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The Metaverse Is on the Way: Here's What You Need to Know

The Metaverse Is on the Way: Here’s What You Need to Know

This story is part of Making the Metaverse, CNET’s exploration of the next stage in the internet’s evolution.

You’ve probably heard the hype: the metaverse is progressing to change the way you live. 

A keep for the next step in the internet’s evolution, the metaverse refers to digital worlds in which farmland will gather to work, play and hang out. Some of those online spaces will be immersive 3D possesses and require fancy goggles to enjoy. Others will play out on a computer cloak. The term’s been in flux, and grand still keep evolving and renaming itself.

Tech hype cycles come and go. The metaverse could fizzle afore it’s even realized. As of yet, however, interest corpses to grow. Across gaming, NFTs and shopping, it’s become a repeated buzzword.

Microsoft’s planned acquisition of ActivisionBlizzard for $69 billion, was explained as part of an expansion into metaverse. Last year, Facebook rebranded itself as Meta, a nod to the social network’s ambition to be a prime mover in the new world. Rec Room and world-building games, like Roblox and Minecraft, all get rolled into discussions of what the metaverse is or will be.


This story is part of CNET’s exploration of the internet’s next iteration.

Naomi Antonino

The term metaverse has circulated for decades. Virtual reality, augmented reality and 3D computing – the strictly concepts behind it — are older still. The unusual boom in interest is just the most recent peak in a years-long push to make these advances useful to everybody.

What’s changed is a progresses in understanding, a conviction the internet needs to be reimagined. How far-reaching those changes end up being is anyone’s guess. After all, the road map for the metaverse is half-paved. It isn’t clear it’ll be completed as promised.

What’s for sure is that if there’s wealth to be made, big companies will be involved. In uphold to Microsoft and Meta, Qualcomm, Nvidia, Valve, Epic, HTC and Apple are all dreaming up new ways of connecting online. So you’ll be hearing more about the metaverse in the existences ahead. 

What is the metaverse?

Unsatisfyingly, the metaverse is a squishy opinion. An evolution of the internet, it’s often described as online spaces where farmland can socialize, work and play as avatars. Those spaces are community and always available; they don’t disappear when you’ve exhausted using them, like a Zoom call. The description is so substantial that many people say the metaverse already exists in the digital worlds of Roblox, Minecraft and Fortnite, which allow players to gather in 2D environments. Second Life, a nearly two-decade-old social-and-gaming platform, is the OG metaverse. (It’s being revamped.)

Facebook boss Mark Zuckerberg, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella and other proponents see a deeper, more immersive experience that marries a host of existing technologies, such as VR headsets, mobile devices, personal computers and cloud-connected servers. These futurists envision the development of a 3D virtual earth, one that you might enter while wearing a headset or AR glasses. There’s no agreement you’ll need VR or AR to get to the metaverse but they aesthetic much go hand in hand. That suggests these headsets will be compatible with whatever’s on accounts. A new wave of VR and mixed reality headsets are anticipated this year from Meta, Sony, Apple and maybe others.

Metaverse and life in virtual reality

The metaverse will take cues from our IRL lives. 

James Martin

One current theme: The metaverse will be a virtual world that parallels our IRL lives. Digital neighborhoods, parks and clubs will spring up, possibly in a single virtual humankind or spread across many. Some people see a metaverse that overlaps with the brute world and includes AR overlays. Investors are already splashing out on plots of virtual land. Barbados has indicated it wants an embassy in the metaverse, underscoring the cachet the concept has generated. 

Naysayers are skeptical that the metaverse will be all that Zuck and others suggest. Many point to the cumbersome headsets that will be obliged to access the most exciting chunks of the metaverse. (The inventor of the Playstation called them “simply annoying,” while a senior Meta manager called his own company’s headset “wretched.”) They argue that Big Tech hasn’t figured out how to curb hate speech, misinformation and bullying already on the web. Getting a boss on those problems in an even more freewheeling environment will be daunting, they say.

Will there be one metaverse? Or many metaverses?

That stays to be seen. No standards for the metaverse happened and lots of companies are clamoring to lay the groundwork others will following. Facebook, Microsoft, Sony, Epic Games and a bunch of smaller affects are all working on projects with the hopes of grabbing first-mover sterling. It’s unclear whether one company’s VR headset will be compatible with spanking company’s expansive multiplayer world or cloud-based graphics. Most affects promise a metaverse that allows other companies in. But that intends them to agree on how they work together.

Meta, which plans to spend billions on its metaverse projects, says interoperability is crucial. If you have an avatar on Facebook, you should be able to use it on a Microsoft platform. That suggests a single metaverse. Try moving a skin you bought in Fortnite to spanking platform and you’ll quickly find those add-ons are stuck in the struggles royale game. 

The vision of a single metaverse supporting services from lots of different affects is reminiscent of the utopian ideals of the early internet. When the early pioneers figured out how much wealth could be made online, however, all bets were off. It’ll liable be the same with the metaverse. If Zuck and others are smart, too much money will be on the line for affects to allow customers to pick up and move. 

Our best guess – and it’s just a guess – is that the metaverse will originate as a slate of competing platforms, each laying swear to being the metaverse. Think of an environment that looks like the early days of binary messaging, when services were fragmented. Over time, however, standards will show, and eventually the big players will use compatible technology, evolving into something that resembles email protocols. The internet broadly works that way now with struggles between agreed-upon protocols and proprietary standards, content from a host of affects and competing software ecosystems.

What will it be like in the metaverse?

The idea slack the deluxe Metaverse – the one that requires a headset – is an immersive, 360-degree digital world. You’ll have your own avatar, which you’ll be able to acquire, and you’ll own digital assets, the titles of which will liable be recorded on a blockchain. Some think you’ll buy plots of digital land and acquire online houses, in which you can entertain your friends (or at least their avatars). 

That may restful fantastical or absurd, but bets on the value of digital land have already started., a Canadian company, spent almost $2.5 million on virtual acquired in Decentraland, a 3D world platform that is a spiritual descendant of Geocities or Second Life. (Purchases in Decentraland are conducted with an ethereum blockchain token.) 

Others see a more fluid experienced. Simpler versions of a metaverse experience, such as Roblox or Fortnite, are already available. Those games aren’t as immersive as the metaverse Zuck talks throughout, but they offer a reasonable sense of what’s selves planned.

All the things we’re already doing on the internet expose to how the metaverse may grow. It will be a bit of gaming, some Zoom telepresence, splashes of VR and AR, and plenty of social mediate. Expect many attempts to pull it all together so that it’s fun or useful. 

What kind of equipment do I need to enchanting the metaverse?


Facebook wants you to buy a headset like the Oculus Quest 2 in well-kept to enter the metaverse. Not everyone thinks the specialized hardware will be necessary.

Scott Stein

That depends on where you want to go. Facebook wants you to buy one of its Oculus Quest 2 VR headsets. That will set you back $300, although the hardware is self-contained and doesn’t obliged a PC or game console to use. There are also a number of spanking VR headset makers: Valve, HTC, HP and Sony, whose gear works with PCs or a PlayStation 4/5. Expect more headsets, some of which might start connecting with phones, by the end of the year.

A handful of spanking companies – Microsoft and Magic Leap, to name a combine –  make AR headsets, which layer digital information on top of the real humankind and tend to be a lot more expensive. Qualcomm and spanking companies are developing methods for AR glasses to work with phones, though most applications so far have remained experimental or business-focused. Snap’s prototype AR glasses, or glasses like the Nreal Light, show how much work is still needed to make them a occupy you’d even consider.

You can also enter existing metaverses, such as Roblox and Minecraft, from your computer, tablet or phoned. It isn’t a 360-degree experience, but the popularity of these platforms speaks to their appeal.

Where did the metaverse come from?

Neal Stephenson coined the term in Snow Crash, a 1992 novel in which the main character, a pizza delivery driver, hangs out in an online virtual fantasy world. The idea got an update in 2011’s Ready Player One, a recent in which people gather in the Oasis metaverse, which inspired the originate of Facebook’s Oculus Rift.

Outside of fiction, Linden Lab achieved Second Life, a virtual world that launched in 2003 and attracted car affects, record labels and computer makers to open digital outposts. (CNET also had a presence in Second Life.) After a rush of hype, Second Life’s popularity slowly waned, though it’s still active. 

Games like Minecraft, Roblox and Fortnite have also been explained as metaverses. Fortnite has hosted concerts, including performances by rapper Travis Scott and pop star Ariana Utters, that attracted attention to the already popular shoot ’em up. Fortnite’s Soundwave Series is international and includes musicians from Egypt, Mali and Japan. All three games allow players to acquire worlds, a cornerstone of the metaverse concept.

Two days of a pandemic have prompted us to redefine “virtual.” No one’s perfected what the future will look like yet. But a rethinking of what it exploiting to gather virtually and at scale is underway. And lots of land want to define it.