Forget the space race. We’re going to the metaverse.

What, exactly, is the metaverse?

With Facebook’s recent announcement that the company will be changing its name to Meta to reflect its focus on the metaverse, many people are asking the same question: What, exactly, is the metaverse?

And, the more you Google “metaverse,” the more nuanced definitions you might find. At its core, the agreed-upon definition of the metaverse includes shared virtual environments that people can participate in — something akin to a four-dimensional internet.

The concept isn’t new. Early adopters of virtual and augmented reality have arguably been participating in metaverses for years. But tech leaders continue to push for a consistent metaverse experience — “the” metaverse, where the requirements and behaviors of engagement are understood and participation is broad and inclusive of the growing ways people can interact virtually. Perhaps this is exactly why Facebook is attempting to put a stake in the ground and further define this frontier.

Unlike the World Wide Web, which from its inception was based on a standardized set of protocols and markup languages, the metaverse is more concept than reality at this point. From its early inception as a science-fiction construct, there have been attempts to breathe life into the idea of creating this virtual world sitting digitally alongside our own. Following the success of HTML, which created the modern web as we know it, early dabblers created VRML as a primitive way to represent interconnected 3D spaces. It was an idea ahead of its time that failed famously, but it was an attempt at putting a standardized form to the basic concept of the metaverse — something that still has not been achieved.

Is the metaverse’s moment now?

Fast-forward through a few decades of technological progress, add in a global pandemic that has given society a quick, blunt master class on engaging virtually, and we begin to understand one reason why the metaverse concept is gaining steam now. We are more curious about and interested in ways we can connect and interact with others, especially if there are methods that help us feel the engagement and connection we might be missing if we’re not in person.

For marketers, this is an opportunity to continue to learn and potentially test.

Consider digital engagement you haven’t tried before, like an augmented reality experience that helps your customers get a better “feel” for your product or service. Lean into marketing techniques that help you engage your audience in feedback and discussions in nontraditional channels. No matter what the metaverse looks like — or when it actually gains mainstream adoption — it will prioritize experiential engagement.

What we do know is that the future is going to be — weird. Until a holy grail of standardized protocols for the metaverse are agreed upon, expect lots of experimentation to continue. Early MMORPG games like World of Warcraft scratched the meta-surface, replete with in-game economies and communications. Recent platforms like Fortnite are pushing current boundaries by offering genre-bending digital experiences with concerts by huge stars looking to reach young audiences where they are. Facebook’s acquisition of Oculus was a strategic decision to control the hardware interface into this new world.

We anticipate “metaverse” will be a bit of a buzzword in the coming months. But we are looking forward to seeing what opportunities the discussion creates and how a focus on virtual experiences will continue to change the way we all interact with brands and with each other.

About the Authors

Andrea Bolyard’s public relations experience spans technology and sustainability, manufacturing and agriculture.  Currently, she leads our public relations efforts for Corteva Agriscience’s corporate communications and sustainability. From product launches to events and trade shows, meeting influencers where they are, and giving them what they need are cornerstones of her success. She knows the story angles that capture attention. When not telling brand stories, you’ll most likely find her with her dog, Louie, or on the running paths of Milwaukee training for a race. 

As director of Bader Rutter’s Digital Experience group, Dan Herwig oversees and collaborates with a group of Digital Strategists and User Experience practitioners that are focused on creating engaging and compelling digital experiences for our clients. With over 25 years of experience blending strategy,

creativity, his work ranges from huge enterprise-wide brand and web design systems, to intimate tactile experiences and everything in-between.