Insights From The Blog

The Metaverse: What’s Real, and What Isn’t

Like it or not, the Metaverse is becoming a firm part of our lives and one that is going to continue to grow exponentially. But like anything that is a fairly sudden innovation, it becomes subject to a lot of conjecture and hearsay. What people don’t know they tend to make up – particularly when it comes to technical subjects – and this is very true of the Metaverse. 

Many see the idea behind the Metaverse is that it will be revolutionary and completely alter the ways in which we work, shop, interact with one another, and have fun. Others have a more sceptical outlook and view the phenomenon as a hype-fuelled fad that is only going to be popular among celebrities and gamers. Will it be something where anything is possible as depicted in Ready Player One, and act to enslave us, or will it become an essential extension for business, play, and social interaction? The truth is that the Metaverse is too new for anyone to really understand how it is going to pan out, but there are a number of things that we can say about this budding technological giant, such as:

  • It’s difficult to define what the Metaverse is. Unlike standard software packages, the Metaverse isn’t ‘owned’ by anyone, and therefore, has no written specification about what it should be, and many who demand an ordered life are a little uncomfortable with that. True, there was no real specification for the current internet, but it has certain features that help define it. Wikipedia defines the current Internet as “a worldwide network of computers that are linked together and communicate with one another through the use of a set of protocols known as the Internet protocol suite (TCP/IP).  A wide variety of electronic, wireless, and optical networking technologies are used to connect the various networks that make up this network of networks. These networks range in size from local to global and include public, private, academic, business, and government networks”. While we cannot give a real definition of what the Metaverse is, we can be pretty sure that it isn’t that. Interestingly, investigations have found that around 47% of people who believe that they can define the Metaverse, can only do so in single terms, such as ‘immersive’ or ‘interactive’, and nothing else. Another 30% of people from the same study believe the Metaverse to be ‘a virtual world’ while 19% have no clear understanding. The remaining 4% believe that the Metaverse is created and run by Meta, formerly Facebook, and is simply an extension of social media, or some other nefarious reason known only to Mark Zuckerberg.
  • The Metaverse isn’t just a fad. Make no mistake, the Metaverse isn’t just an extension of the internet that has been designed for gamers, and is of little use to anyone else. Most businesses would find it difficult to engage with the customers, and gain new clients if they did not have an online presence. But going forward, many businesses will find the rather flat, two-dimensional, feel of the Internet is insufficient for what customers expect, and the immersive features of the Metaverse will not only enrich the contact experience, but allow for extended features such as digital showrooms too. Once companies start to see these kinds of abilities, just putting up web pages will seem a little dull. Early indications are that the Metaverse will be interactive by default, making the experience far beyond anything that we have experienced with the Internet.
  • The Metaverse is aimed at the young. Undeniably, when visiting many of the virtual environments that go to make up the decentralised Metaverse, the majority of users would appear to be under thirty, but is that really the case? Part of the charm of the Metaverse is that, unless someone actively advertises their age in their avatar name (Benny66, or some other engaging Monika), you simply have no idea about their personal circumstances. They could be anyone. In fact, recent research has found that the majority of Gen Z – characterised as being born between 1997 and 2012 – are actually not users of the technology behind the Metaverse. According to the findings of the report, approximately half of the 7,100 adolescents polled stated that they either did not know if they would purchase a device to access the metaverse, such as a virtual-reality headset, or that they had no intention of doing so. In the meantime, only nine percent of respondents said they were interested in the product to the point where they would make a purchase, while twenty-six percent said they already own a device such as an Oculus. Only 5% of this 26% used the metaverse on a daily basis, while the remaining 82% did so no more than a few times per month. This means that the majority of Metaverse users, probably aren’t as young as they may first seem. The reasons for this disproportionate age range may be allied to the fact that the VR headsets are still fairly expensive, and while many people access sites such as Somniumspace via their PC, it isn’t the same experience as with VR. Furthermore, currently the Metaverse has no equivalent of Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter, because it operates in a completely different way, so until it does, social-media fixated Gen Z is likely to stay away in droves.
  • The Metaverse isn’t geared towards business. This is fairly true at the moment, but once the benefits become evident, business is likely to take it up quite rapidly. The ability to try-before-you-buy and to carry out business transactions with the safety of blockchain technology – the very backbone of the Metaverse – will become very appealing. And the Metaverse gives far more opportunities to make money from its very structure than the Internet ever could; Play-to-earn games, hosting virtual events, buying and selling virtual land and property, and contributing to the infrastructure are all ways in which Metaverse users are starting to earn big, and there is a growing need for people doing all of these and more.

What is apparent even now is that, while it is still in its infancy, the Metaverse is going to be big – much bigger than the Internet ever has been – and while there is a lot of hype and hearsay about what it is and what you can do the fact that people are asking these questions means that nothing is set in stone. If you want to be a part of the growth of this virtual wonderland, now is the time to get online and carve yourself a part of it. Your future self will applaud you for it.