2021 was the year of the Metaverse dominating conversations (aside from Covid, vaccines, STF, inflation, gas prices…). From boardrooms to bar tables, we only talked about it and its companions DeFi, NFT, Token, Blockchain, Crypto, Web3… Imagine the number of examples and abstractions (and mistakes) we used to explain concepts and reasons to believe that “now there's no turning back”. And that it's all as inevitable as trying to make planet Earth stop orbiting the Sun (Flat Earthers will not be considered!).Well, I will try to help us by organizing some concepts and mixing everything a bit to create a point of view at the end about what we really have on the table today. For this, I've put together an agenda that's very easy to digest.You can skip straight to the part that interests you the most.
The origin of the Metaverse
Just geek references, you can skip... or enjoy =)
Here we take care of your mental health by combating that feeling of having missed the innovation train.
Point of View
No predictions or futurology, just my own vision of our current moment.
Access to the worldwide web was via a 14.4kbps modem. In Brazil, the few subscribers to the novelty still did not differentiate the internet from access to a BBS, and the luxury was to have a US Robotics modem.I was a fan of Altavista - the first indexing and search service I used on the internet - then came Yahoo, and after that another one that I took a while to memorize the name of. A certain Google.It was the revolution of hypertext (by the way, do you know why the link on the web is blue?) and the WorldWideWeb as we know it in 2D and it wouldn’t take long to be filled with Flash sites.It was in the middle of this moment of euphoria - and very low connection speed - that the term metaverse appeared in the science fiction “Snow Crash” (1992).
The author nailed the definition of the metaverse:
"a collective or shared virtual space, generating convergence between the physical and the virtual, enhancing reality in persistent space"
Here we've already scored the second goal of this story: the initial flirtation with augmented reality.No, dear reader, the subject is not new.But it was only 10 years later that Second Life appeared and everyone went through (some embarrassment) there. The pioneering platform in this experience had the adherence of several super popular brands like Coca-Cola, Nike, Microsoft, HP, IBM, McDonald's, Kellogg’s, etc.It was a success! The most heard phrase - guess! - was that "this was a path of no return."And it was right there, in 2006, that Roblox began to operate. Add another 10 years there, in 2016, our Pokemon Go came bursting in engagement, gamification, with augmented reality, geofence and - believe it! - even today it drags crowds at major events.The following year, in 2017, Fortnite made its debut and today records more than 350 million active players.
But can Fortnite or Pokemon be called Metaverse?Short answer, no.So, what now? Well, to explain we need to understand the concept of Open and Closed in Metaverses, a chart helps map the players and we take the opportunity to stick more concept on a second axis, the Low-Fi and Hi-Fi.Open: The user is the platform and the principle of the data generated and their universe is not limited to a Metaverse.Closed: The platform controls the experience and captures the generated data. There is the limitation of the Metaverse and compatibilities with other Metaverses.Low-Fi and Hi-Fi: This is really related to fidelity and definition, hyper realism, hardware, and internet connection necessary to be able to use the platform. This can range from polygonal Metaverses (Low-Fi) to self-realism that may depend on specific hardware e.g., Oculus.
Expanding the scope, we are not just discussing the environment of work meetings or an alternative to Zoom (and by the way, have you tested Around?). We are discussing and enabling the broad decentralization of the internet.It is no coincidence that along with the Metaverse, other initiatives have gained space in the news. NFT, Blockchain, Crypto, DeFi... all technologies that seek decentralization.The Metaverse integrates an evolution that, among other achievements and advances in technology and interactions, opposes the control and exploitation of the user.That's why it can't have an owner. Sorry Facebook (sic)
When Facebook (sic) appropriated the term metaverse and changed its name to Meta, the topic caught everyone's attention. It seems novel, new, or the opportunity of the decade. Really?There's a very common concept among Silicon Valley investors. Every day they come across some incredible technology, something fascinating or something really difficult that someone managed to do. But the question that really has value is the following: Will anyone use it?If the answer is yes, another 10 questions will try to understand the adoption curve in order to calculate the subsidy (investment or money itself) necessary to make the whole thing happen.In a macro view, what Facebook (sic) did was exactly that: subsidize this movement and try to dominate the game. In a way, the strategy has its strength. When something of this magnitude happens, it moves the market and boards and shareholders in various companies start to question. Everyone wants to know what are the strategies defined for the Metaverse. And at that moment, nobody wants to look unprepared.That's why we're witnessing so many acquisitions in this sector in recent months. Everyone's getting their strategies in motion.
Speaking of social environments (virtual or not), they need a high volume of users - which is no different from the social networks we have today. In this, the buzz generated by Facebook-now-Meta has already helped a lot, because since then all the platforms related to the Metaverse have registered a 20% growth in the number of users.But, if we want to be inclusive and accessible, what we have today with the Metaverse is far from this goal.It is necessary to reduce the cost of the technology that needs to be commercially viable. VR equipment is expensive and on top of that uncomfortable (have you spent more than 45 minutes using one? 🤮)If we think about Augmented Reality it's easier. Practically all the cell phones sold in 2020 have some level of support for this technology.
The problem is that it's not as immersive as VR. And stepping out of the bubble, it's important to emphasize that more than half of the global population does not own a smartphone.We also still need someone to make the compatibility/portability of items purchased in one metaverse (closed) to another. If you've invested and bought a Ducatti in Decentraland, you need some way to be able to "take it" to Roblox, for example. Just as the internet has its standards (W3C), they need to exist between the available metaverses. To me, this is a point of opportunity.Another important factor is related to the ability to connect from anywhere to the "omniverse". It needs to be anchored in the behavioral model of escapism that so supports social networks.
Think with me: if I depend on a special setup, have to carry a suitcase with accessories and need a mega internet connection... it's not going to scale.In general terms, the Metaverse today is the allegory of a much larger change that is being proposed on various fronts: decentralization. The vectors that support this mega operation are already mature, just still unattractive to the general public. That's where the power of allegory - the Metaverse - comes in. After it enters the scene, even those who never wanted to know about any cryptocurrency are now playing with NFT Drops and Digital Wallets.The good conversation is about Web3, about decentralization, about making the internet unbreakable and without an owner.It's not an anarchic movement nor a road to socialism, on the contrary, it's about hyper-capitalism, because decentralization gives great power to those who PRODUCE and CONSUME, eliminating intermediaries and this, if you stop to analyze, is about breaking many billion-dollar business models that we have in the market today.