Comment The Metaverse, as the company formerly known as Facebook defines the term in its financial filings, is “an embodied Internet where people have immersive experiences beyond two-dimensional screens.”
It’s more or less another stab at Virtual Reality Modeling Language (VRML), a standard file format for 3D graphics that dates back to the mid-1990s, and the naïve vision of federated spaces run by competing companies.
The Web3D Consortium, which was formed to advance VRML and currently promotes X3D, a royalty-free open standard file format, recently evaluated the Metaverse to offer its definition [PDF].
“In our view, the ‘Metaverse’ will emerge as a property of today’s primarily two-dimensional World Wide Web (WWW) with interconnectedness and interoperability between online and networked microcosmic ‘microverses’ created, as the Web is, by individuals, businesses and institutions. The interconnection between the microverses will be provided by the Web itself.”
Meta’s definition is broader – the web is a subset of the internet – but suffice it to say, the Metaverse has been with us for decades, and experiencing it with VR goggles and 3D graphics isn’t necessarily any more compelling than seeing it on a flat screen.
The Metaverse of connected environments could be realized at any time. They are the web and the internet, after all. We know how to make connections. Minecraft users could click on an object and be transferred to another game with a VR interface like Eve: Valkyrie. If cryptographic assets can be transferred via faulty blockchain bridgesthere’s no reason why two or more games can’t interact.
The fact that this isn’t happening isn’t due to any technical hurdles; it’s that companies aren’t trying to make that happen. It’s not in their interest to do so.
But if fees can be charged to move VR suits and other digital dross from place to place, Meta might try to join the action. His Diem debacle at least showed the company’s interest in digital currency transactions.
Meta’s contribution to the Metaverse to date has been evangelism, billions of dollars of investment, which has produced VR headsets, software, an app distribution platform that takes up to 47.5% of revenueand now legs – something that Horizon Worlds avatars lack.
Meta founder Mark Zuckerberg, who brought us Facebook, keeps talking about creating an open ecosystem for companies focused on the Metaverse, as opposed to the supposedly totalitarian vision Apple should implement once it enters the core hardware business.
It’s a vision born out of the need to sell to investors on growth – between Facebook, Instagram and WhatApp, and competitors like TikTok, growth opportunities seem scarce – and Meta’s lack of an operating system (still evidently an aspiration).
Apple, Google and Microsoft have the power of control and distribution through the products that rely on their software to work.
Meta, a supplicant to the platform, has a huge audience through those who use its social apps. But the ad biz has seen how Apple’s App Tracking Transparency technology on iOS devices denied access to ad targeting data and reduced the value of its business.
Until it can set up a functioning Metaverse toll booth, the company will focus on partnerships to bring its embedded internet to life. Partnerships are what tech companies do when they lack the assets themselves, the assets in this case being applications that people will pay to use.
The main novelty of Meta Connect 2022, the company’s developer event this week, was an agreement with Microsoft to produce Windows 365 – a streaming version of Windows – available on Meta Quest devices, as well as Microsoft 365 and Mesh for Teams apps.
It’s baffling that anyone would want to experience any Microsoft software through a Meta Quest headset. Consider that Metaverse’s VP of Meta Vishal Shah recently reprimanded employees for their disregard for the company’s Horizon Worlds environment. Managers have apparently been told they will be held accountable if their teams don’t use Horizon Worlds.
When your marketing consists of gavage, things are not going well. ®