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The Metaverse has been described as ‘the new UX layer for the internet’. If it is, then every brand, retailer and enterprise will need to embrace it. MEF has just published a special report into this elusive topic.  MEF Features Editor and report author Tim Green shares a taster.

Last year, investors spent $350 million across 65,000 transactions to buy land in The Sandbox. This was quite a leap of faith. Why? Because these speculators can’t physically visit their plots or build anything real on them. The Sandbox is a Metaverse – a persistent virtual 3D world that can only be entered via a computer screen.

The Sandbox ‘land grab’ is just the latest proof that the Metaverse is the hottest topic in tech circles right now. Needless to say most (all) of the MEF community will be well aware of this. At Mobile World Congress 2022, Metaverse was everywhere – from the showfloor to the conference sessions.

Yet the Metaverse remains an elusive concept. Even those immersed in the topic know there are fundamental questions for which there are still no clear answers such as:

  • Do you have to wear a headset to enter the Metaverse?
  • Can you simply scroll the Metaverse on a phone screen?
  • Do you need an avatar?
  • Will there be one Metaverse or hundreds?
  • How is the Metaverse linked to Web 3.0?
  • How is the Metaverse linked to Blockchain?
  • Which companies are doing the most interesting work?
  • How will the Metaverse change gaming or work or education?

Perhaps most important: is the Metaverse an addition to the existing internet or is it a complete replacement?

These questions are too fundamental for the mobile ecosystem to ignore. They relate to every central challenge that the MEF community is dedicated to solving: payment, identity, messaging, security, trust.

It’s for this reason that we have been working on a special Metaverse report. It’s available now. Members can download it for free here.

Needless to say, summing up the state of the Metaverse is a tricky proposition. In a sense, we are still at the embryonic stage of this exciting new technology. It’s like 1992 when we were still calling the Internet the information superhighway. At that point, no one could have predicted Tinder or TikTok or Slack or Pokemon Go.

But that doesn’t mean we should ignore the speculation – or the experiments that some of the world’s most innovative companies are running. Facebook is at the forefront of this activity. It changed its name to Meta such is its faith in the Metaverse concept, and has launched projects such as Horizon Worlds to test its potential.

Of course, Meta owns Oculus, so it’s no surprise that the company’s vision relies on virtual reality and dedicated headsets. But this is not the only way.

Other experiments indicate that you might not even require holographic 3D to access the Metaverse. Minecraft and Roblox are good examples of games turned into virtual worlds. These games demonstrate many of the qualities we associate with the Metaverse concept – persistence, avatars, mass participation etc – but can be accessed easily on a smartphone.

It’s revealing that huge brands such as Nike, H&M and Sotheby’s are already building prototype presences in these 3D worlds.

Another area attracting considerable interest is the intersection of blockchain, Web 3.0 and Metaverse. The aforementioned Sandbox project is leading this charge. It is a virtual world based on the Ethereum blockchain and with its own native cryptocurrency, SAND. Players can create game experiences in The Sandbox for free, but they can also acquire plots of land represented as NFTs on the platform.

Whatever our definitions, we can agree that the Metaverse remains an embryonic idea. This is partly for conceptual reasons. But also technical. Super-fast connectivity and extremely low latency will be required to support the full-on Metaverse experience. For this reason, the underlying Wifi and 5G networks need to evolve too.

But even in this formative period, it is important to keep on top of developments. Why? Because the Metaverse should eventually create business opportunities for all stakeholders in the mobile ecosystem.

Goldman Sachs has predicted that the Metaverse could be an $8 trillion opportunity. This might prove to be prescient or it might be nonsense. But if the Metaverse really it is this new UX layer for the internet – then every brand, retailer and enterprise will need to embrace it.

MEF’s white paper provides a useful resource for MEF members looking for a clear introduction to this important topic. Its content includes…

  • An outline of the origins of the Metaverse
  • Market definitions
  • Detailed examples of existing projects
  • An analysis of the technological advances that are making the Metaverse feasible
  • An exploration how MEF’s key areas of focus – payments, identity, trust, communications – apply to the Metaverse

Download the paper here.

Tim Green

Features Editor, MEF Minute