The Metaverse at first seems fueled mostly by silicon valley sci-fi nerds and gamers rather than professionals focused on productivity and practicality. Many of today’s jobs and products in the western world don’t serve an essential purpose but are meant to enhance our general life experiences. Faster communication and travel, and brighter, higher definition screens aren’t exactly essential to our survival but are often to increase efficiency and comfort to give us breathing room for other pursuits.
For most of human history people survived without the internet, but the internet is still high in demand and has embedded itself so deep into society that it’s become essential to every aspect of our lives. Streaming, video games, shopping, banking, investing, carpooling, networking, socializing, and far more. If Covid-19 had arrived in the ’80s, social distancing would have been significantly more difficult.
The internet has gone from web1 static internet days of the 90s to the web2 interactive platform of today. The web2 internet has people too distracted by their phones and “missing out” on the real world. At a bar friends are checking on their Instagram. At the family dinner the kids are scrolling through TikTok. At the park people watch YouTube on their phones.
The problem is web2 is only accessed on these little rectangles on our laptops or phones or TV screens. So we take our attention off the surrounding environment. A Metaverse (at least the augmented reality features of one) would have the internet mixed with our real life surroundings. This means seeing restaurant ratings pop up besides the restaurants you walk by instead of having to search on your phone. Or arrows appearing in front of you pointing you to the nearest train station.
The Metaverse in VR could serve many practical uses. Training simulations, VR conference meetings, exotic tours, and many other uses. The key benefit is a 3D immersive internet that eliminates the need to keep switching from reality to a screen’s user interface.
Many people also call web3 the decentralized internet. Facebook, Epic Games, and all the other companies that are looking into the Metaverse are centralized. Facebook’s rebrand to Meta in 2021 brought discussions of the Metaverse to the general population but under marketing that suggests that Meta would be the underlying platform for the Metaverse as a whole. This has caused users who criticized the social network to also criticize the idea of a Metaverse.
And the decentralized platforms for the Metaverse such as Decentraland or Sandbox has created artificial scarcity with limited plots of virtual land, which caused prices for these virtual pieces of land to go for thousands, if not millions, of dollars. Or NFTs of 3D objects selling for millions.
So the Metaverse, like the internet in the ’90s, isn’t essential. But the manufactured demand of today, with artificial scarcity fueling desire and heavily researched corporate marketing, will turn a sci-fi side project into the next stage of the internet, Web3.