The metaverse is by many seen as a convergence of our physical and digital lives where we can enter various virtual spaces to play and socialise (the main uses today) but also to maybe learn, relax, communicate, interact, transact and own digital assets. Some commercial metaspaces may require tickets or memberships (where both money and data can be payment) for visits, while others will rely on in-space purchases just as the in-game purchases we see in today’s gaming industry according to the white paper. And what can buy? Clothes and accessories for your avatar, decoration for your home space. The virtual accessories you have bought or created yourself have registered ownership with so-called NFTs, non-fungible tokens. Read more here.
There are many uncertainties about how the metaverse will evolve, but Copenhagen Institute For Future Studies (Cifs) talks in its white paper about four likely scenarios: The Free Metaverse. The Nerdverse. Betaverses Disunited.One Metaverse to Rule Them all.
The Free Metaverse
Despite of the name that typically means ‘pay with you data instead of money’, this metaverse scenarie is the most attractive seen from a data democratic point of view, as it is not controlled by one or a few big tech companies where we all have to follow their rules. From the white paper:
“In this scenario, groups of interested people – some voluntary, some commercial – come together to create a metaverse that they see as the replacement of the World Wide Web (or ‘Web2’), a new decentralised, interoperable go-to inter- face to the internet; one that blends the physical world with a shared virtual universe using various XR technologies.“
It will not be Amazon og Apple getting shares from your content published in this metaverse. It will not either Apple, Google or Microsoft commenting with incompatible protocols. It will be a world which big tech will not prefer as a single, open and decentralized metavers may be bard to explore and commercialise. On the other hand, the decentralized nature will make it difficult to police.
In this scenario there is not enough interest in creating a successor to WWW and there will be various smaller metaversens like the one we still have, Second Life. According to the white paper, this metaverse ” does not offer anything that most users feel they really need, the technologies around the metaverse haven’t really proven their worth, and the big ‘legacy’ brands who invested heavily in entering the metaverse didn’t manage to integrate the new Web3 logics into their solutions, hence failing to understand the new consumer needs of co-creation and co-ownership.”
The nerd verse is developed and used mainly by tech-savvy users and is too complicated to become mainstream.
In this scenario, major big tech companies each come forward with their own product they say is The Metaverse. The first one is Facebook, renamed Meta, so many today believe Facebooks is the future metaverse. Superpowers like China and Russia make their own public, censored versions. About all they have in common is the use of virtual 3D meta- spaces that can be accessed by XR technology as well as by more conventional interfaces. There will be no interoperability, and just like with WWW, many companies make sure they have a presence in most of the versions of the metaverse. WWW will be the portal to the various betaverses, as the white paper calls them:
“Because the Betaverses are centralised and proprietary, the owners know everything going on in them. They use this to harvest user data for various commercial pur- poses, and in some countries that allow it, sell the data to data brokers (and some- times also share them with intelligence services),” according to the white paper.
One Metaverse to Rule them All
Here many big tech companies also rush to build their own versions of the metaverse. However, one of them quickly becomes far more popular than the others, either because of better functionality, better conditions for content creators, having the best advertisement campaign on the right channels, or simply being a successful first mover.
“The users are fully aware that data is the product, that we can never fully own our own data, and they trust that regulation is removing the worst exploitation of data,” says the white paper and continues:
“There is a lot of censorship and regulation in the metaverse in this scenario, but most of it is localised. Nudity is forbidden in some countries, sexism and racism in others, criticism of religion or rulers in yet others.”
Governments Will Probably Want 3 & 4
What is really interesting here is that the last two scenarios, which are more or less a copy of existing situation, when it comes to search and social, are probably what most authorities will want. Especially democratic ones. As the white paper describes on the latter scenario:
“The open-source community has fallen on hard times because authorities demand governance and certification that the decentralised open-source organisations find it difficult to live up to, such as checking all content against copyright and trademark violations and policing forums against hate speech and fake news. Most successful open-source systems have been de-facto acquired by commercial interests that can afford to handle the complex and extensive regulations.”