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a digital city in the metaverse

Explaining the Metaverse — All You Need to Know

by
Kasia Gruszka
Kasia Gruszka
,
January 14, 2022

What is the metaverse, and what does it mean for the internet, brands, and people.

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Dubbed by many as the future of the internet, the metaverse combines the visual with the immersive. The term has entered the tech industry boldly, skyrocketing in popularity in the last two years. And while the metaverse doesn’t exist yet, we already have many platforms with metaverse characteristics. So what is the metaverse, and what does it mean for the internet, brands, and people? Let’s find out.

What Is the Metaverse?

The metaverse doesn’t have a finite definition (yet).

“While defining the term is not easy, one thing is probably true. The term will not be defined by one single person or company, it will be defined by many, and it will evolve,” says Cathy Hackl, tech expert at Forbes.

That said, here’s a bulleted summary of what the metaverse is shaping up to be:

  • The metaverse is a network of persistent and interoperable worlds and experiences with real-time 3D content.
  • The metaverse might become a new way of experiencing and interacting with life enriched with a virtual layer.
  • Many see the metaverse as the successor of the internet.
  • The core concept behind the metaverse is decentralization — users and user-generated content are the driving force of the metaverse.

The metaverse as the internet:

Likening the metaverse to the internet makes it easier to explain what the metaverse is. There’s only one metaverse, and there’s only one internet. There can be numerous worlds in the metaverse (just like websites on the internet). Users will enter the metaverse to socialize, gain information, shop, communicate, work, play, and all other things that can be done over the internet today.

What isn’t the metaverse?

To simplify what the metaverse means, it’s worth explaining first what the metaverse is not. Contrary to what many believe, the metaverse is not only virtual reality and doesn’t have to be delivered solely via an immersive headset. In fact, the metaverse is device agnostic, meaning it can be accessed through a smartphone, laptop, augmented reality glasses, or headset.

Main Characteristics of the Metaverse

  • Trustless and decentralized
  • Open
  • Social
  • Interoperable
  • Persistent

Trustless and decentralized — the metaverse shouldn’t have a single company as the decision-maker and the holder of rights. The users should be in control of the metaverse — it’s no longer about the Big Tech to deliver and maintain the infrastructure. In essence, the metaverse should be co-created and co-governed by the users.

Open — the technology powering the metaverse should be open-source and enable users to participate in the creation of it. Many see the metaverse as an opportunity for people of all backgrounds to not only express themselves and communicate but also create and profit from the content they create (without intermediaries).

Interoperable — one of the core components of the metaverse is creating and using assets that can be run across platforms operating within the metaverse ecosystem. For example, an item of digital clothing should be transferable between metaverse experiences — there’s no platform lock-in for digital items.

Social — the metaverse enables social interaction with other users regardless of their age, background, or financial status. The social aspect of the metaverse gives people the opportunity to fully experience the world no matter their location.

Persistent — the reality in the metaverse is persistent and doesn’t stop after the user logs out. In other words, the sun rises and sets at the same hour for every user.

Is the metaverse a game?

No, the metaverse is not simply a game — it’s a digital world with gaming experiences. But the metaverse will most likely rely on the tech built by gaming giants — they have the technology that enables real-time 3D and user interaction with that virtual layer.

For example, MMORPGs (massively multiplayer online role-playing games) share many metaverse characteristics. Fortnite, Roblox, or Minecraft are platforms where users can interact, socialize, trade, and have fun.

However, users can’t migrate freely from one platform to the next without first signing out and logging in. Even when playing Roblox levels users have to switch between them.

Is the metaverse Web 3.0?

The discussions of the metaverse go hand in hand with the concept of Web 3.0 — where the internet as we know it today transforms into a decentralized experience not governed by tech giants. In web 3.0, data ownership is distributed among users. However, the metaverse isn’t synonymous with web 3.0.

Web 3.0 defines the next iteration of the internet as owned and created by users, but the metaverse is only one way how it can be achieved.