We’ve covered many aspects of the Metaverse on the recently launched My Metverse Minute channel over the past few months. And, more than once, we’ve touched on the notion of whether or not the Metaverse is a new idea.
The answer to this question is no; the Metaverse is not a new idea. A recent report by JP Morgan—the first bank to enter the Metaverse—pin-points the start of the Metaverse as we know it to the launch of Second Life in 2003.
So, the Metaverse has slowly emerged over the past few decades, but only now is it taking off. The question is, why? A combination of technological and socioeconomic factors have converged, and the time is finally right for the imagined Metaverse to become a (virtual) reality.
Web 3.0 and Internet Maturity
One of the leading factors driving the latest Metaverse developments is the transition to Web 3.0. As the third generation of the internet, Web 3.0 promises many improvements and essentially presents the internet as a more autonomous, open, and complex entity.
There are many aspects to Web 3.0, such as ubiquity, primarily through IoT integrations, and highly intelligent, user-specific content in line with advancements in machine learning and AI. However, Web 3.0’s focus on decentralization is most important to the Metaverse.
Web 3.0 architecture promises to be decentralized. So, instead of centralized companies owning and operating webspace, individual users and communities will run areas of the web and interact peer-to-peer. Blockchain technology will enable this decentralization and the smart contracts required to authenticate many actions online.
This user-first approach is a fundamental principle in Web 3.0 and supports a limitless Metaverse. It means that users can interact independently from big tech, create spaces, and operate communities as self-governing, decentralized autonomous organizations (DAOs).
Digital, Decentralized Finance
Another area blockchain supports in the Metaverse is finance. Cryptocurrencies have matured to a level where not only are many now widely used and accepted by well-known vendors, but the technology that powers decentralized transactions is safe, secure, and reliable.
Crypto payments make operating in the Metaverse much easier than introducing fiat currencies via electronic banking. Blockchain-based payments are peer-to-peer, transparent, immutable, and infinitely flexible.
Within the same sphere, the development of non-fungible tokens (NFTs) has enabled users to create, secure, and store value in the Metaverse with tangible assets. However, beyond the hype surrounding digital art and collector’s items, NFTs have massive potential as a way to draft up contractual agreements and lay claim to ownership of Metaverse spaces.
Today, virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) technology has evolved to become infinitely cheaper, more powerful, and more comfortable than ever before. Wearable technology will play a significant role in the Metaverse, and it was impossible to envisage widespread adoption before this technology matured and became financially accessible.
However, VR and AR tech is just one part of the infrastructure required for the Metaverse to run smoothly. We are now at a point where cloud storage facilities can handle the vast amounts of data that users will create in the Metaverse. Beyond this, price drops and instant scalability make the cloud-based Metaverse more economically viable too.
Take Amazon S3. The price to store 1 GB of data is almost ten times cheaper today than when the service launched in 2006.
It isn’t only the technology that has matured. As a species, we have become more accustomed to technology and how to use it. The internet is now such a staple part of so many people’s lives that the transition over to the Metaverse is likely to be cross-generational.
Massive smartphone use, the proliferation of IoT devices, and increased accessibility have enabled billions of users to identify like-minded communities and common causes from all corners of the earth.
As Aaron Back says in his Acceleration Economy article, From Gamers to Grandmas: The Future of the Metaverse, “Boomers. Gen X. Gen Z. Millennials. Do you really identify with the generational box that society has placed on you?”
The Metaverse is set to be a uniting force that enables users across demographics to use their technology skillsets to operate in a space free from labels.
A Favorable Socioeconomic Climate
Our digitized world is creating a demand for Metaverse technologies, but what drives this digital transformation socially? Covid-19 has had a huge part to play.
Work From Anywhere (WFA) culture has become normalized, yet people still value interaction and collaboration. A necessity during the strictest periods of lockdown, online communication is now a viable option in place of physical meetings. All the while, the online gaming communities that pioneered the first Metaverse spaces have developed the digital and cultural infrastructure required for users to make the leap from the 2D to the 3D internet.
Ultimately, we are a global society, and online learning has enabled users in regions where career development has been challenging to thrive. These skilled professionals are spurred on by the opportunities presented by WFA and ready to populate the Metaverse to operate on a level playing field.
Of course, in the end, the widespread interest in the Metaverse is today fuelled by the multi-million dollar investments, so many large organizations are making into it. They have seen the stars align and aren’t hesitating.
It’s easy to think that with a sector like this evolving at such a speed, you may have missed the boat. You haven’t. We still don’t know how all of these factors will correlate and combine. The Metaverse is still under construction, but it’s slowly becoming a cornerstone of the acceleration economy. Don’t hesitate. Right now, the possibilities for innovation are infinite.
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