It sounds like another Mars-themed VR game concept, but the metaverse is quickly shaping up to become one of the hottest topics in the tech community for some time.
Recently, Facebook announced a strategic realignment to position itself for a future where it will play a leading role in developing the architecture to realise the metaverse, a move that threatens to erect a centralised and monopolistic foundation for a technology that may alter our world in profound and unpredictable ways.
What is the metaverse?
Think of it as a networked integration of 3-dimensional virtual worlds, where different sorts of experiences (work, gaming, shopping, recreation and more) can occur in ways that enhance the quality of virtual experience.
Suppose the hardware and software built on the internet enable us to experience other times and places as though peering through our window.
In that case, future applications on the metaverse will create doorways that immerse us more tangibly in these times and places.
Facebook’s released demo, for instance, features possibilities such as friends accepting phone call invitations to meet up in groups and attend concerts, showing up either as personalised avatars or as random characters.
What is the downside?
Notions of virtual worlds where people interact in immersive ways have historically had a bad rap from sci-fi (think Neal Stephenson’s “Snow Crash”).
Consequently, one might be forgiven for assuming that real-life simulations of reality will be spearheaded by the most accountable and transparent entities there ever was. Well, one would be disappointed.
Joining Facebook, several prominent tech players have announced similar moves to create applications that will function on the ecosystem, effectively guaranteeing a continuation of the centralised, monopolistic practices that have severely undercut innovation in the global ICT industry.
More centralisation on the horizon..?
A centralised metaverse controlled by the wealthiest corporations will be more dangerous than the most creative dystopias yet conceived.
Privacy, monopoly, costs, and innovation will likely be the primary victims. Interestingly, in its released demo, Zuckerberg said, “I’ve come to believe that the lack of choice and high fees are stifling innovation, stopping people from building new things and holding back the entire internet community”.
Ironically, Facebook itself is the definition of a monopoly. It has done precisely what Zuckerberg appears to be lamenting in his demo: stifled competition and removed choice from consumers.
Is there a solution out there?
Platforms like the Cudos network are currently developing an architecture that can support apps that will form the bedrock of a decentralised metaverse in the future, including support for NFTs.
The use of NFTs not only guarantees a sense of private ownership in the metaverse but establishes a tangible link to the “real world” economy where NFTs trade on prominent exchanges and often for eye-watering figures.
This decentralised alternative will offer a more transparent and responsible ecosystem, driven by innovation and competition, rather than greed and lack of trust.
Cudos is looking to create the building blocks of a decentralised metaverse where developers and users can enjoy free access to future technologies!