The most unique element of the metaverse is that it has more definitions than anything else, yet it is still incredibly vague and opaque. The more multiple entities try to define it, the less concrete and based in reality it is. It makes sense, considering how new it is and how pioneering companies are still exploring it themselves, but it is only confusing a populace who are still getting used to the new term.
What’s even less helpful is that Microsoft and Meta both have different definitions. While Meta is focusing on the social element (shocker), Microsoft is focusing on the business-to-business aspect. Both directions make sense; one wants people to connect people together more effectively, while the other wants workers to collaborate effectively to reach their productive potential. As Microsoft’s blog mentions, ‘the metaverse can help people meet up in a digital environment, make meetings more comfortable with the use of avatars and facilitate creative collaboration from all around the world.’
Two different definitions are fine for an early stage of technology development. While the future is fuzzy and ill-defined, it makes sense for multiple actors to have a gander at what it will bring – and have a first-mover’s advantage on its services. But the clatter of press releases and videos will confuse the public’s thoughts on what the metaverse actually is, littering the sea of innovations with murky waters.
The cultural significance of one definition by a singular company is difficult to pin down. Perhaps it would be innocuous, a bragging point that fills one PowerPoint slide a few decades from now. But the discussions are worth having. We now have one company so intertwined with the metaverse that they are called Meta, and a slew of start-ups and large-scale organisations pitching their points into the fray. Why can tell the cultural benefits of one company successfully leading the way?
We won’t know the significance or value of the discussions until we are sipping cocktails in the virtual Maldives. But by the time the dust settles, and the metaverse has an actual shape, then the debate will be over.