Originally posted on readwrite.
The metaverse: You’ve heard of it. You’ve likely read about it. You may even be aware of how more and more companies across all industries, from software enterprises to luxury brands, are scaling into the metaverse. As this transition has been taking place over the past year, editorials have been flooded with articles explaining what the metaverse actually is. But why does the metaverse matter? And more importantly, what does it mean for the future and will it even last or just fizzle out into another fad?
The metaverse is the next stage in the evolution of virtual and existing humanistic technology experience. It blurs the lines between the physical and digital world – a true meta-technology that enables new business models, forms of commerce, entertainment, communities, and experiences. The metaverse will fundamentally change and improve the way digital communication works. This also applies to how brands communicate with their customers, how celebrities connect with their fans, and how knowledge content is shared. Through the metaverse, a multitude of new business models will be developed, the true scope of which we only see hints of today – just like social media did ten years ago.
It is abundantly clear how much social media changed the world this past decade – it changed how we consume news, how political campaigns are publicized, and the nature of our communities. On the business side, social media provided new channels of engagement, vastly greater reach, branding opportunities, and other value-adds for every business in every vertical. It created new professions, skill sets, and new technologies to manage the various social platforms. Social media changed everyone’s daily life – regardless of region, age, gender, or politics. The metaverse has shown every sign that it will follow in social media’s footsteps.
What is most telling of all, is the actions taken by one of those titans of the social media revolution. In recent months, even while mired in controversy, Facebook announced a shift in business strategy, sizable future investments in the European region, and a company rebrand. Oh, and that company rebrand also came with a complete name change.
Think about that for a second. One of the biggest, most easily recognizable companies in the world just did a complete makeover purely out of the belief that the metaverse is the next era of social tech and it needs to reposition itself now. This should signify to everyone in the world either a) the company is completely inept in branding, strategy, and all things business; or b) this whole metaverse “thing” is for real.
Clearly, industry and thought leaders believe the latter. Increasingly, businesses around the world are recognizing this same truth about the metaverse and are making the jump with both feet in. Already the industry has its influencers, strong believers in the metaverse, who have been investing in new solutions dedicated to this new virtual reality. These personalities are important to the industry, as they help spread the word and explain this new concept, which is sometimes too dense for the mainstream.
With Facebook’s rebranding, we are one step closer to making the metaverse the norm, and, yes, there is a mass of pundits who believe the social media giant is making this move just to wash themselves of bad PR. But those critics are only focused on the political and social reasons behind this strategic move and don’t truly consider the real impact and value of the metaverse. After all, would a tech giant change its core identity and business if it did not believe in the business potential of its investment – regardless of the additional benefits?
But how can anyone definitively say the metaverse won’t fizzle out much like its virtual predecessor? After all, ARVR also generated a huge buzz for years and was the talk of the town, but it never fulfilled the initial potential that experts foresaw. Naturally, every technology has key differences, but in this case between ARVR and the metaverse, that difference directly relates to its pervasiveness and accessibility by the general populace.
As cool and fun as the technology and experience were each time someone put on the headset, it never took hold because it was always scripted with limited human interactions. Add to that the requirement of extraneous devices and apparatuses which users need to purchase and one can see why its demand never matched its market potential. But the metaverse is fundamentally different. The same hurdles that ARVR struggled to overcome are instead some of the core features and attractions of the metaverse.
The metaverse is an open world where its users are able to interact with the environment and each other. Why is the ability for human interaction significant? Because no matter how interesting a storyline is, by definition it is finite with a specific goal and end. Users don’t always want to follow a set path. It’s human nature to want to explore spaces while connecting with others – it’s why open-world, highly customizable games such as Fortnite are so successful. Unlike virtual experiences up to this point, the metaverse allows for social and cultural exchange and can be organically integrated into our daily lives.
For example, while social media is an active part of our daily lives, brands still struggle to communicate with customers in an effective way. Often, social media posts fail to connect emotionally and consumers might be wary of companies trying to push messages and products on them. The metaverse opens up a new door of opportunities allowing for a stronger connection with users, who are willing participants.
Fundamentally, the metaverse will ensure that “online” is not just about efficiently accessing information. Hard information is only 20 percent of human communication. That’s what the internet has been about for the last few decades. And if hard information is needed, a regular webpage is still often the optimal format. But people want more than to be informed and always have. It’s why ads convey human themes with the goal of invoking emotions and memories with sex, wonder, beauty, comedy, etc. The metaverse addresses the remaining 80 percent of communication – proximity, gestures, feelings, memories, etc.
The metaverse is not just a visual or technological experience, but a human one. The social capabilities provided mean the technology will become pervasive and have staying power, much like social media continues to do. But the metaverse will allow people to do things that they’ve never been able to do on the web – the same is true for businesses. These are the reasons why businesses after businesses are investing in the metaverse, much like they did a decade ago in social media, recognizing its potential to make life a little easier and better.
By connecting everyone in a new virtual world, the metaverse has the potential to enhance human experiences and improve business relationships with customers. The idea that digital marketing is merely a tool to sell more will be left behind as it evolves alongside the metaverse, connecting businesses to people in a more humane and personal way. Customizing virtual worlds and allowing for online meet-ups in virtual reality enables businesses to become closer to clients. At the same time, it empowers customers by allowing them to actively participate. While it may still be a new concept, society is ready to embrace this technology and take the online experience to the next level.