With the advent of the Metaverse and Web3 technologies, it is clear that the next evolution of the Internet is already underway. This is what I mean when I talk about the “future Internet”. This is the next iteration of the Internet, featuring immersive virtual Metaverse worlds (like Fortnite and Meta’s Horizon Worlds) and decentralized Web3 technologies (think crypto, blockchain, and NFTs).
This future Internet will provide a more engaging, fulfilling, and realistic online experience. However, there are many hurdles to overcome on this path towards a more immersive and decentralized Internet of the future. Let’s explore some of the biggest challenges and risks that lie ahead.
1. Legal and regulatory hurdles are very high
Without a doubt, technology is advancing faster than the legal system can keep up with, leaving many gray areas that can be exploited. At the moment, there are no clear laws about what is and isn’t permissible in virtual environments, or even in which jurisdictions. If I am physically at home in the UK and exploring a virtual Metaverse environment hosted by a provider in China, do UK or Chinese laws apply to me?
And what happens if someone commits an act that would normally be considered a crime in a virtual environment? Are there any legal repercussions? Problems like this are already occurring. In 2022, researchers reported that her avatar was sexually assaulted Within 1 hour of entering Meta’s Horizon Worlds. (As a reminder, Horizon Worlds maintains a virtual 4-foot “personal boundary” around your avatar to prevent non-friends from getting too close. In this case, other members convinced the researcher to disable the setting.)
The bottom line is that as more people spend time in realistic virtual worlds, the legal system will have to catch up quickly.
2. Privacy becomes a major concern
The metaverse also brings new privacy challenges, as all of this immersive technology gets better at tracking our actions and intentions. For example, VR headsets include eye-tracking technology. This means that in the future, headset data will allow marketers and advertisers to understand exactly where we are looking in an immersive experience, and in the process, learn more about our preferences. Essentially, companies can collect vast amounts of data and use it for marketing and other purposes, but not everyone is happy with this. We need updated privacy regulations that set clear boundaries on what constitutes fair use of personal data in a metaverse environment.
3. Energy costs cannot be ignored
If you look at the technology itself, energy is a big element in this room. Blockchains, cryptocurrencies, creating realistic simulated worlds…all of these require massive computing power. Bitcoin alone consumes more electricity per year than some countries, including Norway and Hungary.
There is hope on the horizon. Moving to a proof-of-stake blockchain system will dramatically reduce energy consumption (Ethereum’s switch to proof-of-stake is estimated to reduce the energy consumption of Ethereum tokens and the blockchain by 99.95 percent. ).
The problem is that we also know that all of this technology will need to scale up significantly in the future. Especially blockchain. Currently, the number of transactions that can be performed on platforms such as Ethereum is much smaller than the number of transactions that can be processed by providers such as Visa or Mastercard (because processing blockchain transactions takes time). Therefore, if blockchain is to further enhance our online transactions, the technology will need to scale up significantly. It is important that this scale-up is matched by investment in green energy.
4. Interoperability is a major technical hurdle
The Metaverse is made up of countless virtual worlds, and, at least in theory, you should be able to seamlessly switch from one experience to another. But the current Metaverse and Web3 platforms are all pretty much walled gardens. This means that if you buy something on one platform, you cannot use or trade it outside of that platform. If you buy a $4,000 Gucci-branded bag for your Roblox avatar, you can’t take it to another platform like someone did in 2021. For now, I have to stay on Roblox, which is pretty stupid. The Metaverse has a long way to go before it becomes the persistent shared virtual world that Mark Zuckerberg has in mind.
5. Infrastructure challenges lie ahead
All of these technologies require major network upgrades, creating major headaches for cloud storage providers and carriers. To stay connected to the Metaverse, you’ll need a great 5G or even 6G connection everywhere. And it’s not yet clear who will pay for all these upgrades.Additionally, devices (phones, VR headsets, smart glasses) are becoming more powerful and are connecting other networks (so-called edge computing).
In other words, this poses both challenges and opportunities for telcos, cloud providers, and hardware manufacturers like Apple and Samsung, as hardware and network demands will be huge compared to today.
6. Additionally, there will be a shortage of internet skills in the future.
There is a significant skills shortage when it comes to Metaverse and Web3 technologies. Most universities and schools don’t even think about teaching this yet, so organizations struggle to recruit the talent they desperately need. While this will improve over time, it is certainly a major challenge for organizations to overcome in the short and medium term.
It is clear that there are some major challenges and risks surrounding the future of the Internet. But there is no doubt in my mind that the Metaverse and Web3 have the potential to reimagine the Internet and make it a better, more engaging place.