Will the “Metaverse” Replace the Internet?


5 min read

Ronke Babajide


 The 2018 science fiction adventure “Ready Player One” from Steven Spielberg gives us a good idea of what the metaverse might look like. In this movie, the main protagonist spends most of his time in a virtual world consisting of countless simulations.However, the real Metaverse won’t just be for playing games. It will be a kind of successor to the mobile Internet. In a groundbreaking essay, the tech investor Matthew Ball recently described what the successor to the Internet might look like.What is the Metaverse?


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The most common idea of what the metaverse might look like comes from science fiction. In movies or series such as The Matrix, Ready Player One, or Altered Carbon, the metaverse is typically experienced as a digital, “walk-in” Internet reality. The virtual world often has a theme park-like quality.


This type of experience will likely be a feature of the Metaverse, but this is only a limited part of it. The Metaverse won’t be a game world. It’ll never “reset” or “pause” or “end”, it’ll go on indefinitely like the real world. It’ll be synchronized with our real world and there will be no limit to the “users” of this parallel digital world.



The concept of the Metaverse reminds me a lot of Second Life. For those who don’t know it, Second Life is an alternative digital world where you could build your own second existence. But the Metaverse will bring Second Life to life. Like Second Life, it’ll have its own economy and currency. But the experience will be part of both the real world and the Internet. It’ll have the interoperability that the current Internet lacks.“The metaverse will be an extension of today’s Internet.”For Ball, the metaverse is a pervasive network. It’ll be more interactive and technology silos will no longer exist. Isolated services like iMessage or WhatsApp, Signal, or Telegram will disappear. The limitations of interoperability on today’s Internet will disappear. Instead, Data from different providers will be easily exchanged. And the need to have multiple accounts to log in and out will go away. That alone sounds like heaven to me!It may be many decades before the full metaverse exists, Ball believes. But we’re already seeing a change. Cryptocurrencies have become as much a part of our everyday lives as the vast gaming communities of Roblox or Fortnite.


Crypto and gaming are pioneers of the Metaverse



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Cryptocurrencies and NFTs show that there’s a cultural shift towards virtual things. We see more and more money being spent on virtual goods.From 2015 to 2020, we see an increase from $5 billion to $55 billion. Big game simulations are on the rise. In 2015, there were hardly any people participating in Fortnite. Since then, we’ve seen the number of people participating grow to more than 350 million people per day.Gaming platforms are leading the way. Online gaming platform Roblox, which has 40 million users every day, is one of the best examples of where we could go with the Metaverse. This is a world where you have a single identity across all levels, a constant network of friends, and constant access to a common currency. That’s probably the closest thing to the idea of the Metaverse right now. 


Silicon Valley buy-in is crucialIn Silicon Valley, Ball’s essay, the ideas of Tim Sweeney, founder of the gaming company Epic, and David Baszucki, head of Roblox, have shaken up the tech giants. In his recent keynote, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella spoke of a shift toward “metaverse” enterprise models. Facebook founded its own division a few days ago to deal with strategic approaches for the Metaverse.“Apple specifically blocks technologies that would be important for a metaverse because they endanger the company’s business model,”From the consumer’s perspective, a metaverse would be welcome because it would be easier to move their data from one provider to another. Ball predicts that companies like Apple that try to insulate themselves will get under the wheels.“Apple specifically blocks technologies that would be important for a metaverse because they endanger the company’s business model,” Ball says. “Even their 30 percent tax in the app store prevents the developer community from setting up businesses that could build a metaverse. In addition, the company rejects open standards that could ensure interoperability between offers.”


Outlook

The Metaverse will be an extension of the Internet, not a replacement. Think of it as Internet 3.0. We’re not yet ready to make the Metaverse a reality because today’s networks are still too slow and computers too weak. But to dismiss the metaverse as just a new hype term would be shortsighted. There’s a consensus that today’s networks and data must merge. That there needs to be better interoperability between on and offline.The ideas of what the Metaverse might look like are still vague. Much of our vision is centered on what we’ve seen on screens. But just as many of our current technologies come from the great science fiction novels of the past, we may already be seeing glimpses of what’s to come.The desire for a smoother, more interactive experience with the digital world is definitely there. We all know the frustration that comes with multiple accounts and compatibility issues in our daily lives. Bringing the Internet and real life together is a vision I’d love to see come off the screen and into my life. 


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