Have you heard enough of the term ‘metaverse’ yet?
Much like ‘cyberspace’ was used in the early days of the internet, and the way ‘artificial intelligence’ has been incorrectly attributed to even the most basic computer functionality over the last five years, you can already see ‘metaverse’ being attached to everything, especially now that corporations see dollar signs in the next big shift, and potential to capitalize on the knowledge gap that exists between where we are now, and where we, theoretically, will be.
Because nobody wants to miss the metaverse boat, brands included.
But even with all this talk of new digital worlds, the actual details of how the metaverse will take shape are not clear, with the platform specifics still being established.
Facebook, as part of its ‘Meta’ shift, has repeatedly noted that:
“The metaverse will not be created by one company. It will be built by creators and developers making new experiences and digital items that are interoperable and unlock a massively larger creative economy than the one constrained by today’s platforms and their policies.”
But, realistically, it will have to be hosted somewhere, right? Examples of how the metaverse will take shape point to game spaces like Fortnite and Roblox, where users can choose how their character avatars look, then play a range of games, or engage in other social activities within the app.
That facilitates a whole new, second digital world of interaction, and you can see how more of these experiences can be built into these digital landscapes to expand upon their functionality.
But they all start with a platform – Fortnite facilitates a range of activities within Fortnite, but you can’t take your Fortnite avatar into, say, Roblox or Minecraft. That’s the next stage of interoperability, which Facebook points to, but in order to facilitate this, there will need to a central hosting process, and there’ll need to be coordination between apps and tools to enable platforms to plug into the broader space.
Which is why Facebook’s so keen on the metaverse concept, because it’s currently the clear leader in the VR connectivity space, with its formerly Oculus branded VR worlds now taking shape, and becoming a more central jumping off point for meeting up with friends then shifting into digital experiences.
Its Horizon Worlds concept is central to this, facilitating a digital space where you can connect and engage in the virtual environment.
When you then add in a major gaming element – like, say, ‘Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas’ (coming to VR soon), an immersive, engaging and all-encompassing gaming environment, you can see how the metaverse will begin to take shape, with your avatars then transferrable across different spaces and applications, forming part of your digital identity, and enabling new interactive processes, based on these virtual realms.
But Facebook, in this scenario, would be the central connector, and it would strike deals with, say, Roblox or Fortnite to facilitate interoperability. In essence, somebody has to play host to this space, and someone will need to establish the underlying code and requirements for connecting into the space, and enabling broader connectivity across the different apps.
Which, again, is why Facebook is well-placed to take on that role, because there’ll need to be clear incentive for each platform and app to allow cross-connection of its tools and processes. What reason would Fortnite have to allow people to use their Facebook avatars in its game space? Why would Minecraft, owned by Microsoft, build a system that would be able to translate your chosen avatar into Minecraft block style to play in its games?
There’ll need to be a clear business reason for such, and Facebook, through its metaverse push, will provide access to the largest possible audience through its tools and options, which will facilitate that connection. Platforms will eventually want to team up, and share cross-code integrations, because it will enable broader access, which will lead to more users, more in-app spending, etc.
As much as Facebook, or Meta, more operatively, may want to play down the centralized elements, and suggest that it won’t be the key metaverse platform of choice, that’s indeed the aim - and while Meta more specifically notes that the metaverse will be “built by creators and developers making new experiences and digital items that are interoperable”, the truth is that someone will have to stage that party, and establish the platform that will enable such connection.
All the big players will be trying to win out on this, but Facebook is uniquely placed to become the key connective framework for all of it. Facebook’s VR worlds, which are already open to developers, are likely to be the ‘Ready Player One’ style hang-out space, which will then enable links off to these new realms within it.
No other company is close on this as yet, especially considering the rising sales of Meta’s Quest VR units.
So while you may see notes on NFTs saying ‘metaverse-ready’, and you may see businesses (no doubt many of them) talking up their metaverse potential, the truth is, they don’t currently have any clear framework with which to build these tools and processes.
That framework will likely, ultimately be built by Zuck and Co, as part of this new metaverse push.
Microsoft might build new digital character models that lean into the new digital identity trend, and again, NFT characters might also point to this next stage. But really, it’s too early to define the next shift – and if you were being serious about it, you’d be looking to Meta’s VR documentation and tools as the most likely transition for the same.