Now everyone has their own idea of the metaverse. We talk about it with reference to virtual reality applications, to augmented reality, but also to games of any kind. All things that were there before the hype grew, after Zuckerberg’s announcement in October 2021. What isn’t there yet is the metaverse conceptualized as the next evolution of the Internet, a network made up not of locations but of static 3D digital worlds (that work even when we’re not there). and where interaction with the environment has consequences over time), where one moves freely with one’s identity (interoperability).
If we get there, it won’t be 15/20 years ago, when efforts toward system standardization and interoperability will succeed (see the Open Metaverse Interoperability Group’s work and on X3D and MMOX standards).
In the meantime, it’s a good idea to orient yourself in the current territory, made up of different platforms that define themselves as metaverses. So I decided to open one Metaverse Observatory With the idea of studying the evolution of immersive 3D spaces, gather best practices Branded experience and create a culture around these topics.
The Observatory’s first product is a map of metaverses, understood as digital worlds, aimed at consumers. In the analysis, I considered only those that can actually be used, with the following characteristics:
- 3D environments
- Share spaces simultaneously by several people
- Sociability (I’ve left out pure games, without mainstream social elements)
- With identity based on freely movable avatars and the ability to interact with others and with the environment (I have excluded those where the avatar is confined to a single environment)
I didn’t consider platforms that are specifically for the business world (eg Engage, Virbela) and those that mainly create 3D digital worlds (eg Vircadia and OpenSimulator).
It then categorized the identified virtual worlds according to two dimensions: the access technology (browser/app or virtual reality device) and the operating technology of the metaverse’s internal economy (blockchain or not).
For each quadrant I sort the services by year of release (oldest at the bottom, newest at the top)
Metaverses in virtual reality (non-blockchain)
In the first quadrant I entered the worlds that can be explored by wearing a viewer (standalone or connected to a computer) and any other tactile devices. These applications do not use blockchain technology to control the internal economy. We find:
desktop/browser metaverse (non-blockchain)
In the second quadrant we find the worlds that can be accessed through a browser or by downloading an application for desktop or mobile device. It’s the largest group because it includes a wide variety of solutions, even those that have been around for many years, such as active worlds and second life.
Also here are apps designed for kids like Gaia Online, Woozworld, Avakin Life, Roblox, and Minecraft. Moreover, there are also games that have a social component like Fortnite.
The most used environments are Roblox (which claims 54,700,000 daily active users), Fortnite (estimated to have 24 million daily users), and Minecraft (estimated 15 million daily).
Metaverses on the blockchain and desktop/browser
In the third quadrant are universes created using blockchain technology and accessible via browser or application (desktop or mobile). On these worlds, lands and tokenized objects (NFTs) can be purchased, using cryptocurrency issued by the individual service. These NFTs also have an off-market market value within the reference metaverse.
These are environments that are still little used, also due to the barriers to entry associated with the familiarity one must have with the world of cryptography. Decentraland has an estimated 300,000 monthly users.
Metaverses on the blockchain in virtual reality
In the fourth quadrant, we find universes that are developed on the blockchain and can only be accessed through virtual reality devices.
This is the first attempt to map the existing metamorphosis, but it can be used as a reference point to understand the direction the development of these digital worlds will take.
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Thanks: Enrico Speranza and Ryan Schultz