A puzzling concept: Explaining the metaverse and why we should be excited for it

July 20, 2022
Abstract picture of different puzzle pieces

Hands on the table: Since you’ve ended up on our website, you’re probably in some way interested in the digital world. That means you probably have already heard about the metaverse. Maybe through Meta – the parent company of Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp – or venture capitalist Matthew Ball’s metaverse primer or also from yours truly: Davies Meyer! That’s right, back in April 2022 we opened our Metaverse Café in beautiful Berlin. 

However, the spark is irrelevant now, as long as your interest in the metaverse is crackling. What technology, what benefit, what meaning hides behind this buzzword? We are here to tell you. But first there is a more pressing question: 

Who gives a damn? Or what has the metaverse got to do with ME 

Rough phrasing, but it’s the question that a large part of the digital community still answers with a shrug. So, it’s worth addressing before smothering you with all the details about it. 

One important thought here is this: A huge part of the world population and almost everyone in the global north is already living in symbiosis with the online world. Currently, we are accessing it mostly through small bricks called smartphones. If you have ever sat in a train or a bus, wondering whether all these people staring into their small black mirrors is really the ideal way of social interaction, the metaverse has already gained some ground on you.  

A better way of having parts of our social life online 

To put it in diplomatic terms: The metaverse is a response to the fact that we live digitally networked, but the infrastructure we use is not yet adequate to our social nature and how we as humans experience things. This reflects itself already in some daily situations like digital meetings. In a post-COVID and increasingly globalized world, home office and co. are here to stay. But staring into a rectangle filled with faces is not the holy grail of being social online.  

Metaverse applications that add a sense of spatiality and of real gathering would definitely improve upon this experience. Fun is another very important factor. Minecraft attracted millions of people. Give a human a sandbox and some tools and they are going to want to build a sandcastle.  If you can embed this kind of experience in the metaverse like for example Roblox is trying to do (speaking of it: visit our office in RoVille!) and make it as fun but even more connected and thus convenient as well as social, you’ve got a pretty good formula for success.  

We could go on a lot more, but let’s try and keep this post digestible. Now, since you are still reading, by now you probably do want to know more about the metaverse. Here we go. 

The metaverse is not “one thing”, so there are many definitions 

One of the biggest proponents and ambassadors of the Metaverse, Meta’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg, advocates for keeping things simple in a recent The Verge interview: “You can think about the metaverse as an embodied Internet, where instead of just viewing content, you are in it.” How does one get into the content? Zuckerberg stresses the importance of some technological advancement that has yet to happen, especially in the field of AR glasses, but is confident that within the decade we will have products powerful enough to seamlessly embed ourselves in the metaverse. 

If this definition is a bit too vague for you, there are more technical alternatives. Matthew Ball, a venture capitalist and metaverse pioneer (having authored multiple essays and now also a book on it) gives the following account in his metaverse primer 

“The Metaverse is a massively scaled and interoperable network of real-time rendered 3D virtual worlds which can be experienced synchronously and persistently by an effectively unlimited number of users with an individual sense of presence, and with continuity of data, such as identity, history, entitlements, objects, communications, and payments.” 

However, we want to stress that it is really not important to learn a metaverse definition by heart. It is still a fluid concept, even if many of the key players agree on some features quoted above like interoperability, decentralized infrastructure, continuity of data, synchronicity, massive scale, and an independent ecosystem. 

Black person with a big VR headset

Big, “oldschool” VR headsets like this one are not the right technology to bring the metaverse to the masses. But a lot of industry specialists are optimistic about the progress of smaller and more comfortable tech.

The diversity and distributed infrastructure are big assets of the Metaverse

In a way, the metaverse is a gigantic puzzle. There are a lot of different people working on it and some parts form a full picture on their own but are even better with the context of the other parts. And one thing is for sure: The puzzle is not done yet. For sure, some companies like Meta, Roblox or Epic are already connecting some pieces and a whole bunch of companies just established the Metaverse Standards Forum with conventions on how everyone can puzzle together harmoniously, but there is a lot of pioneering left to do. 

For some, that makes it removed from reality and more of a vision than a real thing, for others that makes it more exciting and, in a way, also more important to get into. After all, would we have faulted someone 10 years ago for occupying themselves with all kinds of AI topics? Probably not. It’s not the best allegory, but the argument that just because something is new and not immediately relevant to all of us, it can still merit serious time investment, stands. 

What about diversity on the side of the users?

As mentioned (way) above: The tech to make immersing oneself in the metaverse as comfortable as it needs to be is still getting there. But there are two other very important factors that can make or break the success of the metaverse and in a way they are deeply linked. Marc Zuckerberg mentions in his interview that at least for Meta’s Horizons application there is a clear skew towards males in their user demographic. If the metaverse is supposed to become a welcoming and flourishing space, that needs to change. 

A laptop with the Roblox login screen opened in a browser window.

Games like Roblox already amaze millions of players with their virtual limitless possibilities and integration with other online services. Entertainment is a great lure, but will it be enough for long-lasting success?

Who can change it? Most likely the people who breathe life into the platforms we use and love- Because we don’t love them for their own sake, but for the content we find there. So, content creators and content contributors as big pull factors in addition to the “glue” of having a social circle on a platform, will be a critical demographic to impress and convi nce. In some ways, this works already. Roblox is a thriving platform with more than 50 million daily active users. Meta itself on the other hand, supposedly quite interested in rapid growth, imposes hefty cuts on the profits of creators. It is hard to say how this will affect growth, but it doesn’t make their platform more appealing. 

Now forget the Metaverse and enter Davies’ Meyerverse! 

Actually, please do not forget everything you just read (except the pun, you can forget the pun). But pay attention to the next two paragraphs as well. We dropped some hints in the text, but we are not just talking about the metaverse. Like all things we talk about, we also try to do them. That is why our office in Berlin will be our headquarters for everything web3 related and that is why we already created a full replica of our Hamburg office in RoVille by Roblox. 

We cordially invite you to check us out over there. However, we do still know how to answer to a good old e-mail and appreciate talking with people face-to-face. So, if you are interested in discussing the metaverse, web3 or other technological innovations with us, just drop a message into our inbox and we’ll get back to you faster than you can read our last blog post on our own NFT collection. Smooth plug, huh? Catch you next time.