It’s been over 30 years since the term Metaverse was coined in Neal Stephenson’s 1992 sci-fi novel Snow Crash. But only in the past few years has this term been seen as a reality—or at least one we are fast approaching.
Let’s dive into metaverses, to uncover what they are and what they mean for you today.
What is the Metaverse, anyway?
The Metaverse is a virtual environment that combines elements from both the physical and virtual worlds. It is a computer-generated world with its own rules, laws, and physics. A world where people can interact with each other, create objects and experiences, explore, earn income, work, and play games. Almost everyone sees the metaverse in virtual reality (VR), but it doesn’t necessarily need to be. So it can be seen as where virtual reality and augmented reality meet in an immersive and interactive experience.
The Metaverse is an ever-evolving, constantly expanding, interactive virtual world that is accessible to anyone with an Internet connection.
But What Can the Metaverse Do?
The Metaverse has a wide range of applications and uses, from gaming and entertainment to business and education. It can be used to create virtual stores, host virtual meetings and conferences, create virtual classrooms, and much more. It is also a great platform for exploring, learning, and collaborating with others.
Behind these promises, the Metaverse hopes to be an interconnected internet—a kind of bridge between our contiguous real world and a (new) interoperable virtual world. Because of this, many metaverse companies have looked to blockchain technologies, which found themselves on immutability—the concept that actions are permanent, much like in the real world.
The possibilities of the Metaverse are truly limitless and its potential could be fully realized in the near future.
What are Some of these Metaverses?
Facebook’s (or Meta’s) Horizon Worlds
Facebook’s Metaverse is known as Horizon Worlds. It was first was unveiled in 2016, and is a 3D virtual world where people can interact with each other, create content, and explore. Facebook’s Metaverse is powered by the company’s VR hardware, which provides immersion and interaction to the experience. The company hopes that the platform will be widely adopted for applications from gaming and entertainment to business and education. Horizon Worlds is an exciting and rapidly growing technology that may come to influence our lives in the near future.
However, due to the company’s ongoing turmoil, which includes financial issues and disagreements in its VR division, it’s clear that not all is calm in the Metaverse.
The Sandbox Metaverse is a virtual ecosystem built on the Ethereum blockchain. It allows users to create their own digital assets, games, and experiences. Players can then buy and sell these assets in order to monetise their virtual lives. The Sandbox also hopes to eventually allow users to monetise experiences.
It is free to sign up for The Sandbox, however in order to host experiences players must own land. That said, the public publishing of experiences is currently quite limited, as The Sandbox is still in its Alpha phase of development.
Decentraland is another decentralized virtual world built on the Ethereum blockchain. It was arguably one of the first metaverses to explode in popularity in the 2020s. Thanks to its decentralised nature, it is a virtual world that is owned and governed by its users, with no central authority. Much like The Sandbox, users can interact with each other, create content, explore and play games. But the similarities don’t stop there, the world is again divided into parcels of land, which can be owned and developed by users. Users can build anything from virtual stores and casinos to art galleries, gaming arenas, and more.
Decentraland has also been known for its wild parties and social atmosphere. Something which is greatly helped by the fact the game is free to play, and even available to play in browser.
Is Second Life a Metaverse?
Second Life is often considered to be the original metaverse, as it has many of the same characteristics as the other titles we have discussed here. It is a virtual world that is populated with other players, it has its own rules, monetary system (the Linden Dollar) and provides users with the opportunity to create what they like on the virtual land. This has led people to develop everything from social spaces to games to art galleries.
However, Second Life is not a true metaverse. It is a closed platform, meaning it is owned and controlled by Linden Labs. This means that it is not a decentralized platform, and is not open to the same level of creativity and innovation as a true metaverse.
Are MMORPGs Metaverses?
Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Games (MMORPGs) sound a lot like Metaverses. They are virtual worlds that allow players to interact with each other, explore, and participate in challenging activities. But MMORPGs are not typically considered to be true metaverses.
This is because they are centralised experiences with clear goals and systems. They rarely (if ever) include the option for players to create whatever they like within their virtual walls. For example, I’ve never seen a contemporary art gallery in World of Warcraft or a Nike store in Guild Wars
Even though they’re not metaverses, MMORPGs are still a great way to explore virtual worlds, interact with others, and participate in challenging activities.
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So, is the Metaverse Coming Soon?
All we can say at this point is that lots of companies are working on it. This means that the Metaverse, or metaverses, is an ever-evolving space. It’s unclear whether these metaverses will soon become a core part of our lives, or whether they will fall into obscurity in the near future.
What we can say for sure is that the idea of the metaverse has captured the hearts and minds of many technophiles around the world. But only time will tell whether it will remain a work of science fiction or become a reality.