The metaverse is just great tech, but bigger
Like religious prophets, The luminaries of big technologies preach the advent of the next Internet. According to their gospel – blog posts by tech companies and venture capitalists – the cyberspace of tomorrow will be empyrean, transcendent, immersive, 3D and all brought together, the disparate sites and services that we live and die by brought together under one same love. It will be a super-platform bringing together sub-platforms: social media, online video games and user-friendly applications, all accessible through the same digital space and sharing the same digital economy.
Virtual reality companies say you’ll get there with VR headsets, while augmented reality companies say you’ll wear AR smart glasses. And with a childish enthusiasm for science fiction fueling their piety, these preachers call this vision the metaverse, based on Neal Stephenson’s dystopian novel from 1992 Snow accident.
In Stephenson’s time wrote his book, the Web was a handful of bizarre little planets linked only by the gravitational force of server technology. Novice developers have built rudimentary websites using HTML and HTTP. Soon, Friends fan sites and Texas Internet Consulting pages were separated from the garish GeoCities.com filled with Broadway lyrics. From this dispersed solar system, web browsers like Mosaic and Netscape were born to solve the problem of sorting and aggregating information.
The metaverse, as originally conceived by Stephenson, centers around a three-dimensional digital street with virtual space, where user avatars can hang out, party and do business, finding spaces and between them. It is operated by a company called Global Multimedia Protocol Group, which makes its money by acting as the backbone of 3D cyberspace.
The star-eyed futurists of the ’90s took the idea at face value, portraying users as avatars in isolated cyberspaces like Activeworlds. The other half of the vision, the important half, was to connect cyberspace, which they weren’t able to do.
A metaverse must be interoperable; the digital services associated with it must fit together, like a quilt, to form its fabric. Matthew Ball, a venture capitalist who has written frequently on the metaverse, says: “Interoperability effectively requires companies to free up their control over proprietary formats, or to move to fully open source formats.
In the early 2000s, a flowering of open source metaverse projects emerged to address the problem of assembling existing virtual worlds. If the code was free and accessible to everyone, everything Snow accident fan with some know-how could carve his own lane in the metaverse. And if the internet had stuck in its infancy, one could easily imagine the porous, egalitarian metaverse it would have spawned: A 50-year-old woman in a Barbie avatar walks straight from her Second Life dream home to Sephora’s VR store. com, where she purchases digital mascara with gold earned in World of warcraft.
But these open-ended metaverse projects never took off. “There wasn’t a lot of enthusiasm around the interconnection, in part because there really wasn’t a motive for it,” says Philip Rosedale, founder of the publisher of Second Life Linden Lab. “As a business we were trying to make money. “
By the mid-2000s, it became clear that the money was not spent on building individual websites; it was about making news sorters, channels, aggregators, and publishers open enough to scale with user-generated content, but closed enough to reap huge profits. “A few online services have come to have a truly global user base and, in their wake, has developed a global infrastructure dedicated to optimizing its needs,” says Carl Gahnberg, senior policy advisor at the ‘Internet Society.
It was the evolution from Web 1.0 to Web 2.0. For nearly 30 years, the gravity of consolidation has brought cyberspace together under the auspices of fewer and fewer corporate titans. The weird little planets are getting closer, colliding, creating bigger planets, colliding again, forming stars or even black holes. Facebook eats Instagram and WhatsApp; Amazon swallows two dozen e-commerce sites. And you end up with those few supermassive gamers controlling and owning the heavenly movement of billions of users. This is how Big Tech got big.