It’s been six months since Mark Zuckerberg posted a file open letter Announcing his vision metaverse And rename Facebook to Meta.
Although it painted a catchy picture—”in the metaverse, you’ll be able to do just about anything you can imagine,” we’re told—the letter left plenty of room for interpretation, sparking debate about what shape this new virtual world might take. .
Some have argued that the Metaverse already exists (at least in its building blocks), while others say the necessary standards will not be met for many years. But overall, it is understood that the metaverse will consist of a series of interconnected spaces connecting the physical and digital worlds, through the fusion of traditional and extended reality (XR) platforms.
In his letter, Zuckerberg acknowledged that the metaverse “will not be created by one company” and will require new governance models to ensure “more people have a stake in the future.”
He also promised to offer low fees to developers and creators “in as many cases as possible” to encourage innovation and “maximize the inclusive creative economy”.
However, there are already signs that this utopian vision could quickly fade under the weight of a monopolistic impulse. Instead, we could end up with a closed metaverse headed by Meta alone, powered by many of its services, backed by its own server infrastructure, and accessible through its Oculus headset.
But can a metaverse controlled by one party be considered a metaverse?
While the metaverse is expected to enable many new consumer experiences (from virtual concerts to a new generation of online gaming), it will also feature commercial services designed to support cooperation.
One such app is Arthur, a Virtual Reality dating platform Designed specifically for commercial use. The idea is not for employees to spend their entire work day in the virtual world, but rather for them to seamlessly transition between media depending on the nature of the activity at hand.
“In 2022 and beyond, we have to realize that the old system is obsolete long before the pandemic. Arthur founder Christoph Fleischmann explains the downsides we see when staring at a screen for ten hours a day are linked to the fact that we don’t have to. We are designed to work in 2D, we are even designed to work in 3D.
However, realizing the full potential of the metaverse will depend on more than the ability to switch between computing platforms. He told us that freedom of movement between services is just as important.
“One of the critical elements will be interoperability; the ability to transport goods and Identify through applications. The moment this app becomes a turning point is when we can move from a business-focused service to a social app and back again, Fleischman said.
“It all depends on how much we can reduce friction, because openness is key for the metaverse to become a ubiquitous technology that everyone embraces.”
When asked about the feasibility of this level of interoperability, given companies’ tendencies to dominate the metaverse, Fleischmann acknowledged that global standards must be set — and soon.
He also said that he expects technologies like blockchain to play a role in decentralizing the management of the metaverse, and promoting democracy through technological mechanisms that are theoretically resistant to tampering.
“It is an inherently intractable challenge for a company to build the metaverse on its own,” Fleischmann told us. “Organizations can own parts of the Metaverse, just like countries in the real world, but not everyone can own the Metaverse on their own.”
The concern, however, is that effective standardization won’t materialize soon enough to prevent the dichotomy from splitting into a large number of small verses, each owned and operated by a single institution, separated by impenetrable boundaries.
Another player with space ambitions is HTC, which makes the popular Vive series virtual reality headphonesOne of the few legitimate competitors to the Meta Oculus line.
In a scenario in which the Meta has absolute control over the metaverse, HTC risks being sidelined; The quality of the enterprise hardware will not matter if it is not supported by the core metaverse applications.
talk to Pro radar technology At MWC earlier this year, the company’s head of hardware, Shen Ye, explained that the Metaverse is something HTC has “always built,” long before it ever earned a name and elevated it to mainstream public consciousness. The implicit suggestion was that no company had the right to own this concept.
While he was not asked to comment on Meta’s position specifically, Shen also made sure to stress the importance of open standards, to promote broad device support and to enable integration of services from multiple vendors.
“At the end of the day, we would like to establish standards. W3 standards exist for the web, but there is currently no equivalent to the metaverse. We will try to take advantage of as many open standards as possible.
Our goal is openness. It’s not about building a closed metaverse – we want other universes to connect to ours. We are not trying to create a walled garden here.
Like Fleischmann, Shen has made a nod to the potential of the blockchain to help support the decentralization of the metaverse. Specifically, he highlighted the role of cryptocurrencies, which are not mediated by Payments and NFTs, which can help enforce ownership rules in the virtual world.
In a show of its commitment to the idea, HTC recently launched a new XR focused on crypto navigatorbuilt on the foundations of Project abandoned by Mozilla.
“We see the Vive browser as the key to the metaverse, enabling experiences across virtual reality, the computer And smart phone. Our goal is to have a cross-platform browser that supports Web 3.0 and encryption use cases,” Shane told us.
HTC also recently announced Vive Connect, a central cross-platform space where people can view NFTs and other digital assets and participate in virtual events. The long-term strategy is likely to establish the service as a gateway to the metaverse that users rely on.
All good sounds
So far, Meta has been making all the right sounds. The company says it wants to collaborate with third parties, help set open standards, and set priorities cyber security And aggregateand resisting unfair market dynamics.
However, by posting the open letter, Zuckerberg tacitly positioned his company (and to some extent himself) as the founder of the metaverse. In fact, Meta claimed a digital domain that does not yet exist.
Given the company’s available resources and infrastructure, and the commitment of its founder alleged anxiety With the metaverse project, other space players may be right to be careful.
No one knows what the Metaverse will eventually look like, but Big Tech’s history tells us that it’s not as open, fair, and inclusive as we’ve been told.