With all the hype about the Metaverse, billions spent, land grabs in virtual worlds and even Facebook renaming themselves to Meta, you might think something great was happening. However it feels like something great may happen but the Metaverse is still in it’s infancy and frankly feels like AOL.
If you were around and online 25 years ago, you may have signed up to a new Internet through the darling of the age, AOL, and, if you were like me, you would have been remarkably unimpressed and disappointed. The problem wasn’t AOL themselves, it was that when they were born the Internet was so new they created a curated version that newbies could handle. This was almost a recreation of the Internet so you got AOL news, AOL search… in fact everything was AOL.
On AOL the wild west of the Internet was hidden away and you were in a separate parallel world. If you knew how, you could press a magic button that took you out of AOL onto the Internet proper, and once you’d escaped, again if you were like me, you promptly uninstalled AOL and migrated to the world of Yahoo!, with Yahoo! search, Yahoo! email, Yahoo! Messenger and the massively liberated access of the entire Internet at your disposal.
The Metaverse is still in the AOL days where a curated experience is needed, perhaps you like the cartoonish Decentraland or the more life like Spatial, but whichever Metaverse you pick the experience is likely to be disappointing as you’re in a world that’s not designed for you and your tech.
What to expect from your first Metaverse experience
Try Decentraland on your mobile and you’ll instantly be told it won’t work and to go find a desktop. Log in in your browser and they’ll tell you it’s another crappy experience and you should really download their software and run as a desktop app. Oh, and do you have the crypto wallet you now need? Not everyone does, outside the world of tech, hardly any run of the mill consumer has signed up to crypto!
When you get into the brave new world, you can be forgiven for thinking it’s slow, clunky and deeply unimpressive compared to your Playstation experience, and that’s probably because you are on a desktop instead of a VR headset, your Internet connection is too slow and your desktop hardware not powerful enough. Decide you don’t like the cartoon world you’ve found yourself in and you can’t hop to another Metaverse, you’ve got to start all over again.
Metaverse Fashion Week signals a promising future
But it’s not all bad, just as back in the 1990’s users eventually escaped from AOL, soon the Metaverse will escape from itself, with this week’s Metaverse Fashion week has been shining a light on the future. Portals between different Metaverses were created so you could jump from Decentraland to Roblox, to Spatial, to DressX, and to Ready Player Me. It wasn’t seamless and you wouldn’t always end up with the same avatar wearing the same clothes as they are in effect different worlds with different capabilities.
Whether you’re into Adidas or Diesel, Coach or Tommy Hilfiger, Dolce & Gabbana or Balenciaga, they were all at the Metaverse Fashion week with different experiences on offer and varying portals into different Metaverses. For some, the brands would have been enough to tempt them into the Metaverse for the first time. Some may have faltered at the first step while other brave souls would have made it as far as Fashion week and may even stay after the event closes and become Metaverse pioneers.
Many like me will take the decision that the Metaverse isn’t quite ready yet and after a couple of decades I’m not minded to re-live my early days with another AOL like experience. The Metaverse is coming but it needs to be joined up and, like the Internet is today, a single experience were you can hop from website to website seamlessly.
The Future of the Metaverse
I’m predicting that one of three things will happen:
- Either the multiple Metaverses will come together with seamless portals between the worlds akin to clicking on an Internet weblink,
- Or one will become dominant with the others fading into the past in the manner of Yahoo! who have virtually vanished compared to when my whole online life depended on them.
- Or a new Metaverse will arrive with a new open framework for interconnectability, much in the way Google usurped AOL, Yahoo! Alta Vista and all those that came before it. Today’s Metaverse iterations will be forced to connect to this new Metaverse or slowly wither away with an aging population.
Whatever happens, the Metaverse future is exciting, but in today’s disparate Metaverses with little or no interoperability, brands and retailers who are forging a path and investing in experimentation are doing us all a favour. They’re spending their marketing dollars with uncertain ROI at best and at worst getting close to zero return. Watch, wait, come back for next year’s Metaverse Fashion week and assess if we’re still in an AOL type experience or if the Metaverses merge into a single cohesive experience.
(Oh, and get yourself a VR headset, faster Internet connection and more powerful desktop… you’ll thank me when you join the Metaverse!)
The metaverse, cryptocurrency and NFTs are dying… they need new investors to jump in, so the original ones can cash out and then it’ll tank completely. Also it’s terrible for the environment.
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