As Big Tech eyes opportunities in the metaverse, one EU Commissioner has drawn on concerns in Web2 to protect the next frontier.
The metaverse is a term used to describe a virtual world that is parallel to the physical world, created by the convergence of multiple virtual environments. It is a fully immersive and interactive digital space that is accessed through virtual reality, augmented reality, or other types of digital devices.
As big tech companies begin to focus more on the metaverse, there are concerns about privacy, security, and the potential for monopolies. These concerns have been raised by EU Commissioner Thierry Breton, who has drawn on concerns from the Web2 era to protect the next frontier.
Web2, also known as the social web, is the current state of the internet, where users can interact and share content with each other through social media platforms, blogs, and other online communities. This era has been plagued by issues such as fake news, cyberbullying, and data breaches.
In order to prevent similar issues from arising in the metaverse, Breton has emphasized the need for regulation and collaboration between governments, tech companies, and other stakeholders. He has called for an open, interoperable, and decentralized metaverse that respects user privacy and provides equal opportunities for all.
Breton’s concerns are echoed by others in the tech industry, who have warned of the potential for a “metaverse monopoly” if a single company gains too much control over the virtual world. In order to prevent this, many are advocating for open standards and interoperability between different virtual environments.
As the metaverse continues to evolve and grow, it will be important for stakeholders to work together to address these concerns and ensure that the virtual world is a safe and equitable space for everyone.
Margrethe Vestager, the European Union’s competition, and digital affairs commissioner, spoke in Brussels today and emphasized the importance of fair competition in metaverses. She noted the rapid growth of the digital economy during the pandemic and believes that the metaverse should provide new opportunities. However, she cautioned that historically, dominance, entrenched positions, and abuses have been the norm. Vestager said that regulators need to anticipate and plan for change since the markets move faster than the legislative process. She emphasized that it is time for regulators to consider what healthy competition looks like in the metaverse.
The EU has already taken steps to prevent large online companies such as Meta from obstructing smaller competitors, as well as raising concerns regarding the need for protections against discrimination and safety issues within the metaverse. In May, the European Commission is set to release an initiative on virtual worlds, which may also include a policy for a digital euro.
The metaverse is a vision of online interactions that involve 3D environments, AR/VR, and digital ownership. Big Tech corporations and AAA gaming studios, such as Microsoft, Meta, Roblox, and Epic Games, have already begun developing their versions of the metaverse. Most of these platforms do not allow users to move their digital assets across platforms.
In contrast to the closed metaverse environments, the Open Metaverse Alliance (OMA3) advocates for a blockchain-based, interoperable network of metaverse platforms. In such a network, users would retain ownership and transferability of their digital assets, including their NFT avatars, virtual property, and items. OMA3 comprises partners from the Web3 space such as Animoca Brands, Dapper Labs, The Sandbox, Decentraland, Alien Worlds, and Upland.
The Sandbox COO and co-founder Sebastien Borget stressed the importance of true digital ownership of the content for users, including their avatar, wearables, equipment, land, house, and content they create and earn. He also emphasized that users bring in 95% or 100% of the revenue they generate as they engage in the metaverse.