All you need to know about metaverse
“Metaverse” didn’t become a household term until Facebook changed its corporate name to Meta in October 2021. At that time, the company announced plans to spend $10 billion over the next year on technologies to build out its vision of the metaverse.
The metaverse is considered a next evolution of the internet. It will take many forms, including gaming, online communities and business meetings where people collaborate via a digital facsimile or avatar of themselves.
What is the metaverse?
The metaverse concept isn’t new. It was first described in the 1992 novel Snow Crash. Several companies later developed online communities based on the concept, most notably Second Life, released in 2003.
In the metaverse, people use avatars to represent themselves, communicate with each other and virtually build out the community. In the metaverse, digital currency is used to buy clothes — or weapons and shielding in the case of video games — and many other items. Users can also virtually travel through the metaverse for fun with no goal in mind using a virtual reality headset and controllers.
Snow Crash was more of a dystopian view of the future and didn’t put the metaverse in a positive light. Author Neal Stephenson coined the term metaverse as a kind of next-generation virtual reality-based internet. One way to achieve status in Stephenson’s metaverse was by technical skill, which was represented by the sophistication of a user’s avatar. Another indication of status was the ability to access certain restricted environments — a precursor to the paywalls and registration requirements some websites use today.
Ready Player One by Ernest Cline was another novel that helped popularize the idea of the metaverse. It was later made into a movie directed by Steven Spielberg. The 2011 dystopian sci-fi novel is set in the year 2045, where people escape the problems plaguing Earth in a virtual world called The Oasis. Users access the world using a virtual reality visor and haptic gloves that let them grab and touch objects in the digital environment.
What is the difference between the internet and the metaverse?
The internet is a network of billions of computers, millions of servers and other electronic devices. Once online, internet users can communicate with each other, view and interact with websites, and buy and sell goods and services.
The metaverse doesn’t compete with the internet — it builds on it. In the metaverse, users traverse a virtual world that mimics aspects of the physical world using such technologies such as virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR), AI, social media and digital currency. The internet is something that people “browse.” But, to a degree, people can “live” in the metaverse.
Even governments may extend their reach into the metaverse. For example, while most countries have a relatively static presence on the internet, Barbados plans to open a diplomatic embassy in the metaverse — specifically, the online world Decentraland.
The growth of the internet has spawned many services that are leading the way to the creation of the metaverse.
“In gaming you see Roblox, Minecraft and other immersive video games — and even Zoom — foreshadow what the metaverse is designed to offer,” said Ben Bajarin, an analyst at Creative Strategies. “You even have a kind of digital presence on social media.”