Definitions suck donkey balls, they really do. And I hate them because they’re usually written from a biased perspective.
The commonly accepted definition according to Wikipedia is “the metaverse is a hypothetical iteration of the Internet as a single, universal and immersive virtual world that is facilitated by the use of virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) headsets. In colloquial use, a metaverse is a network of 3D virtual worlds focused on social connection.”
Let’s have some fun with wordplay here.
Reality — Reality is the sum or aggregate of all that is real or existent within a system, as opposed to that which is only imaginary. The term is also used to refer to the ontological status of things, indicating their existence. In physical terms, reality is the totality of a system, known and unknown.
World — In its most general sense, the term “world” refers to the totality of entities, to the whole of reality, or to everything that is.
I caught this reference recently and it made me boke in my mouth.
“A legitimate metaverse experience will be the byproduct of a very well developed video game on the blockchain”
Oy vey, we have such a long way to go if this is the limit of thinking and amount of fud going around.
The metaverse should not be seen as a final destination or a construct to visit and this is what’s causing so much unnecessary noise and confusion. It’s mostly driven by people focusing primarily on the technology and platforms driving it and so we imagine places we need to visit rather than layered and interwoven experiences that extend our own reality.
It’s why measuring how many people are wandering around places like Decentraland or Sandbox becomes a meaningless, zero-sum game — it benefits nobody. We’re already living with two layers of the metaverse if you think about it; the physical world and the internet, only now we’re adding more layers and extending that reality even further.
The metaverse is everything, everywhere, all at once (or at any time as William Burns III put it in a quick convo on Twitter.
To put it in even simpler terms let’s speak to a particular ogre about onions.
Shrek: Ogres are like onions.
Donkey: They stink?
Shrek: Yes. No.
Donkey: Oh, they make you cry.
Donkey: Oh, you leave em out in the sun, they get all brown, start sproutin’ little white hairs.
Shrek: No. Layers. Onions have layers. Ogres have layers. Onions have layers. You get it? We both have layers.
Donkey: Oh, you both have layers. Oh. You know, not everybody like onions.
In the context of the movie, it relates to his character and personality having depth, but in the context of the metaverse, it relates to the fact it has many different levels or parts that all exist concurrently.
Whether you start your experience in the metaverse from one layer or another should make no difference — you should be able to move between layers of those realities seamlessly and continue the same experience where you left off.
Right now attempts are disparate.
Virtual reality exists but is disconnected from augmented reality because the tech bros can’t agree on whether one will win over the other and yet both camps don’t realize it was never a war in the first place.
Some aspects of the physical world are connected to the internet, virtual reality, and even augmented reality in a variety of separate forms and use cases — FMCG, Industry 4.0, training, and education to name a few.
Companies are building massive online virtual world platforms claiming these are the metaverse but have no connection to the physical world, they invariably aren’t VR or even AR-enabled, they are to all intents and purposes just another piece of the internet itself, and at worst just another fucking video game.
And you still cannot move from one reality to another seamlessly.
Oh, and just because there are only 4 parts to the quick Venn diagram I knocked up doesn’t mean more layers of reality won’t come along. Even Time (wibbly wobbly timey wimey) could eventually become a fabric of the metaverse we engage in and manipulate with great effect within an experience.
Which makes a complete fucking mockery of how people are approaching that bloody word, interoperability.
Interoperability so far is about being able to move your NFT receipt from one web3 video game to another or trying to claim that you can take your actual game or digital asset that you “own” from one world and make it work and behave exactly as it should in another.
Let me paint another picture of interoperability that I haven’t heard anyone really discuss at all — the interoperability of assets between realities.
Tell me, dear web3 startup, can I move my digital asset not only between the layers of the metaverse but ensure its utility in every realm? Because I bet I fucking can’t, you’re too busy playing blockchains and broomsticks with some Minecraft clone you claim is the metaverse.
What we do in life echoes in eternity.
Russell Crowe got this right, sort of. What we do in one layer should affect the other, that’s the real definition of persistency, concurrency, and synchronization in some respects. This is especially powerful in productivity scenarios, something like an Industry 4.0 or Digital Twin use case, where a participant of one layer can interact with the environment and another participant within another layer can see the results and also interact simultaneously.
Consider then a true metaverse experience of a music concert — one which transcends all layers at the same time, not bound to one reality or the other, not exclusive or with boundaries or walled gardens as Apple and Meta want you to believe.
This will also bring headaches to brands and marketers trying to understand how to bring a customer through an experience. How the customer moves through this experience is now up to them — there is no funnel. The customer journey can therefore begin anywhere, move anywhere, and end anywhere.
When you consider the implications here you begin to understand why when some tech journo claims that Fornite or Horizon Worlds or Decentraland is the metaverse they’re talking a load of bullshit.
And that also means the current crop of platforms that only support building in one medium or another without allowing for that seamless transition for users, data, assets, AI — pretty much everything that creates the experience — aren’t going to be of much use in the future.
The metaverse — everything everywhere all at once.
Or as Shrek would put it, just another bloody onion.