Welcome to the Metaverse

Photo/Image Courtesy of Julien Tromeur, Unsplash

On February 3, Meta stockholders looked on with horror as the social media parent company’s stock nosedived by a drastic twenty-six percent, becoming one of the worst one-day drops in stock market history. This plunge followed the company’s projection of slowing profits for the upcoming quarter which many attributed to the company’s scramble to rebrand and compete with newer forms of social media like TikTok.

In late October of last year, Mark Zuckerberg sent shockwaves across the tech and financial industries by rebranding his company that includes Facebook, Whatsapp, and Messenger “Meta” — a change that nodded to what Zuckerberg saw as the company’s future. He stated that he wanted to prepare for a future “where friends from across the globe use their metaverse holograms to game together or attend concerts.” 

In late October of last year, Mark Zuckerberg sent shockwaves across the tech and financial industries by rebranding his company that includes Facebook, Whatsapp, and Messenger “Meta”.

While teenagers familiar with games like Fortnite and Roblox were already well-acquainted with the concept of the metaverse, Zuckerberg’s decision brought the unfamiliar term into the popular vernacular, leading many to wonder what the metaverse is and how it would affect the world of the living going forward.

Simply defined, the metaverse can be described as “a fully realized digital world that exists beyond the analog one in which we live,” or more broadly as “a variety of virtual experiences, environments, and assets that … hint at what the internet will become next.” 

Millions of Canadians unknowingly sought sanctuary within the metaverse during the early months of the coronavirus pandemic by immersing themselves in games like Animal Crossing: New Horizon, Roblox, and Minecraft — all of which centre around building a new digital world — while others went even further by participating in video games through virtual reality headsets. People have also participated in the metaverse by simply building up one’s presence on social media or purchasing cryptocurrency.

Millions of Canadians unknowingly sought sanctuary within the metaverse during the early months of the coronavirus pandemic.

The notion of the metaverse is slowly inching beyond the tech industry and into the world of finance since major companies like Microsoft and Facebook seized upon the “metaverse mania” and the Roblox (NYSE: RBLX) IPO shot its valuation up to $38 billion. Investors also view the metaverse as a lucrative area of the tech industry because they view it as the natural progression of Web 2.0: “The reason the metaverse is getting so much attention now is because enough people believe it has a real shot at dominating a large chunk of how we spend time online.” These changes are already occurring for those ahead of the curve with companies like Meta developing a beta program for virtual workspaces and Travis Scott hosting a concert in the world of Epic Games’ Fortnite.

The notion of the metaverise is slowly inching beyond the tech industry and into the world of finance.

Another major facet of the metaverse is projected to be the market for virtual real estate in metaverse worlds, with one of the largest being Decentraland. The virtual world boasts 300,000 monthly users as well as a fashion district where big brands can sell items for avatars to wear, virtual casinos, and “Crypto Valley” which is home to the offices of various tech companies. Lorne Sugarman, the CEO of the Metaverse Group which specialises in buying real estate in the metaverse, sees the development as a highly profitable opportunity, aspiring to become the Brookfield Properties of the digital world: “We view this stage like the early days of European settlement in the U.S. Imagine you could buy property on Fifth Avenue back in the 1800s. Real estate in the metaverse will appreciate as more people and brands arrive.”

While many predict that the multiverse will become more integrated into everyone’s lives over the coming years, its rise in popularity leads many to wonder about its societal implications. Some people eagerly await the proliferation of the metaverse, imagining it as an egalitarian, escapist oasis where “French people will be nice to American tourists… you will not need to take 10,000 steps a day to avoid getting fat… the stock market will behave rationally… and your boss will not be a jerk.” However, there are already signs that the metaverse experience will be highly stratified based on how much someone is willing to pay. Recently, someone paid $450,000 in order to have their virtual home next to Snoop Dogg’s, which indicates that some may need to pay a hefty price in order to have the metaverse life of their dreams.

It is still far too early to forecast exactly what the metaverse will look like and how individuals will utilize it – whether for productivity, communication, or simply recreation. While the metaverse is still a relatively new idea, its influence over the business and technology sectors indicate that it is going to vastly change the internet as we know it. Whether we truly grasp what “the metaverse” is or it goes completely over our heads, it is likely here to stay.

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