Facebook started talking about the metaverse to distract us from the toxicity surrounding its brand.
Last year it changed the parent company’s name to Meta to further distance the brand from its recent past.
Gartner draws on its deep pool of gobbledegook to provide its own definition of a metaverse:
“…a collective virtual shared space, created by the convergence of virtually enhanced physical and digital reality. It is persistent, providing enhanced immersive experiences, as well as device independent and accessible through any type of device, from tablets to head-mounted displays.
You know you’re in trouble when you see the word ‘enhanced’. It is the technology charlatan’s go-to word. It can mean anything, but in general it is use as a fancy way of saying “a little better”.
Gartner used it twice in the space of two sentences.
Falling for this kind of nonsense is curious given Gartner invented the technology hype cycle.
And more so when you realise how unimpressed Facebook investors are.
We’ve seen similar digital-world projects in the past.
Today’s computers are more powerful and there is more data network bandwidth. Yet otherwise there’s little in Facebook’s plan that you wouldn’t have found in, say, Second Life.
That may change.
Let’s take the metaverse shown in Mark Zuckerberg’s video at face value. It’s vague, but it is the nearest thing we have to work with.
If we accept Facebook’s video, Gartner’s press release is silly.
First, at the time Gartner wrote the press release in February 2022, Meta did not have a working metaverse.
You can find a rudimentary metaverse in a handful of games. Meta isn’t the only big tech firm pouring billions into metaverse development.
Something will emerge. But the virtual world that features in Zuckerberg’s video does not exist. Tech firms can’t conjure it out of thin air.
The hardware and software needed to support that vision are not ready yet. It’s possible that will change in time for Gartner’s 2026 forecast.
Rolling new kit out to one quarter of the world’s population won’t happen overnight. Metaverse companies would need to make and sell two billion headsets.
Let’s look at comparative technologies to put the numbers in perspective.
It took 25 years for a quarter of the world’s population to get a mobile phone.
There are around 60 million current generation video games consoles in use.
About one in four people, that number again, use Facebook, the social media website. It took years to build that audience.
Let’s say metaverse companies get a working system out of the door in two years. It’s unlikely they’ll have 25 percent of the world onboard in another two years.
And this is if we make the heroic assumption that everyone wants a metaverse. They may not. Virtual reality didn’t take off in the first three attempts. The metaverse shares a lot of characteristics with VR.