Never one to miss too many news cycles, Facebook’s founder Mark Zuckerberg echoed a statement made by the parent company, Meta this week. At issue is Facebook’s $10B planned investment for this coming year into what has been dubbed the “Metaverse.” What is this Metaverse, you ask? That is a great question, though not terribly original, and I will try my best to explain it. If you don’t fully grasp it, don’t worry: It doesn’t really exist yet, and may never really exist, at least in a physical sense.
“We believe the metaverse will be the successor to the mobile internet,” Zuckerberg said. “We’ll be able to feel present, like we’re right there with people, no matter how far apart we actually are.”
Well, there we have it, from the mouth above the wallet directly. The Metaverse is a virtual world that exists online. While virtual worlds are not new, this is certainly the highest-profile foray into the great beyond, and by one of the world’s biggest companies. Second life, an app that allows users to create an avatar, a world, and “live” in it, has been around since 2003. Three years into its existence, Second Life had a GDP of $64M, which is truly astonishing. Despite the promise of a “second life,” it appears that the metaverse of that world is still encumbered by the hindrances of online interactions, with bots, scammers, and everything else that one would expect. While your avatar can be anything, a dog, a 40-foot woman with size 6 shoes, etc, a surprising amount of users have avatars that look like their First Life avatar. Also of note is that many of these avatars spend time in a virtual home in a virtual suburb, watching a virtual tv.
Despite these realities, there are very few limits to what can be done in the metaverse of Second Life, and presumably, Meta will incorporate those things and improve upon them.
While it may be unfair to use Linden Labs’ Second Life to guess at Facebook’s goals, it is the best place to start. Given the amount of money being invested into this venture, it seems a fair bet that Zuckerberg and crew will pick up where Linden is right now and dream way bigger. The investments that have been made have come in many forms, but a good chunk of it is in buying companies and software that are pioneers in the Virtual Reality world. Zuckerberg talks about having an online place to meet with real people, maybe play a board game and such. While I am sure someone will throw down in a high-stakes Yahtzee tournament, my guess is that board games will be the tip of the iceberg. You don’t get super-rich by spending $10B to host an online board game.
My guess as to what the Metaverse might look like in 5 years? Think of an open-world video game, where you are free to roam the country (or city) in search of a treasure. I think there will be a fair bit of that happening. I’m also certain that there will be many more billions of dollars, real dollars, US currency, spent in the Metaverse. Sharp, creative designers will be able to build houses that defy physics and architecture and will be able to sell those virtual dwellings. There will be virtual concerts, book clubs, and everything else.
My last guess here, and you can take this one to the bank: Commerce will be an integral part of the Metaverse. There will be (presumably) tax-free buying and selling, there will be builders, there will be clothiers, hairdressers, and many more things that we maybe can’t even imagine right now. Another certainty: If there is commerce happening, transactions taking place, and currency changing hands, there will be a need for online marketing companies to get the word out. Does anyone know how to file a DBA for Meta Hub?