Social media is all set to take the leap onto the next level and upgrade itself in a bid to give users a deeper interactive experience.
The metaverse is a virtual world where social media users would be able to interact with each other through the means of avatars along with being able to make purchases, play games, host parties, and go to concerts.
It is aimed at mimicking real-life activities in a virtual world in order to further integrate social media in their daily lives.
Although many companies have been working on it for over a decade, a major push into this new phenomenon came from Meta Chairman Mark Zuckerberg in late October 2021 when he announced to rename the social media giant (then Facebook) to Metaverse.
Facebook had already acquired Instagram and WhatsApp and in October 2021, the company changed its official name to Meta.
Following an announcement by the top social media giant, a shift towards the metaverse accelerated.
It will take many years for it to become a reality. In an interview, Zuckerberg predicted that major features would probably take 5-10 years to be integrated in the metaverse.
Within months of announcement, the allied industry (sectors that play a role in turning a project into reality) of the metaverse, braced themselves for difficult yet prosperous years ahead.
The metaverse would be made possible through the integration of augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR), cryptocurrencies, internet of things (IOT), 5G internet, 3D modelling, artificial intelligence (AI), cybersecurity and non-fungible tokens (NFTs).
Companies specialising in these sectors saw renewed investment and new firms are setting up shop everyday in a bid to cash in on the metaverse. This has also given birth to mini-crypto hubs such as Dubai and Singapore, digital asset managing firms, 3D modelling firms and AI companies.
The rapid shift towards metaverse has also motivated a lot of countries to introduce frameworks of digital assets and intensify the cybersecurity ecosystem. In addition, a lot of tech giants have begun working to establish their own metaverse which would be different from Meta’s virtual world.
Different firms are offering beta version of the service to their customers.
However, the stakes of Meta’s plans are high because Zuckerberg’s Facebook made him a visionary and pioneer of social media. Whether he makes a prominent name in the virtual world is yet to be seen but right now, everything seems to be in his favour.
The next one to two decades will see competition for metaverses tightening with each company racing to introduce new features.
While it seems like a futuristic concept and offers a lot of opportunities, it does not come without its own set of challenges.
Right now it is still in trial and error mode and its actual costs and benefits will emerge once this new technology attracts a considerable number of users.
After social media, the concept of metaverse is expected to be the next big thing and expected to deliver something new to the public and hence, it is predicted to motivate a lot of users to sign up in the initial days.
Moreover, while the delay is understandable, it is only inflating the hype in the market.
The metaverse is expected to created a lot of jobs in the allied industry including in AI, engineering, software development, AR/ VR handset production, chip making, 5G and many others. This one concept alone can generate millions of new employment opportunities.
In addition, the metaverse seems like a place where users will be able to implement more of their creativity.
It envisions giving people their own virtual spaces where they can create virtual homes, travel, do jobs and meet new people. It adds a new dimension to creativity because the metaverse is expected to possess nearly unlimited resources. Therefore, the possibilities are endless for users.
Apart from this, it will deliver a renewed push to emerging technologies such as cryptocurrencies, AR/ VR and NFTs. These three components will play a vital role in the metaverse. Cryptocurrency is expected to be the prime medium of exchange in the metaverse.
Just as with any new technology, the metaverse currently posits a lot of doubts for people.
For example, it is debatable how quickly it will be adopted by the general public. As nascent technology, it can take many years for the metaverse to attract the desired number of users.
One problem is that the equipment needed to access it is costly. AR/ VR handsets, cryptocurrency, 5G and high-speed internet are quite expensive at the moment.
If the metaverse is introduced for users today, not a lot are likely to opt to sign up for it. The belief that all these components will become affordable in near future cannot be ruled out.
One huge concern is the lack of laws in the metaverse. As a separate world, whichever metaverses exist today are devoid of the rule of law. Therefore, this would make the metaverse similar to the wild, wild west.
Recently, a woman was harassed in the metaverse that raised the question of the rule of law in the digital world.
Given the scope of the metaverse, a bigger penalty is needed than just a suspension of accounts.
Other than this, if the metaverse fails to attract users, it will lay waste a huge investment.
Nearly a decade ago, Google hyped up the GoogleGlass and marketed it as a wearable computer, however, it failed miserably and lost a lot of money. While the creators of the metaverse are optimistic, they should keep in mind past technological failures.
A main aim of the metaverse from a company’s point of view seems to be advertisements. Ads are already one of the most criticised feature of the social media and their advent to the metaverse is inevitable.
Users should brace themselves for a plethora of promotional material in the digital world because ads are here to stay.
Finally, with a digital tool, the risk of cybersecurity is perpetually looming and companies would have to deal with hacking and other concerns every once in a while.
The article does not necessarily reflect the opinion of Business Recorder or its owners