The metaverse is a network(s) of 3D immersive virtual worlds that blur the boundaries between our physical and digital lives. While gaming experts have created immersive environments, the metaverse exaggerates how immersive it can be.
The metaverse promises B2B and B2C applications such as trying out clothing or accessories using a digital twin, shopping for real estate, holding conferences and events, and trade shows. Several industries are inching toward this newly promised reality, hoping to get a share of the pie.
According to research published by Morgan Stanley, advertising and e-commerce alone represent an $8.3 trillion opportunity in the metaverse to monetize U.S. consumer spending on games, music, apparel, automobile, and real estate.
That said, the metaverse comes with its dangers and pitfalls. This piece explores the most prominent challenges in the metaverse.
Why Web 3.0 Will Not be Utopian?
(Lessons From Web 2.0)
Like Web 3.0, Web 2.0 promised a utopian internet where it would directly empower people to stay connected and would transform the world.
The world has been transformed, albeit not without consequences. We have interacted with our loved ones from miles away throughout the COVID-19 outbreak through access to the internet and a mobile device.
We have built communities around shared interests globally, seen the explosion of social media, and witnessed our lives transform through technology.
However, we must not look past the following challenges in our world today:
None of us predicted these imbalances. Lessons from the advent of Web 2.0 warn us that the metaverse will be no different. It may bear positive possibilities, but it hides ugly aspects of reality that will hit us like bricks.
A Statista report highlighted the dangers of the metaverse as per internet users worldwide in 2021. Nearly half of the respondents see “addiction to a simulated reality or virtual world” as the most prominent threat, followed by 41% of respondents concerned about privacy issues and 41% threatened by mental health issues.
Related Reading: The Next Evolution of the Internet: From Web 2.0 to Web 3.0
Challenges in the Metaverse
One of the great achievements for the builders of the metaverse will be to propose one virtual universe that we can all inhabit. However, it is unlikely that the metaverse will be one interoperable space with several players.
Those investing in the space, such as Meta and Mark Zuckerberg, are far from considering one collaborative space. However, interoperability being key to the metaverse will warrant an “Umbrella Universe” that other metaverses can rest and interoperate.
Thus, Meta’s vision for an Umbrella Universe might become the bridge between all other metaverses that coexist. However, interoperability will stay a challenge until it is realized.
Cybersecurity & Safety
Submerging into the metaverse means creating more data points than usual. Even though businesses take steps to revolutionize their security systems, data privacy and security are already a concern in the good-old Web 2.0. Cyberattacks have no reason to be less rampant in the metaverse than in the 2D online world today.
One can catch a glimpse of potential safety risks in the metaverse in virtual gaming platforms that have already simulated reality, albeit not that immersively. One such grave example is the recreations of the 2019 Christchurch mosque shooting aimed at very young children found multiple times on the Roblox platform despite significant efforts on the company’s part to stem the tide of such content.
Other disturbing events, such as a racist tirade on Facebook’s Oculus Quest VR Headset, have also surfaced, warranting immediate attention and redressal.
Digital safety and cybersecurity risks in the metaverse will feel more real than anticipated because our brains can turn immersive experiences into actual emotions and reactions.
Identity & Reputation Management
Personal identification and representation are straightforward in the real world but get tricky in a space where we come with avatars. How will we be identified in the virtual world where our names or faces don’t matter as much? What will constitute our digital identity?
And most importantly, how will a person prove their identity in the digital world? How would an establishment in the metaverse know it’s you and not someone else posing as you? Forging facial features, videos and voice can hamper identity and reputation management in the metaverse, requiring newer identification and authorization systems.
Related Reading: Are Metaverses Happening? The Potential for Startups.
The metaverse will have its full-fledged version of a marketplace and need financial systems to power those. Digital currencies such as Bitcoin have been around for a while now, and it will be interesting to see how a layman trusts them to carry out transactions in the metaverse.
A unique transaction verification system might be the need of the hour to convince users to rely on the underlying system to carry out transactions securely.
Law & Jurisdiction
A new reality calls for unique processes and laws, requiring nations to dig deeper into virtual legal domains. While users will hold many possibilities in the metaverse, they will also be vulnerable to cruel practices and fraud.
It looks like a hefty challenge to set up laws, jurisdictions, and legislation to ensure that the virtual space is secure enough for its inhabitants. One of the methods popularly making rounds is rewarding positive interactions and behaviors in the metaverse to encourage fairness and justice.
The metaverse will create a new reality with possibilities, opportunities, and challenges. Have an idea you want to realize for the new reality? Write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org for a consultation.