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Metaverse vs multiverse: What’s the difference?

Metaverse vs multiverse debate. Photo credit: Tom Ffiske.

Metaverse discussions exploded over the last few years, as companies arrived out of nowhere to unveil their web3 propositions. Propelled by Meta’s name change, it came with sites like Decentraland reaching new heights in popularity. Blockchain technologies integrated with virtual worlds, and users found new locations to network, bond, and make new friends in a new kind of social media. Yet all these advancements and innovations clouded the discussions as well, with new terms and definitions cropping up like weeds after a storm. One debate is the metaverse vs multiverse; what is the actual difference between the two, and does it matter?

The article will explore the differences between all the terms, bringing them together into a cohesive and clear whole. The piece will also explore the relevance of the omniverse, as well as how crypto and virtual reality play a part as well.

With that out of the way, let’s dive in.

Contents

What is the difference between the metaverse and multiverse?

Basically, the metaverse is the next evolution of the way we will connect online, while the multiverse is the network that sits under it. The actual definition of the metaverse is still under discussion, so this may change in the future. Some companies focus on the virtual assets side, where cryptocurrencies will be used to buy virtual goods like NFTs. Others focus on virtual reality (VR), where people will converse in three-dimensional spaces. All of these may be true, they fall under an overall umbrella. Instead of accessing an internet of information, we will be able to access the internet of experiences.

By comparison, the multiverse relates to multiple virtual worlds which people can access. Think of it like accessing VRChat, or Decentraland. These are all virtual locations in which people can converse, trade, and play, acting as video games that people can play in. These are all connected and relate to the wider multiverse, where users can hop between each one and experience new activities. At the moment, none of these worlds are interoperable; any assets or items in one cannot be used in the other. But over time, these virtual worlds can come together with unified systems of trade, forming part of a wider multiverse.

The metaverse is a wider umbrella, encompassing the wider future of the spatial internet which will integrate web3 technologies. Within the umbrella is the multiverse, where multiple virtual worlds connect with one another and users can move items between them all.

We are talking through massive topics that are still under heated discussions, so let’s break it down a little further…

What properties of the metaverse compare with the multiverse?

The metaverse is much more expansive. While it is still nebulous, most professionals are confident that it will form a supernetwork where people can meet in virtual locations. The properties revolve around the following themes:

  • A persistent and massive space with no user cap, where users can come together;
  • A fully functioning economy, perhaps based on blockchain technologies (or perhaps via fiat currencies);
  • An ecosystem of content propelled by creators, with new ways to finance their work.

Within this metaverse is a multiverse of virtual worlds that, in theory, can communicate with one another. Like strings connecting multiple pins in a cork board, the worlds run systems that communicate between one another seamlessly, and users decide where to go. When it comes to the metaverse vs multiverse debate, the answer goes down to the scale of both concepts.

Not all multiverses are the same. In theory, there can be multiple metaverses which communicate in different ways, like separate spider webs in the garden of the metaverse. These may not communicate with one another, but still run in their own ways. Again, we are still in the early days of the metaverse, so this may not happen. The metaverse may become a more immersive form of social media, for example. We are still unsure if these virtual worlds will mostly be video games, or have wider ramifications on traditional sectors such as real estate. But while it is still early, there is a likely evolution where multiple companies form their own walled gardens which, at the very basic level, cannot connect with one another. We shall see.

Now that we have sorted both concepts, we come to one more that is linked to the debate. One which is, arguably, synonymous with the multiverse.

Metaverse vs multiverse. Photo credit: Tom Ffiske.
Metaverse vs multiverse. Photo credit: Tom Ffiske.

What is the omniverse?

The omniverse is another word for the multiverse, as the two concepts are largely the same. The omniverse largely refers to the network of worlds that are part of a wider collective, bringing everyone together as part of the system. As we have explored, the multiverse acts in the same way.

The omniverse likely rose in popularity as a catch-all term for the emerging metaverse trend. The word became a useful stand-in for understanding the complex topics at hand, as many are already familiar with how the omniverse works. But when it comes to the metaverse vs multiverse debate, it is more an addendum than a core component to it.

What’s the difference between the different virtual worlds?

You may have seen a few of these virtual worlds come up from the woodwork, offering different services while labelling themselves as a ‘metaverse platform.’ One example is Decentraland, which fully embraces the crypto side of web3 by situating the blockchain at the heart of it. Another is The Sandbox, which gives creators great tools to edit the land and sell items that can be used in various lots and locations. All of them are different virtual worlds, offering ways to communicate, shop, and entertain.

A selection of differences include:

  • Ecosystems: Some may use the Ethereum blockchain to facilitate trades, while others may use different blockchain technologies.
  • Input method: Some may be accessible via a computer, while others may require virtual reality.
  • Incentives: Gamified systems may be tied into building resources to spend, while others offer simple creator tools to build virtual locations.

All of the ecosystems are valid in their own ways. Pick one you prefer, and leap in from there.

Does crypto and virtual reality come into this?

Crypto and VR can play a role in the metaverse, but again, the actual nuances are still under discussion and are not guaranteed. Companies like Lamina1 believe that blockchain technologies are a fundamental layer of the metaverse, offering a decentralised way to manage the economy. Crypto may become a de facto currency within virtual worlds, managed via a network that can handle millions (if not billions ) of transactions each day. On the other hand, it is also possible that fiat currencies may be used as they are more stable, such as the American dollar. We will see, but signs point to crypto playing a role in the future.

Meanwhile, VR offers one way to participate in a virtual world, as an in-depth experience with hand tracking and heightened gameplay. Immersive and fun, VR offers a new way for friends to socialise and connect with one another, such as with Meta and the Quest 2. The technology can also be used in a professional way too, such as surveying locations for real estate. But it is just that; a tool, which might form one way to access certain virtual worlds. It is no guarantee that the metaverse will require a head-mounted display (HMD) to experience the wider network. Augmented reality (AR) might come sooner, as people experience an overlay of the real world.

In short, both VR and crypto may well form part of the metaverse or multiverse. But while it is under discussion and debate, we will see if either forms a core part or not.

Cryptocurrencies or virtual reality may form a part of different virtual worlds in the future. Photo credit: Tom Ffiske.
Cryptocurrencies or virtual reality may form a part of different virtual worlds in the future. Photo credit: Tom Ffiske.

Second Life, and the next steps for the metaverse vs multiverse

Arguably, Second Life was one of the first ‘metaverse’ titles to exist. The game offered a virtual world that some made good money out of, flipping items or conversing with players online. World of Warcraft was similar for me; I remember playing the game regularly and forming friendships, while marking from Orgimmar to The Barrens. The worlds featured the core concepts listed above: an economy, a persistent space, and a network of creators (albeit in a narrow sense).

We will go far beyond Second Life in the future. While the metaverse vs multiverse debate rages on, developers and engineers are quietly building the foundational elements of spatial computing. When the curtain lifts, we will know more. But until that day comes, we will learn later how the web3 technologies will formally integrate with the metaverse. And if you wish to learn more, I happen to run a newsletter on the topic (see below) or a book on the metaverse as a whole. Enjoy!


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Meditative with the VIVE Flow. Photo credit: Tom Ffiske

Tom Ffiske

Editor, Immersive Wire

Tom Ffiske is the Editor of the Immersive Wire, a twice-weekly newsletter on the immersive industry.