If the Metaverse is to follow Web 2.0, how should it be governed?

"Metaverse Island" by ttrinoid is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0.

1. Introduction

The Metaverse has attracted huge interest in the internet industry since it first appeared. According to the definition of the Metaverse given by Mystakidis (2022),  it is an immersive environment for multiuser combining physical reality and digital virtuality. This virtual space is witnessed to be built on the basis of the rearranged characteristics from different media, including blogs, social networks, and interactive digital entertainment software, therefore, the metaverse can be identified as a part of Web 2.0 applications (Cagnina & Poian, 2008, p. 379). However, the characteristics of web 2.0 lead to a multi-layered and complex governance system and have implications for the metaverse’s approach to governance.


2. How Web 2.0 is constituted and governed?

Before exploring the governing possibility of the metaverse, it is vital to know what drives the immersive internet and how it is governed in the current relationship between the Internet and power.

facebook data security” by Book Catalog is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

Web 2.0 is the second stage in the development of the Web, which uses the Internet more interactively and collaboratively to create a space for users to interact socially and contribute their collective intelligence (Murugesan, 2007). As a technological paradigm, web 2.0 shows the public how to integrate technology, business strategies, and social trends as a mode of operation, in which the need for data remains strong. (Murugesan, 2007).  For example, the software can be improved after release based on data collected from the user community. Data is already the most valuable resource in the world, far more valuable than oil (Rijmenam, 2022). However, in the web 2.0 era, the centralization of data and the power to collect it has allowed large technology companies to take control and control our lives (Rijmenam, 2022), and it accelerates the current trend towards platformization of the internet. Moreover, the unlimited growth of power that accompanies the internet economic boom has resulted in a rise in the voice of tech companies and an unchecked demand for data. As large technology companies that have dominated the web 2.0 economic model, they have been challenging the regulators. This was confirmed when Meta, the metaverse technology company owned by Facebook, wanted to shut down Instagram and Facebook services in Europe following the new data transferring legislation in Europe (Talks, 2022).



The platforming and monopolization of web 2.0 have prompted large technology companies to expand their power in order to meet the enormous demand for data and it is often accused of invading personal information for commercial purposes, such as illegally stealing or abusing users’ private data for algorithmic recommendations. The balancing of the relationship between the commercial sphere and the personal space in web 2.0, therefore, requires governance and scrutiny by external forces.

The decentralized nature of content distribution and the bottom-up nature of the creation of web 2.0 may give rise to the misconception that the Internet cannot be regulated. However, an exploration of the regulatory system in a broader sense observes that the Internet is regulated and managed on multiple levels (Flew et al., 2019), including the regulation of digital platforms and content moderation.

  • regulating the digital platforms
    • In order to break the monopoly of digital platforms run by large technology companies, including Facebook, Google, and YouTube, on the internet distribution market, governments often reduce platform dominance by creating policies and regulations to increase competition, such as anti-trust actions to encourage Facebook and Instagram to become independent companies, or focusing on strengthening the social obligations of the major platforms (Flew et al., 2019).


  • content moderation
    • The government restricts direct user access to content at a national level, regulating internet content by building access barriers
      “Data Security Breach” by Visual Content is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

      and introducing regulations. In China, direct government restrictions on content access constitute a unique Chinese internet system, the most far-reaching of which is the Golden Shield Project. This project restricts Chinese internet users’ access to digital platforms in most capitalist countries in order to keep people away from Western ideologies, with the aim of maintaining a stable political order (Pingp, 2011).


    • Digital platforms are also socially responsible for the content they publish and distribute from their websites, and are required to review internet content to avoid users accessing harmful online information such as fake news, violence, extremist content, and cyberbullying. The US government has given technology companies broad exemptions by law to directly determine the choice of content on their platforms (Flew et al., 2019).



3. Metaverse is special in the web 2.0 ecosystem


Metaverse as the immersive environment for multiuser, mainly focuses on constructing extended reality (XR) which includes Virtual Reality (VR),

“IMG_4717 Trumpet and Flugelhorn maestro Ian Smith playing with Virtual Reality Jazz at the 13th Cape Town International Jazz Festival 2012.” by Wilfred Paulse is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.

Augmented Reality (AR), and Mixed Reality (MR) (Mystakidis ,2022).  In a metaverse where users are bound only by their creativity and the resources at their disposal and not by the constraints of the real world, they can create digital real estate, collectibles, and entertainment (Rijmenam, 2022). If Metaverse is to follow web 2.0, it will be distinctive from the previous concepts and platforms in web 2.0. According to Rijmenam (2022), there are two main characteristics of the Metaverse.

  • Interoperability
    • Interoperability is the ability for users to bring the value they create within one platform to another, including physical and digital assets (Rijmenam 2022). The greater the interoperability, the greater the contribution of the metaverse to society
  • Decentralization
    • Despite the vision of creating a fully decentralized and deconcentrated web space, web 2.0 has suffered from  monopoly of power due to the dominant landscape by large technology companies. The metaverse can fix the flaws of web 2.0 and create a metaverse that is not controlled by anyone and is owned by everyone (Rijmenam 2022).
    • In a decentralized metaverse, the use of cryptography makes data immutable, verifiable, and traceable, without the need for media intermediaries to manage the true origin of information (Rijmenam 2022).


4. Adaptive changes to the governing of the Metaverse

However, the metaverse operating in web 2.0 will be characterized by similar problems as in the web 2.0 ecosystem.

  • Governments need to avoid the risks of trading in the metaverse and establish a secure regulatory system for data collection system in the metaverse by developing policies and regulations, rather than focusing on restricting user access to content and establishing an anti-monopoly system
    • Due to the highly interoperable nature of the metaverse design, users’ assets can be transferred between different platforms. However, the lack of a monitoring system may lead to the leakage of transaction data and increase the risk of fraud, and virtual transactions represent a high level of insecurity. Therefore, privacy and data protection will be even more important than the current system.
  • Tech companies need to agree to protect the privacy and abandon multiple advertising business models
    • Surveillance-based behavioral targeting advertising extends from the web to the virtual space, in which users cannot distinguish how advertisements monitor steps in the user interaction experience (Li & Forum, 2022). The introduction of an advertising business model into the metaverse would cause the metaverse to lose its data security and decentralized business landscape. The database created by the advertising campaign could potentially lead to a re-centralization of power among the metaverse platforms to collect information about users and thus attempt a data monopoly.

5. Conclusion

The metaverse has become a new trend in the development of social media, with its unique features of Interoperability and decentralization. However, it also faces many problems, just like web 2.0. In this article, government regulation of data systems and changes in traditional advertising strategies by tech companies would be possible governing ways.


Reference list 

Cagnina, M. R., & Poian, M. (2008). Second Life: A Turning Point for Web 2.0 and E-Business? In Interdisciplinary Aspects of Information Systems Studies. (pp. 377–383). Physica-Verlag HD. https://doi-org.ezproxy.library.sydney.edu.au/10.1007/978-3-7908-2010-2_46

Flew, T., Martin, F., & Suzor, N. (2019). Internet regulation as media policy: Rethinking the question of digital communication platform governance. Journal of Digital Media & Policy, 10(1), 33–50. https://doi.org/10.1386/jdmp.10.1.33_1

Heilweil, R. (2020, December 9). Why the FTC and states’ Facebook antitrust lawsuits say owning Instagram and WhatsApp make it a monopoly. Vox. https://www.vox.com/recode/22166437/facebook-instagram-ftc-attorneys-general-antitrust-monopoly-whatsapp

Li, C., & Forum, W. E. (2022, May 25). How to build an economically viable, inclusive and safe metaverse. World Economic Forum. https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2022/05/how-to-build-an-economically-viable-inclusive-and-safe-metaverse

Murugesan, S. (2007). Understanding web 2.0. IT Professional, 9(4), 34–41. https://doi.org/10.1109/mitp.2007.78

Mystakidis, S. (2022). Metaverse. Encyclopedia, 2(1), 486–497. https://doi.org/10.3390/encyclopedia2010031

Pingp. (2011). » the great firewall of china: Background torfox. Torfox A Stanford Project. https://cs.stanford.edu/people/eroberts/cs181/projects/2010-11/FreedomOfInformationChina/the-great-firewall-of-china-background/index.html

Rijmenam, M. van. (2022). The Future Is Immersive. In Step into the Metaverse. Wiley.

Seneviratne, S. (2019, November 26). The ugly truth: Tech companies are tracking and misusing our data, and there’s little we can do. The Conversation. https://theconversation.com/the-ugly-truth-tech-companies-are-tracking-and-misusing-our-data-and-theres-little-we-can-do-127444

Talks, M. (2022). Meta threatening to shutdown Facebook, Instagram in EU due to new legislation on data transfers [Video]. In YouTube. https://youtu.be/3CItj1P4GRI