Facebook and Microsoft are working on the metaverse: is this the successor to the internet?

All the big tech companies are working on it and expectations are sky high. Time for an understandable introduction to ‘the metaverse’, also known as the successor of the internet.

Why everyone is working on the metaverse

How do you explain something that doesn’t exist yet? That is exactly the challenge we are tackling in this article. Technically, the subject of this piece does not yet exist, but that could change soon. Almost all tech companies are working hard on it.

We are talking about the metaverse. There is no official definition for this term yet, but it comes down to an all-encompassing online environment that consists of a combination of online and offline spaces. It is important that all participants experience the world in the same (synchronized) way and that they can act with each other. Economics is therefore an important part of a metaverse.

Facebook, which invests a lot in building its own metaverse, describes the concept as follows: “The ‘metaverse’ is a collection of virtual spaces where you can create and experience with other people who are not present in the same physical space. .”

Screenshot of Horizon Workrooms, an app for Facebook’s Oculus Quest glasses.

Visiting virtual concerts

Both descriptions are somewhat dry, but in the future you will no longer speak to each other via flat screens in 2D, but in 3D. Thanks to technologies such as virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR), you can meet each other in person online.

Since this is quite abstract, some examples wouldn’t hurt. For example, imagine you have an online meeting. Now you see each other via a screen, for example in Google Meet or Microsoft Teams, but in the metaverse you see your colleagues ‘really’ sitting at the conference table in the office.

Everyone has smart glasses on and can therefore walk around the office (read: the metaverse) and catch up at the coffee machine. At least it seems so. In reality, everyone is just working from home (with smart glasses on).

In such a combined off- and online world you could, for example, also visit a festival. You don’t even have to leave the house, because the concerts ‘just’ take place in your garden.

Put on smart glasses, buy a ticket (with, for example, bitcoin) and then the concert will take place in your garden, living room or hobby room. You see other concert goers, you can walk through the audience and of course see the artist perform.

The power of such a metaverse lies in the fact that there is actually an entire online world. The people you saw at the concert that night, for example, you might encounter the next day in a store, or while playing a game. All this must flow seamlessly into each other, so that as a participant you do not notice that you are walking around in a virtual world.

Is there already a metaverse?

Technically, there is no metaverse yet. However, there are a lot of platforms that already have elements of such a virtual environment. Think, for example, of Second Life, the popular game from the past in which players can lead a ‘real’ online life. Games like World of Warcraft also have metaverse-like elements in them.

Second Life in 2007.

A little more about the term itself. It was first written in 1992 by author Neal Stephenson in the book Snow Crash used. Stephenson then used metaverse to denote a virtual world populated by 3D avatars of people. Also in Ready Player One, a well-known 2011 book by Ernest Cline, passes the term.

Is Metaverse the Successor of the Internet?

According to some, yes. Facebook boss Mark Zuckerberg said in an interview with The Verge for example, that the metaverse becomes an “enhanced version” of the Internet. The difference must mainly be in the experience of the user. Zuckerberg: “The metaverse offers experiences that are impossible in a 2D app or website.”

Tim Sweeney – director of Epic Games, the maker of the popular game Fortnite – also thinks about this. In return for The Washington Post he said the metaverse should become “a kind of online playground” where people can, for example, play games together and watch a movie.

People are already doing that via the internet. That’s why others think that the metaverse is mainly an addition to the existing web, rather than a replacement.

For example, when shopping online, it can be useful to use smart glasses to see how those shoes or pants look. Whether people also want to visit the entire clothing store in a metaverse instead of just via a website remains to be seen.

Tech journalist Jay Peters therefore draws a comparison with mobile internet. As more and more people started using mobile internet on their smartphones, apps and websites started to adapt to this.

For example, the display and way of operation has been optimized for small touchscreens. However, this did not mean that the computer and laptop have been forgotten. On the contrary, the two ways of using ‘the Internet’ exist side by side.

Who are working on a metaverse?

Just as there is no such thing as ‘the Internet’, neither is one company creating the metaverse. This is because all kinds of parties are working on it, including Facebook. Mark Zuckerberg’s company firmly believes in the future of the virtual world and recently set aside $50 million for the development.

In reality, this amount is much higher. Facebook has been preparing for years and you can already buy the first example. The Oculus headsets, in Facebook’s view, will play a crucial role in the early days of the metaverse.

Because experience is central to the metaverse concept, it is expected that smart glasses (which are quite cumbersome) will at some point make way for something else.

Source: Android Planet

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