Back in mid-summer, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced plans to create a metaverse, and a few months after that, the company was renamed Meta. The idea of creating a metaverse has long captivated more than one Zuckerberg. Epic Games is trying to prototype it as part of the Fortnite game, turning into open worlds and some other games, and Microsoft is going to turn the Teams corporate messenger into a metaverse that unites work colleagues, partners and individual teams.
But what is the metaverse? What are its differences, and most importantly, what are the advantages compared to conventional Internet. Let’s find out in today’s article.
What is the metaverse
Every year computer technologies become more and more accessible to the masses. Almost every family has a laptop or desktop PC, everyone has smartphones with constant Internet access. We have been invisibly present on the World Wide Web for a long time. SMS has been replaced by numerous instant messengers with free communication, we follow the lives of friends and acquaintances from photos and posts on social networks, use technologies for remote work and, in principle, do a lot of what was considered fantastic for some 20-30 years.
But if now we are seeing a clear separation and incompatibility of virtual spaces (Facebook and VKontakte, Telegram and WhatsApp, Fortnite and Minecraft), then the metaverse must finally erase all boundaries in the virtual space.
Neil Stevenson was the founder of the very concept of the “metaverse”. He used it in his 1992 novel Avalanche. The Metaverse was a virtual reality that engulfed the whole world, in which people could work, study and just relax.
In Russian-language literature, this idea was developed by Sergey Lukyanenko in the cult series of books “Labyrinth of Reflections”. True, the term “metaverse” itself is not mentioned there. Lukyanenko talks about how people live, work, love and relax in Deeptown – a huge virtual city that anyone can get into. He talks about how virtuality affects the real world and raises many questions that are relevant to this day.
The worlds of the metaverse are featured in iconic films such as The Matrix, Ready Player One, and Oasis. And the game Fortnite is a full-fledged personification of the metaverse, its small prototype. It hosts “live” concerts, shows movie trailers, and the game itself combines many gaming universes. There are rudiments of the metaverse in the game Minecraft – how not to remember the real schools in Minecraft that allowed children to learn during a pandemic.
This term already has many definitions, but the founder of the newly renamed Meta spoke in the simplest way, calling it the voluminous Internet. The Metaverse is not just a single space for recreation, work and communication. This is a living three-dimensional world, a set of virtual spaces, united into a single whole. It allows you to see not the usual set of letters, numbers and emoticons, but full-fledged 3D models and avatars of people with whom you intersect in the virtual space.
Even before all the ups and downs with Zuckerberg’s loud announcement and the renaming of Facebook to Meta, venture investor Matthew Ball prepared an essay on the topic “The Metaverse: what it is, how to find it and who will build it”, formulating seven fundamental principles of the metaverse in it.
She must be sustainable. No reboots, pauses or shutdowns. The metaverse is infinite.
She is synchronous. The Metaverse exists for everyone, it lives linearly, in real time, just like our everyday life.
It has no restrictions on the number of users simultaneously present in the metaverse. Everyone can become a part of the metaverse, can take part in a certain event and be in a certain place with any other people.
It has a fully functioning domestic economy. Individuals and organizations can create, own, earn, invest and sell.
It should unite the virtual and real worlds, private and public networks, open and closed systems.
It must offer unparalleled interoperability of data, digital assets and content. For example, your Counter-Strike weapon skin can be used in Fortnite, or gifted to a friend on Facebook.
It should contain content and experiences created by an incredibly wide range of contributors, some of whom may remain independent individuals, while others may be informal groups or companies.
What are the obstacles
Some companies are only taking the first timid steps towards creating a metaverse. And the main obstacle is precisely in their fragmentation. The Metaverse is an open space with a single ecosystem for all and a set of tools that anyone can use. But most large companies have their own ecosystems, in the development of which huge amounts of money have already been invested. And they won’t just give up on them.
To create a metaverse, the efforts of all large corporations are needed, which will be able to agree with each other, abandon their own ambitions and create a common ecosystem. A standard with which all their developments will be compatible. Agree, while it sounds like a fantasy.
In addition, maintaining the operation of the metaverse requires enormous computing power and the storage of a huge amount of data. And, given the main principle of the metauniverse – it must continuously work and be independent, this is possible only when using distributed data centers around the world. However, this can no longer be called a problem. A similar principle of operation is described, by the way, by Sergey Lukyanenko: each house or an entire area of Deeptown, depending on their scale, is supported by home computers of the users themselves or large data centers.
But the problem is also in the imperfection of existing virtual reality headsets. They are too heavy, put too much strain on the eyes and are still not very suitable for active and long-term use.
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Why is all this necessary
The Metaverse will bring together billions of people around the world. And we are not talking about the usual impersonal communication in instant messengers or video calls. You can go to a virtual bar with your friend who has moved to another city, play billiards with him or just walk “down the street”, constantly seeing his avatar and emotions reflected on it.
The Metaverse will make it possible to forget about physical offices by transferring work to the virtual space. You can enter it from home or a cafe and hold a meeting at work. And for this you no longer have to look at a flat screen computer or smartphone. You will be present at this meeting in person, you will see avatars of colleagues, interact with them.
This is just a small part of what a full-fledged metaverse offers. It can become a second reality, and its main danger is that it does not replace the real reality, but becomes only its addition.
When to Expect the Metaverse
As we wrote, the first disparate prototypes of the metaverse have long existed. These are Fortnite and Minecraft games, and various virtual fitting rooms, and many other services. But, continuing the analogy, so far these are just closed rooms. Now, the creators of the metauniverse are faced with the task of cutting through doors in them, uniting these rooms into a common space.
It is difficult to say when this will happen. For example, the same Mark Zuckerberg said that the company will start working on the metaverse in the next five years. Although we doubt that its appearance should be expected sooner than in 10 years. There are still too many disagreements in the world, and it takes time to settle them.
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