The future of social media lies in the metaverse. Whether you like it, hate it, or don’t know enough to pass judgment just yet, it’s inevitable that this is where we’ll one day mingle. And that day is coming sooner than you might think.
Like all new technologies, the metaverse – that vast, amorphous, intangible space – has been touted as a game-changer before it’s capable of changing the game. It takes time for reality to catch up with the hype. But when we reach that threshold, it will radically change the way we socialize, interact, and gather information about the world around us.
So what might a metaverse-based social media look like? And which platform providers will determine the place we’ll call our virtual home from home?
Social Media Has to Change
It’s easy to forget that, once upon a time, social media was fun. When Facebook was still novel and Twitter was still spreading its wings, people used these emerging platforms for their intended purpose: to connect with new friends, reconnect with old, teach, learn, entertain, and be entertained. While social media today has vastly improved from a technological perspective, it’s also become more divisive.
The stoking of culture wars, rise of censorship, and interference of governments (as documented in The Twitter Files) have resulted in soc-med balkanization. Web users have splintered off into factions based on age, interests, and preferred medium: text or video. Zoomers love TikTok. Boomers love Facebook. Journos and politicians favor Twitter. Influencers prefer Insta or YouTube.
When it comes to picking a platform to serve as the town square, web users are spoilt for choice. But in terms of venues where free speech and personal privacy are the norm, there’s a dearth of options. So where does the metaverse fit into all this?
If its architects are proven correct, the metaverse will form a digital equivalent of the New World four centuries ago: a vast and unexplored land with enough space for all tribes and denominations to live in peace.
There’s More Than One Way to Make a Metaverse
The challenge of creating a metaverse – or rather metaverses – is being tackled from two sides. On the web2 side, we have established social media giants, not least Meta, trying to make in-roads into this expanding digital domain. And on the web3 side, we have native projects creating the infrastructure that will turn the metaverse into a reality. Projects like Peer and Looking Glass.
The former is creating a real-world metaverse that utilizes spatial computing and mixed reality; think tools like AR used to overlay digital objects in physical spaces. Peer has developed the metaverse equivalent of the URL which it’s dubbed UTS: Universal Time-Space. This enables the metaverse structure to map to physical space, making it fully persistent.
Essentially, with UTS you can direct users within the metaverse not only to a specific place, but also a specific date – say, the grassy knoll on 22 November 1963 or the Battle of Hastings in 1066.
Looking Glass Labs, meanwhile, is developing the architecture that will be utilized within the metaverse: NFTs, virtual galleries, play-to-earn tokenization and smart web3 monetization models. Combined, these two companies provide the clearest indication yet of what the metaverse may look and feel like and what we’ll be able to do when we get there.
Rome Wasn’t Built In a Day
It’s not just free speech that will be under the spotlight in this new frontier; it’s also the freedom of users to act out scenarios that could cause offense or even be illegal if replicated in the physical world. If someone attacks you in the metaverse, who do you run to? This might sound nonsensical, but it’s the stuff that metaverse brands agonize over. Some companies, such as Looking Glass Labs, have already laid out policies dictating behavior that will deem a persona non grata within the metaverse.
For now, the metaverse is reserved for early adopters only. But as the tech matures and the promise becomes reality, it will form the jumping off point for a wave of social media users seeking new experiences and new realms to roam. Love or hate it, you’ll eventually learn to live within it. It’s only a matter of time.