With the development of the Internet and digital media, a novel concept is rapidly gaining popularity on the Internet: the “metaverse”.Recently, metaverse has become a hot topic in the field of technology and capital, which started with the concepts of “Metaverse” and “Avatar” mentioned in the science fiction work “Snow Crash” in 1922. The Metaverse is defined by Mystakidis (2022) as a post-reality universe, a permanent multi-user environment that combines physical displays and digital virtualization, and is based on the convergence of technologies that enable multi-sensory interaction with virtual environments, digital objects, and people, such as virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR).
This is a hot topic that has aroused widespread concern in the technology and investment sectors. People believe that the metaverse, as a virtual society, is a programmable and conscious digital world, and that its manifestation lies in a social system in hyperspace, an economic system that interacts with reality, a mapping of real human society and civilization, and a mega digital community that can be expanded beyond the real civilization.Although we do not have the means to establish a government at the center of the metaverse and assume the role of the final arbiter, the blockchain-based community autonomy model provides a low-cost solution, however, this model is not sufficient to deal with the evil of human nature, so there will still be a degree of centralization in the decentralized governance model. Meta-universe community autonomy still needs to be explored continuously. In this context, this paper will critically analyze how the metaverse follows Web 2.0, and the related governance issues.
Changes and distinctions in the history of the Internet.
- web1.0: early Internet, a single communication between network and people, e.g. email, browser, personal website, Encyclopedia Britannica.
- web2.0: commercial internet, using companies as economic infrastructure, using the web as a communication channel for person-to-person communication, e.g. wiki and Google for search engines, Facebook and Twitter for social media, and Amazon and Uber for marketplaces. however, this does not include internet-native currency, identity, law, etc.
- web3.0: Digital economy infrastructure, including digital assets, contracts, and virtual economy. It is built by artificial intelligence, Linked Data, and semantic networks to form human and web and web-human communication, while improving the ease of human-to-human communication with SEO support.
The difference between the three is the role of the web in the three periods – the web1.0 web is the information provider, one-way provision and singular understanding; the web2.0 web is the platform, Kittler (1990) divides digital technology into storage, transmission and computation , and it is believed that information is fluid, dynamic and actionable, and thus digital technologies mark an unprecedented and epochal break in social change. web3.0 networks become user needs understanders and providers, with Corbett (2018) arguing that “the rapid growth of big data provides better opportunities for decision-making on economic, environmental, and social indicators, among others” . The web knows its users like the back of its hand, what they have, what they want and their behavioral habits, and performs resource filtering, intelligent matching and gives them direct answers.
The core technologies of the “metaverse”
- Extended reality technologies– including VR and AR. extended reality technologies can provide immersive experiences and can solve problems that cell phones cannot.
- Digital twin– the ability to mirror the real world into the virtual world. This also means that we can see many virtual doppelgangers of ourselves in the metaverse.
- An economic system built with blockchain. We may not just be spending money in the metaverse, but potentially making money, thus creating an economic system in the virtual world as well.
Social and cultural issues arising from network changes & How should the “metaverse” be governed?
At present, the metaverse has triggered a new type of economy. In March 2022, the virtual reality platform Decentraland held a virtual fashion show “Metaverse Fashion Week”, which attracted brands such as Dolce & Gabbana, HUGO BOSS, Tommy Hilfiger, etc. The show attracted brands such as Dolce & Gabbana, HUGO BOSS and Tommy Hilfiger. More fashion brands, including Nike, Adidas, Gucci, Balenciaga and Ralph Lauren, have been exploring virtual fashion even earlier and have released clothing lines that can only be experienced in games and virtual worlds, such as Gucci’s bright orange branded backpack and fisherman’s hat for The Sims 4.
While the metaverse has a very wide scope for growth, it also poses many governance challenges, such as currency and payment system risks, addiction risks, privacy and data protection risks, and intellectual property dispute risks. Facing these challenges, people are not yet ready to deal with them.
- Currency and payment system risk
The economic behavior of users in the metaverse may lead to economic risks in the real world, and relatively high value fluctuations of virtual currencies manipulated by users may also lead to economic risks in the real world. The metaverse may facilitate the financial harvesting behavior of giant capital in the real world, which can put pressure on the financial regulation in the real world. There are no national laws and regulations specifically for it yet. Although virtual currencies are virtual goods, they also have the attributes of virtual property, so laws for virtual property are necessary to prevent speculation in the process of virtual currency trading, eliminate token financing, and strictly prohibit illegal financial activities.
- Risk of addiction
As a virtual world based on the Internet, the metaverse was originally established with the hope that users could switch between reality and reality as needed, but there is still a relatively high risk of addiction. As in the case of online games, the existence of addiction risks and the serious consequences they may lead to require the relevant regulatory authorities to strengthen the supervision of the game industry. On the one hand, if users are addicted to the virtual world, it may aggravate their social fear psychology and affect their normal life in the real world; on the other hand, since the operation rules, behavior logic and values of the virtual world and the real world are different or even opposing, if users are too immersed in the world of metaverse, they may have strong dissatisfaction with the real life.
- Privacy and data protection risks
As a virtual space mapped to the real world but independent of it, the ideal operation of the metaverse needs to be based on the collection of information from users, which is the underlying resource to support the operation of the metaverse. However, the issues of whether individual privacy data can be collected, how to store and manage them, and how to avoid leakage and abuse need to be further explored. In the Internet era, data security and privacy protection is a headache, and this problem will continue into the meta-universe era. For this reason, enterprises or governments must give comprehensive consideration to data security issues in the process of building metaverse, and establish relevant mechanisms to ensure data security and prevent data leakage.
- Risk of Intellectual Property Disputes
At the content level, the main problem facing the metaverse is intellectual property disputes. If a user has the copyright of a content in the real world, and someone uses this content in the virtual world without permission, can the user defend his rights, and how should this situation be determined? Even if the law clearly defines this situation, i.e., users in the virtual world must obtain permission from the IP owner to use the real world IP, the arrival of the metaverse era will inevitably lead to a series of IP disputes, so there is a need to set up better rules to clarify the related IP issues.
Looking to the future
The metaverse, according to the current industry definition and expectation, is the next generation Internet, which can change the way the Internet is used now, just like the mobile Internet changed the PC Internet. The current online world is attached to the real world, but the emergence of the metaverse means that in the future, the online world will be parallel to the real world, and they will both be equally important. The metaverse will create many new economic models and greatly improve industrial efficiency. In fact, the metaverse is not far away from us, and its landing scenarios are very extensive, among which, digital people become an important part of the future metaverse interaction ecology, from the most basic text interaction, to voice interaction, to multimodal digital human interaction that integrates visual, voice and semantic technologies, showing its powerful “functional” value. The metaverse is a futuristic thing with infinite possibilities, but the current digital technology development cannot support us to come to web 3.0. Although the metaverse is a field worthy of long-term optimism, it still needs to be rational in the short term, and the explosion of the metaverse is not a coincidence, but a trend of the times. The development of the Internet needs a new space, and the development of technology needs a new scene. The metaverse will mature in continuous practice, and it is likely to be the next thing that greatly improves the efficiency of the whole society.
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