The metaverse represents the sum of all the processes and protocols that power the internet and the emerging Web3, and are merging into a central and interoperable space. In this future realm, communications, finances, game worlds, personal profiles, NFTs, and more are all part of a larger online experience.
As with any big vision of a future that doesn’t yet exist, many people have tried to stamp their own definitions on the metaverse. If the idea is new to you, it may help to understand some of the properties you can expect from a metaverse.
1. A VIRTUAL WORLD
This is, in my opinion, the most important characteristic of a metaverse. You could explore it using a computer, gaming console, mobile, wearable technology, or other devices, experiencing 3D graphics and sound along the way. The idea is that this makes you feel more ‘present’ in the metaverse and presumably less present in the everyday world (where your body stubbornly remains).
2. VIRTUAL REALITY
You will need a virtual reality headset for this. The idea here is that you become immersed in the virtual world, so you feel even more present— at least until you bump into something that remains in the everyday world, like the coffee table.
3. OTHER PEOPLE — THE SOCIAL ASPECT
A screenshot from the popular Decentraland where you can engage actively with many other players
The metaverse is social. There are lots of other people there, represented as avatars. Some of these avatars might be bots, virtual agents, and manifestations of artificial intelligence. You can hang out with other people or even do things together.
The social aspect is likely to be central in Facebook’s metaverse, given its history as a social network.
This means the virtual world is available whenever you want to visit it. You can change it by adding new virtual buildings or other objects, and importantly, the changes remain in place next time you visit. You might be able to take up residence and own a bit of it. The metaverse will rely on your user-generated content — your digital creations and personal stories — in the same way social media does today.
5. CONNECTION TO THE REAL WORLD
In some visions of the metaverse, the virtual stuff in the virtual world actually represents real stuff in the real world. For example, you might fly a virtual drone in the metaverse to steer an actual drone in the real world.