Opinion The Promises and Thin Air of the Metaverse

The Promises and Thin Air of the Metaverse

April 30, 2022

A previous couple of years have been a potent breeding ground for all manner of crypto-related buzzwords. From the original term of bitcoin which quickly became the grandfather of all crypto buzzwords, the recent past managed to outdo this term by some margin. Today, there are so many more similar phrases that get the attention of the people really quickly, and chief among them is the metaverse. This huge concept and the potential replacement for the present form of the internet is naturally very appealing to all manner of individuals and organizations.

That is why so many projects presently try to capitalize on the same concept and most of them do it on a level of an idea. Very few ventures have anything to show that can be tried or even perceived in the space of the metaverse. That is why the promise of the same ecosystem comes with many potential downsides and huge problems. Other aspects do not even have that and they instead offer nothing but some cool-sounding catchphrases or roadmaps that are pure works of fiction. Even Meta, which is the parent company of Facebook, decided to scale down on its sales pitch. However, does all of this mean that the potential of the metaverse has been going down recently as well?

Meta’s Metaverse Signals

Previously known as Facebook, the Meta company is clearly counting a lot on the concept of the metaverse. However, in a recent signal to its investors, it is downplaying any hopes of the same concept actually providing any revenue in the foreseeable future. This comes after the company as a whole rebranded itself and completely aligned its future to this potential digital space less than a year ago. But, in a quarterly call, the CEO of Meta Mark Zuckerberg stated that it will take up to a decade for the company’s ongoing investments to produce systems that generate any revenue.

The fact that Meta is seriously dedicated to the metaverse on such a long timeline is great news for esports players, social media users, and many others who simply want to enjoy this immersive digital space. However, for many investors, saying that the first moment when a venture might return any profits is 10 or more years away is like saying that it will never generate anything. That, in turn, also influences the upcoming development of the metaverse, not just from the perspective of Mark Zuckerberg’s company, but anyone else who is currently engaged in the same field.

History of Crypto-Botches

Critics of Facebook – now Meta – are quick to point out that the company has a long history of half-baked concepts that are somehow related to blockchain tech. Libra is a perfect example. A couple of years ago, Facebook came out with the concept of building its own cryptocurrency called Libra. It set out a roadmap and made a list of companies that are in the broader ecosystem even before the same digital currency began working. However, a combination of factors quickly began eroding the Libra concept from a number of different sides. All of them combined into an all-around negative response to the whole concept, years before it could even begin operating.

The company had no other recourse than to shut down the project completely and shelve it. But, Meta is not an anomaly in this regard. A lot of companies, especially in the tech domain, have made big promises and delivered nothing at all. For example, a huge holder of institutional cryptocurrencies – MicroStrategy – has been talking for years about using the same BTC tokens for some kind of platform. So far, there is absolutely nothing of the sort. Now, echoes of the same situation can be seen in Meta’s version of the metaverse.

VR Technology Hurdle

A key element of the metaverse as many, including Zuckerberg, perceive it, is virtual reality or VR technology. It has a development life of its own and a range of organizations have been developing VR tech for over 30 years. Presently, there are many different headsets and other VR rigs that allow for the same experience in the fields of gaming, tourism, and so forth. But, the notion of having VR that is geared for dozens and then hundreds of millions of users, as social media platforms had in the middle of the 2000s is an extremely distant prospect.

Zuckerberg stated the same during the investor call and experts from the industry agree that readily available VR tech with mass appeal is nearly impossible in the near future. So a realistic goal for VR headsets in many households is the 2030s and nothing before that. Yet, how is the metaverse supposed to work then without one of its key elements until then?

Metaverse 1.0

The instances like the Meta investor call show clearly that the concept of the metaverse has been drastically oversold. Since it started generating traction, concepts like those from Snow Crash or Ready Player One made the public, but also companies and mass media, dream about a metaverse that is out of this world. But, the same space will not take shape anytime soon, and even when it does, chances are that it will not be something like the space from these famous works of fiction. But, their development will begin a lot sooner and many of those key bedrock aspects are being developed right now.

The case of Web 3 apps is a perfect showcase of what the real metaverse will look like in the foreseeable future. It will be the current internet, but one that is even more tied into itself and holistically interconnects. For many, this also ends up being another case of buzzwords, but in that regard, the metaverse is already here. It requires no headsets for long VR sessions. It needs no glowing cubes of emissive lights to start its data transmissions. However, it is still changing the world of global informational technologies and it is just getting started.