Understanding the metaverse

A new internet
The metaverse was a topic of discussion at the World Economic Forum that took place in Davos, Switzerland last week. Underlining another important point of focus for the Global South.
Jeanette Diergaardt
The “new internet” and moving away from the “flat” experience of the internet was one of the main points underlined by Chris Cox, chief product officer at Meta, that describes the Metaverse. Describing the “New Internet” as a 3D-experience at the World Economic Forum that took place in Davos Switzerland from 22 May to 26 May. The main theme of the discussion was “Making the Metaverse”.

Although the metaverse is an idea in production, the company Meta has already invested $150 million (N$2.34 billion) in building this virtual space or rather experience. In an essay written by Nick Clegg, the president of Global affairs at Meta, the metaverse is a natural evolution of the internet that promises to combine experiences of virtual reality, augmented reality, mixed reality, and integrating it with real life (x-reality/extended reality).

According to Meta, the metaverse that they are envisioning will not solely be owned by a single company but will involve a number of companies collaborating together to build this virtual space. Although there are various companies working on virtual spaces, one of the so called ‘first metaverses’ is Second Life, that has been in the mix for the last two decades. Meta will be collaborating and already started a collaboration with tech giants like Microsoft and Apple in shaping the Metaverse.

It is not a game

One of the inventions that Meta created is their Oculus Quest 2, also known as the Meta Quest 2. It immerses a human being into a virtual world through headsets and the internet and is widely used in games. The headsets are not only being used for various online games but now can be used to accept calls on messenger. Meta not only created the headsets but also created the virtual space called Horizon. Which can be entered as soon as you put on your Quest headset. This space which is still in the production phase includes a home space and work space.

Governance

“The reality is that you want companies to have their own community standards, to define their own rules,” said Cox on a question if there is any governance in place for the metaverse. He further added that the service companies will have their own rules and operating systems whereby that certain community or country will abide by. “The different environments created within the metaverse by different institutions will also enforce their own set of rules, whether being social norms or laws creating a specific environment."

An article by the Washington Post that dissects the Facebook papers released last year in October where issues of privacy, hate speech and misinformation was the main themes, implicates Facebook and Mark Zuckerberg, the founder of Facebook as ignoring all warnings from its employees putting vulnerable communities at risk. The article also further states that the developing world were shown to be more vulnerable to the unsolved issues of Facebook.

Economics

The value of cryptocurrencies and the use of bitcoin on the internet has seen a dramatic increase in the last decade. In the forefront of the metaverse and the exchange of digital goods will be the use of non-fungible tokens (NFT’s). These digital systems are not strangers to the world of online gaming and according to the literature provides a more secure trading system which allows a user to pay for real life items. According to a study that was funded by Meta, created under the flagship of the Analysis Group, if the Metaverse by Meta fully kicks off by 2031 the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) globally is an estimated $3.01 trillion.

The lingo of the metaverseMetaverse: is a digital aspect that combines aspects of social media, online gaming and augmented reality. Virtual Reality: the use of computer technology to create a simulated environment which can be explored in 360 degrees.

Augmented Reality: adds or supplements towards our existing reality with digital objects. Cryptocurrency: digital or virtual currency that is secured by cryptography making it nearly impossible to counterfeit or double spend. Non-fungible token: digital asset that represents real-world objects.