Mark Zuckerberg, the CEO of Facebook, is banking his company’s future on the metaverse.
“I believe that the metaverse is the next chapter for the internet,” he stated at Facebook’s annual Connect conference on Thursday, when he also announced that the company’s name had been changed to Meta to reflect its devotion to all things metaverse. “It’s also the next chapter in our company’s history.”

You’re not alone if you have no idea what the term “metaverse” implies. Until now, it was largely a word used by futurists to define the next step in computing and the web after the introduction of personal computers and smartphones.

Here’s everything you need to know.

What is the metaverse?

The metaverse doesn’t exist yet, at least not in its current form. As of right now, there isn’t anything that could be considered a metaverse. The story of how telecoms pioneer Craig McCaw first heard about the internet may be a valuable metaphor for understanding its maturity — with a hat-tip to technology analyst Benedict Evans for the reference.

Apple CEO Steve Jobs is said to have spoken on the implications of a worldwide distributed network of networked computers on communications, business, and information. “Let’s purchase that!” McCaw exclaimed once Jobs concluded.

You can’t invest in the internet, and you can’t recognize the metaverse as a distinct product, technology, or service either. What might be a better question is: what could the metaverse become?

What is Facebook’s vision of the metaverse?

The metaverse, according to Zuckerberg, is the next step in social networking, moving beyond static user profiles that only allow individuals to submit comments and photographs. People would need to wear virtual reality headsets or augmented reality glasses to get there, which superimpose the digital environment onto the real world. Cutting-edge projection technologies might also be used to transmit lifelike holograms into the actual world.

“When you play a game with your pals, you’ll feel like you’re right there in a separate world with them, not simply on your computer alone,” Zuckerberg added. “And when you’re in a metaverse meeting, it’ll seem like you’re in the same room as each other, making eye contact and sharing a feeling of space, rather than staring at a grid of faces on a screen.”

Architects would be able to use their real workplaces to display digital building ideas. Friends would be able to attend concerts via the metaverse without needing to physically attend the event.

People may employ a variety of digital avatars to represent themselves, including a more serious one for business, a more laid-back and comical one for hanging out with friends, and a fantastical one like a robot for gaming.

People would be able to buy and sell goods and services using new economic systems based on cryptocurrencies and digital collectibles known as NFTs.

According to Zuckerberg, the metaverse will transform how people interact with smartphones and AR glasses. People would be able to “say a few words or even just make things happen by thinking about them” using hand gestures.

Is the metaverse just a Facebook project?

No. Microsoft and chipmaker Nvidia are two more corporations that are promoting the metaverse.

“We believe that many firms will construct virtual worlds and environments in the metaverse, just as there have been many companies doing things on the Web,” said Richard Kerris, vice president of Nvidia’s Omniverse platform. “It’s critical to be open and expandable so you can teleport to multiple worlds, whether they’re created by one firm or another, just as I do when I move from one web page to another.”

Companies that make video games are also taking the lead. Epic Games, the maker of the famous video game Fortnite, has received $1 billion from investors to help fund its long-term metaverse aspirations. Another major player is game platform Roblox, which describes the metaverse as a place where “people can come together within millions of 3D experiences to study, work, play, create, and socialise.”

Consumer brands are also attempting to capitalise on the trend. Gucci, an Italian fashion business, teamed up with Roblox in June to sell a line of digital-only accessories. Coca-Cola and Clinique both sold digital tokens that were marketed as a way into the metaverse.

The metaverse’s characteristics and challenges

Even though all of this explains the metaverse’s roots, it can’t predict exactly how it will appear. Indeed, the metaverse is still in its conceptual stages.

Investor Matthew Ball, on the other hand, has identified seven key characteristics that may assist interested minds in imagining how it might take shape. These include its permanence (no evident ‘on’ or ‘off’ to access), synchronisation (existing in real-time), and interoperability, as well as the fact that it is inhabited by both personal and business content and experiences.

Of course, there are concerns about what the metaverse will imply for privacy, whether it would be inclusive, and how to minimise potentially dangerous content and surroundings. Because the metaverse is still in its early stages of development, there is still time to design these attributes in.

Many of the world’s major technological corporations are investing in the creation of the metaverse because it appears to be a promising concept. It is possible that if it is successful, it will change consumer and business behaviour.

What happens if Meta succeeds?

One problem with Meta’s attempt to be the sole firm supporting the metaverse is the significant role it would play in our lives if its vision of the future becomes a reality. In recent months, the firm has struggled with outages on its core apps, which have rendered big portions of the world unable to interact — and the ramifications of such an event in an all-pervasive VR reality like the metaverse might be enormous.

“The metaverse is presented in such an idealistic and naive way,” adds Bucher. “It makes a lot of broad assumptions about how individuals spend their lives,” says one reviewer. I’m sure it wouldn’t be everyone’s cup of tea to have it in their living room.”

“They aim to conquer yet another world,” Chander explains. “Now that they’ve conquered the physical world, they aim to dominate the virtual metaverse.”

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