Speed read: Meta’s vision for the metaverse in three minutes | WARC | The Feed
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Speed read: Meta’s vision for the metaverse in three minutes
We read Nick Clegg’s metaverse manifesto, so you don’t have to – Meta’s president of global affairs, and former UK deputy prime minister, has written a long and detailed essay/mission statement setting out the social media company’s vision for the metaverse with some early indications of the issues it sees coming down the track: here’s what you need to know.
Why it matters
For its next phase as a “metaverse company”, Meta wants to sketch out the principles, technical fundamentals and qualities it hopes an embodied internet will develop.
What he talks about: shared standards and protocols, possibilities and opportunities like in health and education, some thoughts on rules.
What he doesn’t talk about: in-depth discussions of privacy, how to launch a brand in the metaverse, anything about NFTs or Web3 (as understood as a blockchain-based internet). He also doesn’t say much about the economics of the metaverse, only that he expects it to trigger a deeper digital transformation. However, he suggests many jobs will be created servicing the metaverse.
What it is: “It’s the next generation of the internet — a more immersive, 3D experience”, Clegg writes. Its defining quality will be a feeling of presence, like you are right there with another person or in another place.”
Crucially, these identities remain fixed throughout the metaverse, understood as a “universal, virtual layer that everyone can experience on top of today’s physical world — one where you can have a consistent identity (or even set of identities) that people can recognize wherever they see you.”
Often, these experiences are described as VR, or perhaps even AR, but Clegg – and therefore Meta – is clear that “it stretches from using avatars or accessing metaverse spaces on your phone, through AR glasses that project computer-generated images onto the world around us, to mixed reality experiences that blend both physical and virtual environments.”
But if you’re looking for a neat list of elements to show clients or managers, these are the three key aspects defining the metaverse, per Clegg:
- Ephemerality: “The metaverse will constitute a shift towards live, speech-based communication that will often feel as transient as face-to-face conversations.”
- Embodiment: communicating through physicality and gesture. “This real-time, 3D synchronicity is a crucial difference with the way we interact in today’s internet.”
- Immersion: the eventual experience of interpersonal interaction should “feel as if we are actually in a specific space with other people — shared environments where social interaction feels natural”.
Interoperability and the core of digital items
Without shared protocols (like HTML or even shared formats like the GIF image file) the metaverse will sputter as a collection of VR platforms and games; it needs to connect. But for that, you need agreement.
“There’s nothing inevitable about individual companies adopting industry-wide standards, but they will have a strong incentive to align on ways for consumers to take digital goods such as clothing for avatars from one platform to another.”
Clegg here borrows an idea that the VCs Matthew Ball and Jacob Navok sketched out in a now foundational essay: To aid platforms and technologies’ development – while also checking the rentier tendencies of the dominant platforms – they suggest an ecosystem of ‘interchange’ solutions “that interconnect, translate, and exchange information/users/assets across and between myriad different and competing platforms.”
This is vital to transferable digital items – critical to the idea of metaverse fashion that has so fascinated the industry. And no, he doesn’t mention NFTs. They will likely be much simpler, more “like GIF or JPEG image files in today’s internet.”
Rules and governance
Keen metaverse watchers will be aware of Meta’s introduction of a personal space boundary, having emerged as a problem. This points to the additional layers of complexity that a 3D internet platform supposes. As ever, it’s not about policing what is illegal, it’s what to do about bad-but-not-illegal behaviour.
Rules are more likely to be like the customs of a bar rather than the rules of a forum. “In fact, the immediacy of metaverse spaces makes it more likely that this sort of synchronous, ephemeral communication will be far more prevalent than the tangible, text-based communication that dominates much of today’s internet.”
Bars have responsibility, but in a metaverse so might the platform. Meta has partially prepared for this with features like a “rolling buffer” currently available for Meta Quest users in horizon worlds which holds onto audio data for a short period on the user’s device so that a record is kept that can evidence reports of abusive or harmful content.
A sense of the inevitable
“The metaverse is coming, one way or another”, Clegg concludes.
Sourced from Meta, Matthew Ball, WARC.
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