Works of art sold in NFT at exorbitant prices through the blockchain, huge investments in the Metaverse, announcement of a new internet called Web3…no doubt you have heard of all these new terms with vague concepts and which we present as the future of the internet. Concepts that will replace the web as we know it today, with its Gafam (Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon, Microsoft, etc.) and the ubiquity of social networks. Amid all this, the Metaverse seems to be the holy grail, the promise of a new world. But what exactly is it?
To understand the new challenges and the mechanics that are taking place, you must first decipher this new concept. An idea that remains complex to explain for one simple reason: a large part of all this is justa fantasy. A glimpse of the future, the first born of science fiction.
Metaverse: a concept born in 1992
The first time the term appeared was in the book “The Virtual Samurai“, published in 1992 by the American Neal Stephenson. In this book, the author portrays a wealthy entrepreneur – a Mark Zuckerberg before his time? – who created a parallel world, where virtual reality and augmented reality mix. And where the ultimate goal is to control the minds of users.
The Metaverse is therefore a parallel, immersive, three-dimensional world, a virtual world but with very real interactions. It is a world in which anyone can evolve, via an avatar or a hologram. It is also a universe where the types of activities are very varied: playing, working, discussing, learning, etc.
What exactly is a Metaverse?
Matthew Ball, subject matter specialist and author of a book on the subject, lists the characteristics of a Metaverse:
- The metaverse is persistent, that is, it does not end, it has no end. It cannot be paused or reset. It’s permanent.
- It’s in sync and live. Everyone has the same experience of the metaverse, in real time. And this, even if certain events can be programmed and happen autonomously.
- The metaverse is a computer generated universe. This is a complete environment, no augmented reality overlays.
- The metaverse has no limit. Anyone can join, there is no size limit (which can be a problem because it will be necessary to know how to manage this increase in load at the infrastructure level if the phenomenon grows very quickly). Matthew Ball speaks of a metaverse where there is “no ceiling”.
- It’s an economy like any other. It is fully functional and allows anyone to own, buy and sell real estate, “create value”, invest and more.
- There is no metaverse and this virtual universe is not owned by Meta/Facebook. Like the blockchain and NFTs, the metaverse is a decentralized phenomenon. There is no authority in this virtual reality but different entities that may or may not be compatible with each other.
- Metaverses provide a form of interoperability, though it’s still unclear how easy the gates between each universe are. The blockchain and NFT system should allow for some fluidity, but it is still possible that those imagining their own metaverse are trying to keep this universe in a vacuum. It would be much less interesting if that happened. It is hoped that these different virtual worlds will be connected, but nothing is guaranteed. If they evolve in silos, it could end in bitter failure.
- It’s up to everyone to imagine the metavers. Sure, companies are already appropriating this new Eldorado, but the decentralized aspect will allow everyone to create their own content and their own experiences in the metaverse. And thus change the game on its level.
Success guaranteed? No guarantee
For the time being, the metaverse is mainly a concept, a projection into the future. If there are any immersive virtual worlds (Minecraft, Roblox, World of Warcraft, Fortnite, Animal Crossing, The Sandbox) that are variations on older concepts (the Sims or even Second Life), nothing can guarantee that the concept will be a success. Nor that he will not experience abuses as is already the case on social networks.
The fact remains that the stakes are so high that it is important to investigate the matter now, even though it will undoubtedly be necessary wait ten years before the concept really takes shape. In his campaign program for the 2022 presidential election, Emmanuel Macron has nevertheless already emphasized the importance of European initiatives in terms of the metaverse.
Today the challenge is twofold. Metaverse Interoperability, first of all with the decentralization of these immersive virtual worlds so as not to relive the grip of a few players on the Internet, as is the case today with Google, Amazon, Facebook & co. Another challenge: convince people of the importance of these virtual worlds. Which is still a real challenge today. Mark Zuckerberg’s performance at the Connect 2021 event is far from unanimous.
Meta, the vision of the concept according to Mark Zuckerberg:
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