Venture capitalist Matthew Ball first wrote about the metaverse in 2018 and his essays have become essential reading for entrepreneurs and tech watchers who are attempting to understand or profit from the network Mark Zuckerberg and many others are anticipating will supersede the internet. Ball is former head of strategy at Amazon Studios and his first book, The Metaverse: How It Will Revolutionize Everything, is published later in July.
What is the metaverse?
It is a persistent network of 3D spaces. Almost everything online today – all applications, digital operating systems, webpages – works on common protocols and technology that connects them. The metaverse is a 3D elevation of the online world, which spans augmented reality – unseen virtual simulations in the world around us – as well as much of consumer leisure and socialising.
So the metaverse doesn’t imply virtual reality (VR)?
I think it’s important to separate access devices and specific experiences from the metaverse at large. A good analogy would be to talk about the mobile internet: apps are not the mobile internet. Not only can you access the mobile internet from a web browser, but you can do so without any visual interface at all. You can say: “Hey Siri, what time is it?” and you’re accessing the mobile internet from your phone. VR or AR (augmented reality) headsets may be a popular way to access the metaverse, but they are not a prerequisite.
Would you describe anything that exists today as a metaverse?
The closest examples would be consumer leisure-oriented gaming platforms such as Minecraft or Roblox: popular experiences reaching tens of millions of people daily, that are tightly integrating millions of different virtual worlds. But that’s still quite modest and it would be a little bit like characterising a GeoCities or Yahoo or AOL portal from the 1990s as a manifestation of the internet as we know it today.