Learning about the Metaverse
The fact that online universes like Roblox and Fortnite, which have nearly 400 million users combined, as well as Decentraland and the Sandbox, are expanding quickly, is therefore not surprising. According to estimates, the market for them will soon be worth more than $1 trillion. In an effort to convey its faith in a virtual future, Facebook changed its name to Meta. Noticias Metaverso en español Microsoft is getting ready for a workforce full of virtual assistants. Clothing and accessories for the metaverse are being created by fashion houses like Nike and Gucci. Samsung and J.P. Morgan have opened offices in Decentraland. On Roblox, users can run their very own Forever 21 shops where they can even sell their own creations. Even though the majority of people are still unsure of what the metaverse is, many businesses are placing significant wagers on it.
Three fresh books offer some justifications. The books Step into the Metaverse by Mark van Rijmenam, The Metaverse Handbook by QuHarrison Terry and Scott Keeney, and Navigating the Metaverse by Cathy Hackl, Dirk Lueth, and Tommaso Di Bartolo all position themselves as Lonely Planet guides to the digital frontier.
Although there are many definitions of it, the following are some fundamentals: In reality, there are numerous metaverses, or digital spaces, that are frequently decentralised, use augmented and virtual reality, store data on blockchains, and let users own digital goods. Thus, “the metaverse” refers to a vast network of locations similar to “the internet.”
In actuality, the metaverse provides a fresh online experience with fresh markets and goods. Three paradigm shifts, according to Hackl, Lueth, and Di Bartolo’s book, are presented:
- People want more than just to consume. Contextualized experiences that are gamified are much more engaging.
- Identity: People value their online identities and want to take them with them into the metaverse and beyond.
- Ownership: People want a stake in whatever they choose to do with their time.
In other words, the ultimate goal is to have a single, consistent digital identity on the blockchain—one that works for both logging in to your work computer and playing online games at night. It will include your cryptographic keys, the NFTs you purchased for your Decentraland virtual home, and all of your other crucial information. You are more of a member than a user in the metaverse.
This opens up a plethora of new opportunities. Roblox is cited by Terry and Keeney as an example of what’s to come. On it, users can create games and spaces, and people can come together for events in ways that are not possible on social media platforms. Keeney, also known as “DJ Skee,” collaborated with Paris Hilton to create Paris World on Roblox, where she hosted a New Year’s Eve party that attracted more guests than the one in Times Square. She tells the authors, “This is the future of partying.”
The emphasis on ownership in the metaverse (and its cousin, Web3) is what stands out the most. Users can participate in almost anything; they can vote on issues affecting the groups they are a part of and the apps they use; they can create and trade NFTs; and in decentralised apps (dApps), which run on peer-to-peer networks rather than on servers, they can even get paid to play games. Because it develops a new economy, user ownership represents a true revolution. According to van Rijmenam, the ideal metaverse will liberate users, enabling them to quickly move communities and digital goods from one platform to another. For example, users will be able to take a Facebook group to Roblox and then transfer a piece of art created there to Fortnite. Users can make money off their digital assets in this scenario by renting, selling, or even borrowing against them.
The implication seems to be that users—or, more precisely, the designers of this new web—are renegotiating the terms of their data exchange for free search engines and social media platforms, whereas users on the old web received the raw deal. Hackl, Lueth, and Di Bartolo write that “play becomes labour that produces assets worth something within that dApp (or even in the larger metaverse)”. That could entail working as a brand ambassador in Decentraland, selling digital art or avatar gear, or creating monsters in the game Axie Infinity and selling them to other players or earning tokens with them. The rewards of online life come in the form of cold, hard cryptocurrency rather than the dopamine rush of likes.
Because of how unimpressive the old web is, this is an exciting pitch. The ad-based business model turns user data into a commodity; a small number of extremely powerful corporations are nearly impossible to control; and the never-ending quest for engagement encourages hate speech, hoaxes, and trolling. All of which makes using social media in moderation seem like a minor vice. For example, I speak of Twitter as if it were a light smoking habit that I can’t kick. A solution that might disperse some of the consolidated power and revitalise the web should be welcomed.