The tech industry in Silicon Valley has a new favorite project: the Metaverse. The digital parallel world is intended to expand the Internet three-dimensionally. Facebook has even set up its own department for this purpose.
The science-fiction adventure “Ready Player One” from 2018 by Steven Spielberg comes quite close to the idea of the “Metaverse”. In the film, the main character, a teenager, spends most of the time in a virtual world made up of countless simulations. The metaverse is not just gaming, says Matthew Ball. It is a kind of successor to the mobile Internet, as the former Amazon manager and today’s tech investor says in the ARD interview. Ball caused a sensation a few weeks ago with a large essay on the Metaverse. In it he describes what the successor to the Internet could look like. Even Facebook boss Mark Zuckerberg has made Ball’s articles compulsory reading for his employees.
The network becomes permeable
“The metaverse is an extension of today’s Internet,” says Ball. “It’s not about the supercomputer in our pocket or that we are constantly connected to the network. It’s about the fact that we spend more and more time, leisure and work spend in virtual worlds and simulations. “For Ball, the metaverse is a permeable net. Technology silos, isolated services such as iMessage from Apple or WhatsApp from Facebook, Signal or Telegram do not exist there. Data from different providers can be exchanged without any problems – keyword interoperability. There is no need to log in and out of different accounts. The metaverse has its own economy with its own currency. The offline and online worlds are moving closer together. But it will take many decades before such a metaverse actually exists, Ball believes. But we could already see a change. He cites cryptocurrencies as examples, which are just as much a part of our everyday lives as the huge game communities of Roblox or Fortnite.
Crypto trend as a sign of change”
In 2015, less than five billion dollars were spent on virtual goods. Last year it was already 55 billion,” says Ball. “In 2015 there were hardly any people who took part in large game simulations such as Fortnite. Today there are more than 350 million people every day. And the cryptocurrencies also show us that there is a social change here towards virtual things. “Above all, gaming platforms are pioneers. Young people meet at Fortnite. Events from the offline world take place there online, for example, concerts. Online games are played together. An even better example for Ball is the online gaming platform Roblox, which is made for children and young people and has 40 million users every day: “There you have a single identity across all levels, an ongoing network of friends, and always the same access a common currency. That is probably the closest thing to the idea of the metaverse at the moment. ”
The excitement in the tech industry
In Silicon Valley, the essays by Ball, the ideas of Tim Sweeney, founder of the game company Epic, or David Baszucki, head of Roblox, have roused the tech elite. Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella recently spoke of a change towards “metaverse” business models. And for a few days now, Facebook has even had its own department for this purpose, which is supposed to deal with strategic approaches. From the consumer’s point of view, a metaverse would be welcome because it would be easier to transfer your data from one provider to the other. Ball is particularly critical of companies that cook their own soup and want to isolate themselves. They could get under the wheels, he predicts – for example, the billion-dollar company Apple.
Apple is reluctant – still
“Apple specifically blocks technologies that would be important for a metaverse because they endanger the company’s business model,” says the investor. “Even their 30 percent tax in the app store prevents the developer community from setting up businesses that could build a metaverse. In addition, the company rejects open standards that could ensure interoperability between offers.”The ideas of what such a metaverse might look like are still rather vague. If only because today’s networks are too slow and our computers too weak. There is agreement, however, that today’s networks will merge more and more. The metaverse merely as a new hype term, to be dismissed as Silicon Valley spinning, would be too short-sighted.