Issue #1 - All About Metaverse
Welcome. I am challenging myself to regularly research and highlight ideas changing or impacting the world. I want to share that with you to spark conversation, and hopefully, I can learn even more from you. I disclaim that I am not offering any concrete facts but my interpretations and opinions. It is up to you how you use the information. I am not an expert on the topics, so I suggest seeking one out if you require deeper explanations. I plan to monitor and decide where to focus my career and hobbies or invest my money. And which thing will cause me to scream into a pillow?
This first edition focuses on learning more about metaverse. I am not an early adopter, but something nags me to stay close to it. It has a generally agreed-upon definition, but currently, I believe it to be a buzzword, co-opted by just about every tech company and thought leader. I wonder if Steve Jobs would be talking about metaverse during his keynotes?
What is viewed as a metaverse today will not be called metaverse in the future. But of course, the best ideas will prevail through a chasm of tries. Which means it is not going away. That is why currently, I'm more bearish but not a complete ostrich with my head in the sand. We must remember the technology adoption curve and find our place...
#1 What is a Metaverse?
A metaverse is the concept of virtual worlds focused on social interaction. A portmanteau of the words 'meta' and 'universe.' You may hear it's the next version of the Internet (Web 3.0), or a video game, or worse, some dystopian world where we live plugged in like The Matrix.
Many technologies are emerging or repurposed to facilitate the virtual worlds in a metaverse, some of which you know and may use today. The Internet is a crucial piece of the infrastructure. Other technologies enhance or make social interactions possible in a metaverse - virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) - and associated software. Other concepts such as cryptocurrency and its engine, blockchain, are viewed as crucial components to regulating the decentralized objectives of Web 3.0 and, as a result, the metaverse.
I will explore blockchain and cryptocurrency in a future issue. For now, let's define cryptocurrency as virtual money based on a distributed ledger (chain) that uses complex algorithms to add money, "blocks" to the "chain." The main reasons cryptocurrency is attractive are that the ledger can not be altered and is not owned by a central authority (like a bank or government).
Beyond technology, there are social and economic desires for a metaverse. For example, companies are looking to create a metaverse where their users (customers) seek social engagement, entertainment, learning, playing, etc. A hypothetical example: The NBA creates a virtual world where you can play basketball with others and even with professional players. You can buy experiences (1:1 with Lebron) or virtual objects (custom jersey, shoes by Nike, etc.) to outfit your avatar inside this virtual world with your virtual currency (which began as real currency). This becomes a brand new revenue stream. Take it a step further - you join the virtual world using VR to experience a live basketball game without leaving your house.
There have already been successful examples of virtual worlds - the games Fortnite and Pokemon Go, for instance, both employ features of AR and VR as well as the virtual world aspect. However, to my knowledge, you can not meet all your needs in one of these games. They provide particular experiences and are closed to integration with other worlds.
I believe the next steps are to test more virtual worlds, enriched with co-branding, thus leading to fewer silos, and more integration and what we tech folks call experiences.
#2 Why Should You Care?
Since October 2021, when Facebook announced its vision and new name Meta, metaverse-related chatter has grown. Although the concept has been around in name and idea form since 1992. As with all innovations, you want to be first to market to grab the largest share, and you also want to create something unique that can not be duplicated. So, everyone is trying to get their piece of the pie, and the chatter is loud.
You could very well live part of your day inside of a virtual world. How does that sound? Scary? Exciting? Yeah, you and me both.
Mark Zuckerberg seems to think you will prefer to do that versus real human interaction. But take it very concretely - what if you worked with a complimentary virtual world where you interact with co-workers there, instead of on email or instant message? Sure, we have great collaboration tools already, but are they truly immersive?
Another point is that typically, technological advances solve a problem. Not always, but usually. For example, I did not need an iPhone in 2007. But now that I have used one for over 14 years, I can not imagine not having one. It is my digital assistant, entertainment, and communications device, and it created a new way of living and working. One day, will I not know what life was like before my virtual one? Can the same be true of my virtual world life?
The world continues to move forward, regardless of your personal views. You choose where you want to be on the curve. All advances are met with the same cycles of resistance and adoption and so forth and eventually reach mass adoption. However, some people have never owned a television, so it is possible to escape some aspects of certain advances.
Also, consider that some ideas fall flat on their face. Will the Internet rebirth as Web 3.0 and metaverse work? Who will decide? Will governments allow for decentralization in the hands of a few powerful tech companies over the open protocols we have today? Will it all be aspirational, but in reality, just another social network or game with flashy new technology?
At what point do we need a digital detox? I already have eye strain and a headache thinking about it.
I'm usually pragmatic about big ideas. For me, I have yet to fully grasp the societal problems we face that the metaverse will solve. I want to hear from you on this topic.
#3 Company Watchlist
The metaverse concept describes the virtual world as a massive, multi-player online environment. Many different components must come together to create this environment - from physical hardware to software and ideas.
Financial analysts have positioned these seven companies as the ones to watch. All have something in common - they are integral or can be vital to the metaverse infrastructure, hardware, graphics, spatial architecture, platforms, etc. Would you include any others?
Meta Platforms Inc. (FB)
Unity Software Inc. (U)
Roblox Corp. (RBLX)
Autodesk Inc. (ADSK)
Microsoft Corp. (MSFT)
Nvidia Corp. (NVDA)
Qualcomm Inc. (QCOM)
Do you feel more equipped to become a metaverse tech enthusiast? Or do you want to wait for mainstream adoption? Or do you want to opt-out of the whole thing? Do you perceive an option at all?
I remain cautiously optimistic that the future of the Internet will include some version of a persisted virtual world. After all, the Internet has provided analogous experiences since its creation.
Call it a metaverse, call it the OASIS, whatever. We can already see facets of our online experience changing, such as the importance of maintaining an online persona. Cryptocurrencies are becoming mainstream. Information is stored on platforms, and those platforms have mixed integrations but are trending toward greater flexibility.
The future vision of metaverse is that there is one platform to rule it all or a framework that rules it all. Competition, features, usability, privacy, economics, etc., will all be front-seat drivers at times toward declaring a winner. Of course, we could have a follow-up debate if one company deserves to own it all. Or, could/should there be a Facebook Metaverse, a Marvel Metaverse, a Microsoft/Activision Metaverse, a Government Metaverse, a Harvard University Metaverse, etc.? You get the idea. Should all of them be separate, or should there be a unifying identity that allows you to move seamlessly among them? Who creates and manages that universal identity? Does the next version continue to be standards-based or proprietary-based infrastructure? Is that Web 3.0? These are all the additional questions that seem very scary to answer at this point.
Want to discuss this further? Let's chat on Twitter or send me an email.
Until next time,
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