As we are getting closer to the Metaverse in its early form, the pervasive digital world of tomorrow is starting to take on a more defined shape for us. By now, many have realised that the Metaverse is not simply a massive RPG style VR chat room – it is the digital world of tomorrow and will come to replace, not simply complement, the internet.
As a technology that aims to enter nearly all aspects of our lives, from entertainment to work to socialisation to news consumption and more, the Metaverse will be based on a number of cornerstones, its key fundamental blocks. Among the fundamental blocks being discussed are blockchain technology, tokenisation, VR and AR technologies, and distributed bandwidth. Most of these deal with the technological, whether software or hardware, part of the Metaverse.
There is, however, one monumental cornerstone of the Metaverse that has less to do with the underlying technology and is more related to the human/demographic factor – social media and the human interaction enabled by it.
The New Format of Social Media in the Metaverse
Social media will undoubtedly feature in the Metaverse in the most profound way. We are not talking about social media in its current, less interactive format. Forget likes, shares, video reels, or images of breakfast on Bali. The interactive one-to-one, one-to-many, and many-to-many formats of communication between people will feature prominently in the Metaverse and the modern dominant social media networks are best positioned to occupy the niche.
The leading social media platforms are already experimenting with early prototypes of such Metaverse-based communications. Meta’s Facebook Live Rooms and Twitter’s Twitter Spaces are the initial steps in this direction.
Current Social Media Giants Will Dominate in the Metaverse
Due to the disruptive nature of the Metaverse, there is a belief among some in the business community that the current dominant social media platforms – Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Reddit, and beyond – will become obsolete or redundant in the Metaverse environment. They would be superseded by new players and platforms, and would go down in the history books as the dominant social networks of the pre-Metaverse period only.
One argument being put forward to support the “new players” theory concerns the rise of the internet industry. The large tech giants that came to dominate the business world after the arrival of the internet – Amazon, Google, eBay, and later Apple and Meta – didn’t exist or were corporate minions before the internet became widely available in households in the mid-1990s.
In 1994, there was only one technology company among America’s top 10 corporations – IBM, in 4th position. Twenty years later, when the internet had established its pervasive rule over our lives, 3 out of 5 top US companies by market cap were technology giants – Apple (1st), Google (3rd), and Microsoft (4th).
The rise of the totally new dominant players produced by the internet’s arrival gives some analysts a good argument to support the “new players” theory in regard to the Metaverse. However, in our view, what is more likely to happen is that the current major social media platforms, at least some of them, evolve to offer new Metaverse-oriented functionality.
The Metaverse Will Build Upon the Internet
When the internet disrupted the world in the 1990s, a completely new, revolutionary medium of communication and information consumption was born. The old players hadn’t evolved to adapt to this new reality simply because there were no old players to speak of. The leading tech firms of that epoch – IBM, HP, Eastman Kodak, and Xerox – were all in the hardware business and didn’t really know what to do about “this new internet thing”. The niche was completely greenfield, and the likes of Amazon and eBay rose, taking advantage of a space unoccupied by any existing giant intent on crushing them.
The situation is drastically different now. The Metaverse is not something completely greenfield, it will build upon the internet. While the Metaverse might be based on an alternative technology, e.g., possibly blockchain or a combination of blockchain and the internet, it still builds upon the decades of the world-wide-web that got us used to digital interaction in the first place.
As such, the current major players in the social media space, Meta, Twitter, and possibly Reddit, have the advantage of their established platforms, brand names, and follower masses when it comes to dominating Metaverse-based social media.
The Metaverse Will Be A Multitude of Social Media Platforms, Just Like the Internet Is
There is a view that the Metaverse itself will be one massive social media platform in itself, free from corporate influence and ownership. No Metas, no Twitters, no pesky capitalist villains like Mark Zuckerberg or Elon Musk with their paid add-on services and trademarks plastered everywhere. This is probably naïve to the extreme. In the early 21st century, to develop, support, and expand a massive communication platform, you still need corporate interests involved.
The internet is a medium outside of corporate control or ownership. Yet, the leading social media platforms of the internet survived and flourished only as corporate entities. The same will apply to the Metaverse. The Metaverse is unlikely to materialise as one giant social communication platform with no corporate interests involved. Instead, the Metaverse will be represented by an endless variety of virtual words. It’s just that the likes of Meta and Twitter will have more engaging and interesting worlds on offer, worlds with more functionality, fun, and bling.
The Payments Backbone of the Metaverse
Since the Metaverse is closely associated with the concepts of blockchain and cryptocurrency, there is an expectation, particularly among crypto enthusiasts, that the Metaverse payments will be dominated by cryptocurrencies. As the majority of cryptos are decentralised, and many are free from corporate control, this expectation ties well to the ethos of a free-for-all, democratic Metaverse.
Yet, as in the case with social media, the payment system of the Metaverse is likely to be strongly affected by corporate interests. Fiat and crypto payments will be universally available in the Metaverse. Corporate entities will step in to offer more functionality and features for their payment solutions. They will likely offer payments both in fiat and in crypto.
Today, basic card payment systems via the Visa and MasterCard networks are available to virtually anyone on the internet. That hasn’t stopped corporate giants like Apple or Google from offering their own (quite successful) payment solutions, Apple Pay and Google Pay. This is in addition to the multitude of FinTech companies that offer their own payment systems.
Just like the internet hasn’t been limited to only the basic card payment systems, the Metaverse will also have a multitude of corporate-backed payment solutions. These solutions might coexist with a basic, free-for-all payment solution across the Metaverse. However, these commercial payment solutions will feature more functionality, services, and convenience than the default free option. While the basic free payment system might or might not materialise in the Metaverse, be certain that a variety of commercial solutions will be there.