At the 2021 edition of the annual Connect conference the Chief Executive Officer of Facebook Mark Zuckerberg introduced Meta: a single company brand majorly designed to embrace all applications and technology previously owned by Facebook. This led to a frenzy of several memes, products, and companies adopting the metaverse theme as part of a new trend.

Meta, short from for Metaverse, refers to an artificial universe or a virtual paradise where people can interact virtually as they do physically and be immersed in a virtual world largely facilitated by deploying the duo of virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) headsets. In a general context, the metaverse is a network of three-Dimensional (3D) virtual worlds that revolve around virtual social connection with retained physical experience. For example, meta fuses the real and virtual worlds such that wearing a VR headset would afford a person the opportunity to attend a virtual music concert as if they were present in person. 

The rise of the metaverse has seen a lot of optimism on the part of investors, gamers and game developers, 3D creators, and digital artists. This optimism is largely due to expectations that the metaverse will facilitate the connection between creators and developers and their audience. This connection, to a large extent, is projected to increase opportunities for revenue in form of opportunities that afford the monetization of digital merchandise and NFTs (Non-Fungible Tokens). But amidst these speculations, we have to ponder on the rise of the metaverse and think about what is real and what is not.

Undoubtedly, the metaverse has created several use cases and subseque try, generating revenue for several companies. Some of these include the generation of more money to the tune of $1 trillion through the sale of digital assets such as NFTs, virtual tickets, and avatars on the marketplace powered by cryptocurrency. Also, anyone with access to a VR headset can join the metaverse and leverage its platform to game, travel, and work. And to cap it all, what is most real about the rise of the metaverse is that it is projected to be the future of work. Tech giants are expected to join the trend and send their workers to the metaverse given that projections affirm that the next decade will feature the usage of virtual reality in up to 23 million jobs worldwide.

Another significant concept tied to the rise of the metaverse is the prospect of future work being virtual. And that is exactly what is not really about the rise of the metaverse given that several Big Tech companies still prefer staff to work on-site. More fundamentally, the rise of the metaverse has come to be associated with issues that bother with data privacy for participants in virtual reality, as well as identity hacking that tends to be more rampant in a virtual world.

On the other hand, several cryptocurrencies and NFTs have come under the Meta umbrella term. Decentraland for example is a 3D meta-universe built on the Ethereum blockchain where users can buy and sell virtual plots of land as NFTs. Other cryptocurrency trends are meme tokens with vastly vague use cases and a ninety-nine percent reliance on crypto bull cycles and favorable market conditions.

In a recent Techcrunch event, Bill Gates speaking on NFTs and cryptocurrencies referred to them as based on “the greater fool’s theory.” The 66year old former Microsoft CEO joked that “expensive digital images of monkeys would improve the world immensely” in referring to NFT memes. Other long-term traditional investors have been heavily critical of the metaverse, NFTs, and what exactly they offer the world at the moment.

However, it is worth saying that the rise of the metaverse has been meteoric regardless of what is real and what is not. While traditional investors and boomers, in general, may be wary of a virtual world, millennials and Gen Z are quickly embracing what could potentially define the future of the internet and social connections in the next couple of years.

                                 — Oluwaferanmi Esan