The Metaverse: What Next?

January 9, 2022 | By Paul Mackenzie Ross | Filed in: tech.

As has been mentioned before on here, the metaverse has been around for over 30 years. It all started, at least in name, in Neal Stephenson’s book Snow Crash, go read it if you haven’t already and be ready for a televised version.

The metaverse is also a great fixed focus name for the world of virtual reality (VR). VR has been around since the mid 1980s, preceding Neal Stephenson’s term by a good 7 years.

In the 1990s there was Sega World at the Trocadero in London, my own first experience of VR. Sega World closed in 1999 and VR once again took a back seat.

So when Oculus, makers of VR headsets and tech, was brought by Facebook, it was an early signal of serious intent that they wished to be a major player in the VR world. Now that Facebook, as a parent company, has been spun out and rebranded as Meta, those early indicators have become reality.

What Facebook’s new umbrella firm are doing now is trying to make themselves synonymous with the metaverse. The metaverse belongs to everyone. Facebook/Meta want it to belong to themselves. This is nothing new. Facebook dominates social media. It vacuumed up Instagram and now it’s base covers about half of the world’s population.

Microsoft tried this once as well. The Internet is independent and always should be, however Bill Gates once tried to call it The Microsoft Network in early editions of his autobiography, as if The Internet didn’t exist as an independent entity and Gates tried to usurp it for his company.

That’s what Meta are doing. They want you to think of the metaverse and think of Meta.

But what will Microsoft have to say about that?

Microsoft Mesh

The vast majority of mainstream media stories I see hat-tip Meta (Facebook) and their metaverse. Microsoft, are mentioned far less in second position.

Looking at recent Microsoft acquisitions, Skype and LinkedIn have been fascinating. Microsoft’s Office is a ubiquitous business tool, so adding a business-centric social network (LinkedIn) was absolute genius. Turning Skype technology into the backbone of Teams was also a clever integration.

Whatever you think about the cheapening of LinkedIn as every commercially-minded Tom, Dick and Harriet churn out quantities of low-grade posts in order to try and be oversubscribed as Dan Priestly would have you go for, or despite MS Teams’ quirks and bugs, both technology acquisitions make incredible business sense.

But what are or were Microsoft’s plans for the metaverse? What do they think of it all?

At their Ignite conference they announced adding their existing Microsoft Mesh to Teams. Mesh has been around less than a year but it feels like it has to increase trajectory in a new arms race with Meta.

The only things is that Oculus headsets start at £300 whilst HoloLens is ten times that price. From such a simple standpoint, right now my money’s on Facebook. Sorry, Meta.

Amazon, Apple and Disney Metaverse?

Meta are now in pole position as the primary metaverse company in our collective conscious and the business stakes. That’s a smart move by Zuckerberg et al. However, Microsoft won’t lie down quietly I reckon. They’re still early in the bell curve so they’re probably biding their time before any major announcements.

That then moves my thought on to Amazon. With their own huge global cloud infrastructure, surely they’ll want in on the action too?

And what about Apple?

Whilst we’re thinking about competition for VR space, surely Disney is a good fit as a metaverse creator?

Whatever the eventual outcome, we could see fractured virtual worlds and unholy alliances. What does concern me though, as a global citizen, is metaverse standards. If we end up with separate Meta, MS and Disney worlds, how can we all seamlessly move from one to another?

I’m not looking into too much detail but there needs to be the metaverse equivalent of web standards.

There is the w3C’s Metaverse Interoperability Community Group, that was formed in April of last year. The w3C have, I believe been a good guiding force, keeping web standards on a steady course. However, with the metaverse and so much at stake, such as the  rush for virtual land and the inevitable crypto and NFT connections, then I’m not so sure.

What Next for the Metaverse?

Just as an indication of the recent interest, look at Google Trends for metaverse 2014-2021 – despite being around as a term for 30 years, it has really exploded into the public conscience.

VR is here to stay and Zuckerberg thinks it’s the next big thing. So let’s see the price of gear come down if we’re all to be part of it because, right now, it’s still not available to everyone.

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