse platforms have built their own blockchain currency into their system.

There is more work to be done there to clarify legal compliance and security for most of these. Facebook’s multiple attempts to create a global digital currency (Libra/Diem) were crushed by local and global regulations. It takes more than a blockchain solution to create a digital currency: the legal framework for real digital money does not yet exist.

 

Delivery: adopt new technologies now

So, is the future already here? NO. But that’s what makes the whole topic of the Metaverse so interesting. A new wave of usability improvements is coming that will change the way we experience the Internet. These may not replace the web as we know it, but they will complement and extend it. We have time to understand, plan, test and deliver a new experience.

We may want to drop the term Metaverse for a while, but the technology behind the concept deserves a thorough review. If you’re running a business, this is an important time to plan and prepare for what’s to come. Let other people fight for definitions and discussion around the hype of Metaverse.

However, you should consider the opportunities that a 3D virtual world offers your business. It may not be the real Metaverse yet, but these days virtual reality or augmented reality can help you build an advantage. Understand where there may be something valuable for you. Don’t just join because of the trend.

It’s important to think about the digitization of your value creation: how can AI and blockchain help support a new customer experience or increase production efficiency? How can a better digital payment better support your transactions? How can you secure the digital identity (or identities) of your company and your customers?

These are important and exciting questions to ask. Then devise a strategy to focus on those advancements that can make the biggest difference to your business.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Dario Betti is CEO of MEF (Mobile Ecosystem Forum), a global trade organization founded in 2000 and headquartered in the UK with members worldwide. As the voice of the mobile ecosystem, it focuses on cross-sector best practices, anti-fraud, and monetization. The Forum provides its members with global and cross-sector platforms for networking, collaboration and advanced industrial solutions.

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