Founder of CLV, an EVM-compatible blockchain platform that enables cross-chain interoperability across Blockchain networks.
You’ve likely heard discussions about the “metaverse” in the past few years, but you’re not alone if you can’t confidently describe what it is. Pinning down a precise definition of the metaverse is tricky because it’s still being defined.
The term was coined by author Neal Stephenson in his 1992 science-fiction novel, Snow Crash, in which he described a virtual world where people could interact with each other and with virtual objects in real time.
Today, the metaverse can roughly be described as a three-dimensional evolution of the internet, where people can fully immerse themselves in interconnected virtual experiences that they have agency to control and shape.
Though the concept of the metaverse has been around for decades, it only started getting serious attention in recent years as various new technologies have emerged that may finally allow it to realize its potential. In this article, I will discuss the drivers for the metaverse, propose a new way to think about it and share how individuals can benefit from this trend.
What is driving the metaverse?
Technological advancements in VR, AR, 5G, AI and blockchain are all catalysts to the emergence of the metaverse. The mass adoption of advanced VR/AR devices could provide a gateway for people to immerse themselves in digital worlds. The proliferation of 5G could enable widespread connectivity, from every part of the world, from any kind of device. Advancements in AI may drive improvements in both creating and experiencing virtual worlds. And finally, blockchain technology may unlock true digital ownership for individuals, while providing a built-in payment rail for the metaverse.
In some ways, we can see the metaverse as the next iteration of the internet into the third dimension. Some experiences, powered by gaming, already exist to form what we can call the “proto-metaverse.” Many of these gaming prototypes, such as Roblox or Fortnite, are filled with millions of Gen Z players who are spending multiple hours a day on their favorite games with their friends.
What is the metaverse’s potential?
While this proto-metaverse phase is impressive, we’re still a long way from achieving the vision of a metaverse that takes a central role in our lives—in the same way that the internet is now indispensable.
In the future, the metaverse has the potential to house non-gaming experiences as well. The metaverse is still in its nascent stages of development, but it offers the possibility of fundamentally changing the way we interact with each other and the world around us.
Virtual worlds may become a place where—like on the internet—people carry out many different facets of their lives, including commerce, cultural experiences and social hangouts. As more people become connected to the metaverse, it could become the dominant platform for communication and interaction, much like the internet is today.
How can individuals benefit from the metaverse?
The decentralized, crypto-enabled Web3 metaverse is a concept that has gained traction in recent years. In popular Web2 metaverse platforms, things like anti-creator platform policies, limitations on your identity’s portability and platform-locked creator assets have been points of contention for many users.
The Web3 metaverse is a virtual world that is built on decentralized technology, such as blockchain, and is meant to be a more open experience for users. One of the main benefits of a decentralized Web3 metaverse is that it allows users to have more control over their virtual experiences and assets. Because the platform is decentralized, there is no central authority that controls what users can do or what content is allowed. Ideally, this would create an open and inclusive environment where users can freely express themselves and create the types of experiences they want.
Despite these noble intentions, however, many Web3 metaverse platforms have seen limited adoption so far. It also seems as if few have delivered on their promises of openness and autonomy, as many of these platforms are still operating in a fairly centralized manner.
In the past years, multiple corporations have entered the metaverse. Chart-topping artists like Travis Scott and Lil Nas X hosted huge metaverse concerts with millions of concurrent users, while big global brands like Nike and Gucci invested heavily to establish their presence in the metaverse. While corporate commitment shows the potential of the metaverse space, it also highlights the current lack of accessibility for individual creators to enter the space.
If the metaverse is to truly become the future we all live in, it must be accessible to everyone. Today, for individual creators to create their own metaverse space and presence, the barriers to entry are prohibitive. It is by estimation that a typical branded metaverse experience costs between $75,000 to $150,000 in established platforms, though the most expensive may exceed $1 million. If individual creators were to take a DIY approach, they would need significant capital investment or advanced skills in a number of areas, including 3-D design, graphic design, programming and community management.
This path simply isn’t feasible for most creators, but I believe we are reaching a turning point. New technologies continue to emerge, and innovators are seeking new ways to push the metaverse to reach its potential. I believe that, in the near future, we will see the launch of platforms that give individual creators the tools necessary to make their visions a reality—without spending enormous amounts of time or money.
When metaverse experiences become truly accessible, transparent and customizable, we will begin to see the promises of the open metaverse realized.
Forbes Technology Council is an invitation-only community for world-class CIOs, CTOs and technology executives. Do I qualify?