• Alice Violet

What is the metaverse?

Most of us saw Zuck's announcement of the metaverse but according to Social Media Today, over 55% of Americans are unclear on what it actually means. In this article, I'll explain what it is and essentially what this means for businesses.

Firstly, if you missed it; Facebook has changed its name to Meta. Many speculate that the real reason for this name change is due to the consistent controversy the social media giant has faced over the years, from spreading misinformation and privacy concerns to self-esteem issues among teenagers.

The following extract is from The New York Times:

With the change, Mr. Zuckerberg telegraphed that his company was going beyond today’s social networking, which Facebook has been built on since it was founded 17 years ago. Having Facebook as the corporate name when the company now owned many apps and was fundamentally about connecting people was no longer tenable, he said. That was especially the case, Mr. Zuckerberg said, as Facebook has committed to building a composite universe melding online, virtual and augmented worlds that people can seamlessly traverse. He has said that this concept, known as the metaverse, can be the next major social platform and that several tech companies will build it over the next 10-plus years. On Monday, Facebook had signaled its intent to be a big player when it separated its virtual reality and augmented reality business into a division known as Facebook Reality Labs.

Ok so Facebook is now Meta, but what's the metaverse?

The opaque nature of the term 'metaverse' makes it hard for people to understand but essentially it's similar to the word 'cyberspace' or 'the internet'. The term doesn't define a type of specific technology but rather a shift in how we access and behave with the technology.

In the metaverse, physical and digital worlds will come together. Avatars of people can interact, work and play in both virtual and real spaces, try on clothes, go to concerts and more. Whereas currently we can all watch and comment on the same experience virtually such as the Superbowl Halftime Show, with metaverse we could virtually attend the event with our friends, and people we don't know, moving around to experience different angles and communicate with people.

This will be made possible with virtual reality using Meta's (Facebook's) Oculus VR headsets. I assume many other tech giants will be releasing their own versions over the coming years. Using these, you'll also be able to access - and potentially create - an augmented reality. Here elements of the real world are blended with digital layers to create a fantasy world.

The following extract is from Wired:

It also translates to a digital economy, where users can create, buy, and sell goods. And, in the more idealistic visions of the metaverse, it's interoperable, allowing you to take virtual items like clothes or cars from one platform to another. In the real world, you can buy a shirt from the mall and then wear it to a movie theater. Right now, most platforms have virtual identities, avatars, and inventories that are tied to just one platform, but a metaverse might allow you to create a persona that you can take everywhere as easily as you can copy your profile picture from one social network to another.
It's difficult to parse what all this means because when you hear descriptions like those above, an understandable response is, “Wait, doesn't that exist already?” World of Warcraft, for example, is a persistent virtual world where players can buy and sell goods. Fortnite has virtual experiences like concerts and an exhibit where Rick Sanchez can learn about MLK Jr. You can strap on an Oculus headset and be in your own personal virtual home.
Saying that Fortnite is “the metaverse” would be a bit like saying Google is “the internet.” Even if you could, theoretically, spend large chunks of time in Fortnite, socializing, buying things, learning, and playing games, that doesn't necessarily mean that it encompasses the entire scope of the metaverse.

Does the metaverse exist already?

Meta has explained that the metaverse will take years to become reality. To be able to seamlessly move between Google, Apple, Meta (and more) virtual worlds will take time and collaboration. There are also widespread security, privacy and safety concerns to be considered.

Whereas on the current internet children may visit websites where they are exposed to material or individuals that are dangerous or damaging, the impact of existing in a space that's closer to reality could enable even more concerning outcomes.

In relation to privacy, this is currently the biggest concern of users which will need to be addressed before widespread adoption of this medium becomes reality.

What does this mean for businesses?

Entertainment and gaming companies are leading the way with titles such as Fornight having already normalised playing and socialising in virtual settings. Further down the line, there will be scope for businesses to offer virtual learning environments such as surgeons, where you can use equipment virtually. There is also potential for guests to attend virtual events, test drive cars, talk to a sales associate and much more.

For now, I advise business owners to stay up to date with news and updates surrounding the metaverse ensure that privacy and safety are built into anything you create or collaborate with. As a consumer, equally, consider the privacy and safety concerns before jumping on board. Meta already has such influence and power and I personally would rather wait until smaller, privacy-centric companies offer a way of exploring the space.

Let me know what you think, are you clearer on what the metaverse is and does it excite, intimidate or confuse you?

Are you ready to harness social media and content for your brand? Or would you like to launch a business podcast? I offer a variety of services from training, production, overarching strategy and content creation. To arrange an intro call email info@alicevioletcreative.com.