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III. Issues and Questions (9 pages)

14. Issues and Choices
15. Ideas and Proposals
16. Key Uncertainties

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Inputs were solicited in four topic areas: I. Industry Conditions, II. Forecasts, III. Issues and Questions, and IV. Problems and Indicators. These were divided into nineteen categories, from History to Progress Indicators. Each was also considered in three subcategories: A. Technology and Science, B. Business and Economics, or C. Social, Legal and Other domains. This is an adaptation of the Foresight Framework Model of Dr. Peter Bishop, chair of the Futures Studies masters program at the University of Houston.

Foresight frameworks call forth a broad set of future-relevant information, but do not fully address any category. For each input, category and subcategory assignments are arbitrary and arguable. Some contradict each other due to controversy, uncertainty, and the breadth of community perspective. Some original quotes remain, but most have been edited and interpreted by ASF staff in subsequent research. We apologize for any mistakes or misrepresentations, and hope you enjoy this rich source of community insight relevant to the future of the 3D-enabled web.

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14. Issues and Choices. Issues, tradeoffs, and options for the future of the 3D web.

14A. Issues and Choices - Technology and Science

• How do we foster an adequate base of metaverse academic research, in service to its further development? We need to better understand the metaverse both as a social space/world and separately as an educational or commercial platform/tool, depending on context. As one example, Building the Field of Digital Media and Learning (DML) is the MacArthur Foundation's promising new $50M initiative to gather what is known about how digital media and learning (DML) technologies are changing the way young people learn, play, socialize, and participate in civic life, and to seed innovation for continued growth. Getting other groups to lead in this area (National Science Foundation, National Academies of Science, etc.), or not, will be a key challenge and social choice for this generation.

User-created content (UCC) and small enterprise created content (SECC) tools for virtual worlds. How quickly can today’s 3D worlds get powerful, free, nonproprietary tools, platforms, and licenses to users and small enterprises for their 3D content creation? Central content creation (eg. World of Warcraft) has become prohibitively expensive and difficult. A major alternative is facilitating user-created and user-controlled content. Companies like Linden Lab (Second Life) and Multiverse have publicly committed to open sourcing most of their platforms. Linden Lab promotes virtual property rights for the content that users create, but retains a license to the user’s work as well (including the ability to keep this content in Second Life, should the user depart). Multiverse has developed licenses that make their platform code available to anyone. Derivative works/shards can be made, but a licensing fee must be paid if your product is a commercial success. This empowers both users and small to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to generate content. What other ways can content generation be facilitated? The market is telling us that facilitating creation is, in many ways, more important than the quality. Summit quote: "WoW cost $100 million dollars, has beautiful art and 6 million users. MySpace cost almost nothing, has terrible art, and 60 million users. Will the metaverse be full of crappy but popular user-created art?"
• Geodata generation and interoperability. Getting the many geographic data sets to work together will be a real challenge. All the disparate groups who originally created spatial data didn't design it for interoperability. There are many competing industry and consortium standards and they aren't easily convertible. Most of the coming geospatial web may be populated by data using plain English tags. We'll need a very simple and easy tagging system because there is so much unlabeled geodata. We also need new semantic processes to combine casually- and formally-created data. Another problem with geocoding is dealing with spam. There's also the question of validity – who created the information and is it accurate?
 
 

14B. Issues and Choices - Business and Economics

• Themed and authored vs. social and unauthored virtual worlds (aka professionally-developed vs. user-created content). Traditionally, themed and authored worlds (World of Warcraft, EverQuest, etc.), a multibillion dollar industry today, have always been larger in size and economic impact than social worlds. But as better content creation tools emerge, and more users embrace the new cultural conventions of the participatory web, we will see significantly faster growth in percentage terms in unauthored social world user base for many years to come. Second Life and There are early harbingers of this in the 3D space, but 2D social networks like MySpace (94 million users) and 2d social worlds like Cyworld (18 million users) and Habbo Hotel (7 million users) are even more dramatic examples. While it seems certain that both will continue to grow in popularity, it isn't yet clear which type of world be dominant economically in 2016 (see Uncertainties - Business and Economics).
• What will be the metaverse killer app, the mass-use VisiCalc of the 3D worlds space? Summit quote: "What is the metaverse bringing to the table that makes it more compelling than whatever else users might be doing with that time, whether its eating food, watching TV, going to class, etc? What is our time calculus here? You could argue that the web only succeeded when you could do something useful in a short amount of time."

• Global immersion, a new platform and model for news media. CNN made its franchise as the first network with instantaneous global digital reach. But this requires an expensive network of international reporters, and set the stage for the rise of the more profitable newstainment options like Fox News, which gives the illusion of global reach without the global reporters, and makes up for their lack of depth with partisanship instead of accuracy. But the coming of global 3G networks, high resolution video on cellphones, and virtual worlds and internet television platforms on which to stream citizen media will allow the emergence ofglobal networks both cheaper and more telepresent than CNN. Real 3D video and audio taken by volunteer and citizen journalists, amalgamated by a network of editors that summarize and abstract it for public consumption will become a powerful new tool for informing the world. Korea's OhMyNews, already the fifth largest print newspaper in Korea, is an early example. There will certainly be a number of other business models that take advantage of global immersion technology.

 
 

14C. Issues and Choices - Social, Legal and Other

• Impact of the next billion users. We are now close to a billion internet users, and many demographers expect this number to double by 2016. How will the next billion online migrants affect the shape and preferences of the metaverse? In Everett Rogers' terms (Diffusion of Innovations, 5th Ed.), these next users will be more traditional than the first billion (e.g., neither Innovators or Early Adopters) and have different demands, including a much lower tolerance for technological glitches. Summit quote: "Right now we've got a billion people online and there have been many online cultural shifts. There's a whole lot of common culture online. What I'm interested in is the effect of the Next Billion."
• Common carrier and telecommunication law. Will the metaverse run afoul of common carrier laws holding the virtual world liable for losses and damages which occur to property and person of the user while under the common carrier's charge? What if lawsuits hit metaverse platforms the same way they hit Napster? Summit quote: "What if a court decision says Linden Lab isn't common carrier for all conduct in Second Life, but will be held responsible for the use of content? What will that do? That's just one legal concern going forward."

• Knowing when to use the 2D and 3D web in single vs. multi-user mode. Usage patterns of these two modes is likely to be similar to human behavior in physical space. The 3D web may generally be most useful for multi-user experience, but there will still be single-user usages. By contrast, the 2D web is be most useful for single-user experience, but there will still be some multi-user usages. When is it valuable for you to know that 1, 10 or 100 other folks are viewing the same web page as you? Amazon doesn't tell you this, and you are thankful. When Google spreadsheets tells you, its often just annoying. We need good design priorities that help users understand when multi-user mode is and isn't useful, and the option to customize.

• Transparency issues in geospace. How will the growing virtual transparency of geospace impact security and privacy? Will clearances be required for access to highly-accurate sims? Summit quote: "A high-fidelity virtual White House could be a national security risk. There are going to be more security concerns over spatial representation on the internet."
Entertainment law as a boon or bane. What are good policy examples we can advocate as our law grows to incorporate virtual worlds and their specialized communities and economies? As the entertainment factor is no longer the only major interest, and the community and commerce elements of VWs increase, the legal landscape will change.
• Discrimination against the nonvirtual. Because of massive network effects, the internet became irresistible to tens of millions of users shortly after its emergence. There was so much potential value that millions had to take advantage of it. Virtual worlds soon stand to promise the same thing, but with an even greater upside in terms of social exposure, economic activity, and eventually, even superior collaborative efficiency vs. physical space. If we live in a jacked-in society and that's where the majority of social interaction happens, those who aren't virtually augmented will suffer social and economic disadvantages. How do we minimize such discrimination, or will the transition be so slow that this problem never emerges?
• Using virtual worlds to improve and solve global problems. As our global monitoring GIS systems and virtual world platforms get better, non-governmental organizations can increasingly use them to become "worldwatchers." They can set their monitoring systems to ping them when the issues they care about exceed thresholds anywhere in the world, and then do their best to draw attention and resources to the problem. They can increasingly use virtual worlds to mediate social change for complex problems in underdeveloped regions. Dissenting opinion: "Even such advances as international cable networks and the internet have done little to create a global consciousness to date. Building a 3D model of the Darfur region of Sudan in Second Life, for example, as a few Westerners have recently done, has little impact on our understanding of the problem, and is even counterproductive when it lulls the naive altruist into believing they have positively engaged the issue when in fact they've done nothing. Even if such virtual models were visually representative, which they aren't, that doesn't mean we would understand the issues. Political transparency is much harder to communicate, and one needs an audience that cares to learn the complexities, when few do. The least-wired places in the world won't be transformed by synthetic worlds, notwithstanding misguided optimism." So what is the value to a Camp Darfur in Second Life? This is controversial, but certainly there is some value. One key reason why virtual worlds today may be a poor technology for social change in underdeveloped regions, even when they get their facts straight, is that one cannot use them yet to easily establish personal connections to individuals in those regions. Thus the potential power of the network (stimulating one on one relationships, citizen diplomacy, remittances, etc.) cannot yet be leveraged for social good. One key issue then involves how to get real numbers of individuals in the world's worst areas into digital space. This seems highly unlikely to happen in significant numbers in places where literacy, infrastructure, liesure, and safety are such scarce commodities. The people who need the help the most by definition will be the least connected and defended, in every sense of the word.
 
 

15. Ideas and Proposals. General ideas and proposals for pathways to the 3D web.

15A. Ideas and Proposals - Technology and Science

• Open-sourcing a leading game world. One way we might jump start the metaverse would be an existing game world client taking its core technology open source, and that client becoming the standard for constructing interconnected virtual worlds. Whatever API's it supports would then be the favored ones. Linden Labs, makers of Second Life, is making at least small moves in this direction. Libsecondlife, for example, is an open source software library (in beta development in 2006) that can be used in a third party application to communicate with SL's servers.
Software virtualization may enhance the network effects of global virtual worlds development. Imagine a single browser capable of creating virtual machines that allow access to Second Life, There, Active Worlds, Kaneva, VRML, etc. all at the same time. Combine that with software which tells me where the avatars are congregating, and a directory wiki that tells me what each world is about and I have a virtual playground as interesting and clickable as the 2D web.
• Some technology paths to a mature metaverse. We will need:
  - More worlds that support peer-to-peer interactivity and connections without going through a central server.
  - Another alternative would be a setup that allows a server based solution that provides easy geometry instancing.
  - To empower individuals and small groups to make private worlds, and control who can gain access to their personal spaces.
  - A commercial venture that will provide technology to support this vision of private, permission-based virtual spaces.
  - User-friendly, open-ended virtual construction tools that enable a high degree of customization.
  - Better and cheaper PDAs and input and display devices (typing gloves, monitor glasses) that work comfortably with human bodies.
  - Avatars that can express the full range of human emotions and social interactions with less lag.
  - A social shift, so that video games and virtual world technologies are not feared and stigmatized but welcomed into our everyday lives.
 
 

15B. Ideas and Proposals - Business and Economics

• Social networking sites like Meetup (2.3 million members in Jul 2006) and Eventful (over 100,000 upcoming events listed as of Jul 2006) are organizing the world's offline social activities, and connecting them to our online calendars (Google, Yahoo, Outlook, etc.). As location-based event opportunities come to our wearable GPS-equipped navigation systems (e.g., Garmin's fantastic handheld Nuvi) and smart phones in coming years, another level of physical-virtual fusion will occur. Video clips will share highlights of past events. Virtual maps and pictures will increase RSVPs for upcoming events. As social options in the larger and denser cities exponentiate, this will increase their draw over smaller cities and rural areas.
• Potential for a new game aggregator delivery and revenue model. Korea is a bellwether for many gaming trends. As a recent article on Korean casual gaming notes, youth are beginning to sample many casual games rather than play one, and are outgrowing their interest in particular casual games as rapidly as ever [71]. This makes revenue models difficult, with most casual game companies earning revenues off the sale of virtual items, not subscriptions. This proliferation of choice and increasing internet bandwidth and hard disk drive space may lead to the emergence of game aggregators that provide licensed online access to a broad variety of games for a flat monthly fee, but who allow different lengths of access to each of the premium games depending on licensing terms. That would allow youth to explore the widest palette of initial possibilities in gamespace, to discover games they find particularly intuitive and fun to play, and to pay extra for unlimited access to favorite premium games at any point in time.
• As virtual worlds develop, groups like the Interactive Advertising Bureau should come to see the value of virtual worlds. Interactive marketing holds the promise to move from the "tell me" model (2D and 3D rote mass media) through a "show me" one (demos, personalized case studies) to a "change me" perspective (personalized interactivity). The more immersive the advertising experience, the more customer impact and learning can be measured though interactivity, rather than simple click throughs or annoying surveys.
• Numerical reputation-based worlds. A major unmet latent demand in online social networks is the ability to develop numerical social reputations based on both 1) quality of testimonials, and 2) quantity and social ranking of those giving the testimonials (eg., a system similar to Google's PageRank, but for people's reputation). When this is combined with the face to face mingling capacity of online worlds, and the ability of high-reputation individuals who share similar interests, live in particular physical locations, have similar socioeconomic status, etc. to mingle online, we will see a huge new market for online worlds as tools for quality social networking. Such networking can in many ways exceed the value of exclusive physical world meetings, as the number and types of specialized networks will be greatly multiplied over physical space. The recent proliferation of online fansites are harbingers of such community creation. The economic value of networking based on reputation, and the opportunity for better social action that will occur, will unlock major new potentials for social value creation that will never be possible in physical space for logistical reasons.
 
 

15C. Ideas and Proposals - Social, Legal and Other

• Let's try to get past the use of "real world" as a comparison when we refer to virtual worlds. Rather than the misleading dichotomy of "real world" and "virtual world," or even "real life (RL)" and "second life (SL)," a more accurate pairing is "physical world (PW)" and "virtual world (VW)," and "physical life (PL)" and "virtual life (VL)." When we call the physical the "real" we label the virtual the unreal, which just isn't true. "Virtual reality" is an accurate phrase, because virtual is a special type of reality. The virtual is as real as thought, emotion, consciousness, and other "abstract" informational spaces. The "virtual/physical" dichotomy isn't perfect, as virtual spaces (human thought, virtual worlds) are still physically based (action potentials flowing in neurons, electrons flowing in digital circuits). But these processess are abstract, with emergent meanings beyond the physical. Using the word "virtual" in referring to our electronic systems, as opposed to "informational" or any other, allows us to emphasize a process of global development, a new system transition for local intelligence that is occurring all around us.

• P2P for social activism. Interoperable peer-to-peer virtual worlds might take off for social activism in emerging nations because they are useful as an outlet for anonymous political dissent, and are by nature hard to control. Graphics and content may lag behind in such worlds, but they are uniquely useful as a platform for activism and support of grey market and black market economies. What technological, social, and political conditions (repressive societies, etc.) might facilitate such a development?
• We will continue to value the freedom of multiple online identities. This happens in the offline world when we behave differently in a business meeting than we do hanging out with friends. Likewise, as our avatars increase in complexity many of us will want to have at least two modes of familiarity, professional and personal, and control access to who sees our personal side. A subset of individuals, such as youth engaged in identity exploration, or minorities avoiding discrimination in majority cultures, will maintain multiple identities. With perseverance we can improve our verification systems so that while anonymity is no longer allowed, identity privacy is strongly protected and not revealed except by consent, or cause with due process.
Digital projection theatres may promote revitalized public spaces, including "Third Space Theatres". As digital networks expand into the motion picture megaplexes and art house theatres, people will be able to get greater public access to the “long tail” of visual content, including animated and virtual world content. Netflix today has 65,000 titles on DVD, and ships as many as 40,000 of those every week to a consumer base tired of the lowest common denominator programming found in corporate chain theatres. Such individuals presently remain isolated even in high density urban environments, but when it costs little for theatres to pipe in HDTV content, narrowcast films will have a new market. With luck, digital projection will facilitate the emergence of the small screening room (20-40 people) adjacent to popular third spaces (independent and chain coffee shops), which promote audience interaction after the film. Hopefully some of the existing corporate third spaces such as chain coffeshops (Starbucks, Coffee Bean, etc.) and megabookstores (Barnes and Noble, Borders, etc.) will see the value of adding profitable small screening rooms next door to their most popular locations within the next ten years, and using them to offer fee-based narrowcast film content. We may also see a few of our more innovative nonprofit third spaces like public librarys, reinvent themselves to include small screening rooms. In an ideal model, some upcoming screenings would be voted on by the local community over a web interface, maximizing diversity. People would be asked to introduce themselves by name before the screening starts, a simple request that is practical in small screening rooms and would greatly increase the community experience of film viewing. Tickets would be purchased automatically over the cellphone or web. Such rooms will also be rentable for private screenings in the late evening, the way karaoke rooms are rented in Asian countries. Such innovation would put pressure on the chain movie theaters to remake themselves in ways that would also serve minority and narrowcast interests within the community.

• In our best current assessment, the history of local complex systems development has been the movement into ever more ethereal, ephemeral, less physical, more virtual forms. In other words, our technological informational systems are today moving beyond the physical in a very important way. This is the full meaning of the word virtual, and a transition that Buckminster Fuller in 1938 first called the "ephemeralization" of the leading edge of complex systems in Earth's history. John Smart calls this process "STEM compression," in a more recent exploration of the virtualization trend. Over time, the most complex local complex systems in Earth's developmental history have always figured out ways to use substantially less Space, Time, Energy, and Matter to do any standard of computation or physical transformation, however measured or defined. As perhaps the most obvious example of this, human consciousness and our internal mental models are built on a very small and energy efficient (relative to genetic learning, which occurs over generations) set of physical processes in our neural structure, and are engaged in an increasingly accurate yet abstract simulation of physical space. Consciousness and human thought is therefore a highly virtual emergence. Machine thought and digital models, even in their crude form today, are more STEM-compressed, ephemeral, and virtual still, as their evolutionary development has occured in small fraction of the matter, energy, space, and time that were necessary to produce human thought. By current accounts, as we move ever further into the microcosm with the design of our digital systems, our machine models are expected to become stunningly more virtual still. At the same time, biological human beings are being lured to spend ever more of our time in virtual space. In sum, understanding the ways that all our virtual systems, both biological and technological, progressively free themselves from physical contraints will be one of the keys to better guiding the development of virtual reality in coming years.

 
 

16. Key Uncertainties. Unknowns and controversies to be clarified in the future.

16A. Key Uncertainties - Technology and Science

• Wireless broadband growth. By 2016, what percentage of U.S. and global mobile device users (cell phone, PDA, etc.) will have always-on broadband internet accessibility (Evolution Data-Optimized (EVDO) and successors) from their devices?
• 3D home media center ('Metaverse Access Center") platform growth. Will a multipurpose home platform for internet television, videoconferencing, and virtual worlds be a key enabler of broad social adoption of metaverse spaces?
By 2016, what percent of U.S. households will have each of the following interactive 3D capacities in their home media center, game console, or PC?
A. Interactive internet-based video and television
B. 3D teleconferencing
C. 3D virtual worlds and MMO games
Conversational interface growth. For users in the U.S., when will the average query length used in leading search applications (including search engines, avatar bots, and other interfaces) grow to seven words (voice or text)? For reference, the average query length to search engine Alta Vista in 1998 was 1.3 words, and to Google in 2005 was 2.7 words (doubled in seven years). The average human-to-human verbal query is eleven words. How necessary is a spoken conversational interface to global 3D web usage?
• Life-recording systems growth. In 2016, what percentage of the U.S. population ages 13-30 will use “lifelog” systems (wearable recording systems that capture, autotag, and upload audiovisual experiences to a server that allows contextual searching, sharing, and selective reexamination by the user)? Will social or legal/privacy issues stunt their adoption? Will potential economic/performance advantages of lifelog adoption be marginal or substantial?
• Social dominance of virtual space. Summit quote: "How soon will a network of metaverse technologies become more effective for performing collaborative tasks than a physical space? When will we get more useful metadata talking avatar-to-avatar than we get person-to-person in physical space? Then when if ever will other technologies allow physical space to catch back up? At GDC 2006 Google had a pretty high level meeting with one of the game middleware companies. So what's that about if not trying to take all the pieces and put them together in a way that might be very kludgey in the beginning but evolve over time into something much more."
• 3D automotive navigation systems. By 2016, what percentage of automobiles will have at least partially 3D automotive navigation systems?
 
 

16B. Key Uncertainties - Business and Economics

Open source vs. proprietary. Over the next ten years, how much of global 3D virtual world and game commerce will occur in worlds that are open source (shared code allowing public or private derivative works and some general public license for the basic elements of the world/game), and how much will occur in worlds that are proprietary (private licenses at the core, as with Second Life or Google Earth)? Are OS VW initiatives like DutchPIPE (PHP/AJAX) the wave of the future or are they destined to be minor players given VW complexity?
• VW and 3D web industry boom-and-bust. By 2016 will we have seen an internet-type financial boom-and-bust cycle in the U.S., including a loss of more than 50% of stock value, with at least one publicly traded stock market index of virtual world and 3D web related technology companies?
• Major software company launches a user-owned virtual world economy. How soon will a leading global software company like Google, Yahoo, Microsoft, Amazon, etc. launch, or buy and launch, a 3D virtual world where users are encouraged to engage in economic transactions and own as legal property products they create in the world? Google's recent moves improving interoperability (Maya, COLLADA, etc.) and tools (SketchUp, etc.) for Google Earth, and talks with Second Life, suggest they are increasingly interested in this space.
• Interoperability development. When will we see successful synthetic worlds whose business models are based on open standards for the migration of users avatars (traveling avatars/"travatars") and virtual assets between participating worlds? Will this interoperability emerge first from gaming, location based search, or some other sector? Will it be aided by more by standards convergence or by strategic partnerships between existing worlds? In 2016, of the top 100 (by user base) 3D-enhanced online environments (entertainment, communication, social, work, shopping, etc.) how many will be in each of the following interoperability categories?
A. Strongly interoperable (identities, reputations, avatars, items, and currency may be easily transferred or reused outside the environment, if necessary using exporting and interfacing systems promoted inside each world)
B. Mildly interoperable (some assets are interoperable, but this is not always easy or encouraged)
C. Walled gardens (proprietary spaces discouraging asset transfer and reuse by licences as well as barriers to migration)
• Content development models. Over the next ten years, what percentage of global 3D virtual world and game commerce will occur via unpaid, user-created development (ex: Second Life, Croquet, etc.), and what percentage via paid, professionally-created development (ex: Counter-Strike, The Sims, World of Warcraft, and most 3D social spaces today)? For global video, TV, and film what percentage of commerce will come from user-created content (ex: YouTube, Google Video, etc.), and what percentage from professionally-created content (ex: Cable TV and Satellite TV networks, film studios, etc.)?
• Openness of delivery platforms. Over the next ten years, what percentage of global video, TV, and film commerce will occur on delivery platforms that are open access/competitive (ex: internet video/TV, public cable TV, etc.) and what percentage on platforms that are proprietary/monopoly (ex: satellite and most cable TV , theatres, etc.)?
• Top down vs. bottom up 3D world production. How quickly will today’s top-down, studio-created (EA, NCSoft, etc.) alternative worlds be challenged for audience by bottom-up, user-created alternative worlds (Second Life, There, etc.) and user-annotated mirror worlds (Google Earth, Microsoft Windows Live Local, etc.) built on top down designed platforms. Increasing numbers of top down games can be expected within bottom up world platforms, and bottom-up games and mods built within in top down platforms. Will this "third category" blurring of boundaries, mixing the two production styles, be extensive or minor?
• 3D e-shopping. For what things will the inefficiencies of 3D shopping be worth the sensory and social benefit? For which will we see the greatest success early on? Music? Fashion? Video on demand? Imagine an Amazon.com virtual world with an "infinite shelf." In what ways would shopping in a 3D space be preferable to 2D? Will we use it mainly because of its social dimension? How could that be enhanced and customized? For what types of goods will it work best?
• Value of 3D worlds for distributed workgroups. Over the next ten years how often will distributed collaborating work groups use voice-enabled 3D applications (videoconferencing, virtual office spaces, etc.) as opposed to voice-enabled 2D-only software (eg: Skype + Writely, Groove, etc.)? Will the adoption and use be mild or substantial? Seriosity and other virtual office startups are betting they can find a niche with today's first generation virtual world and 3G broadband capacities.
• Will either social or themed worlds be economically dominant in 2016? Today, the leading 2D social networking sites and social worlds are growing at astonishing rates. Some, like Cyworld, have been profitable from the beginning, while others, like MySpace, recently purchased by News Corporation, have yet to make a profit, even with 94 million users. Meanwhile themed virtual worlds (World of Warcraft, EverQuest, etc.) with just ten to twenty million users collectively, are already a multibillion dollar industry. Improvement in participatory web technologies will bring allow users to add major new content value to online communities in the coming decade, and may preferentially enable them over themed worlds, which must restrict content to maintain the theme. While both types of worlds will clearly continue to prosper, predicting which will be dominant economically in 2016, and which monetization strategies (advertising, subscription, etc.) will be most successful in the process, remain important open questions.
• Value of a contiguous metaverse. Will there be superior value, from the consumer's perspective, of an architecture of contiguous (transparently connected) geography in the metaverse versus archipelagos of isolated worlds, as we have today? It isn't yet clear to what extent worlds that link up transparently will gain traction over walled gardens. The original open source vision of VRML was websites with parts to them that were 3D bubbles, and we could wander through them discontinuously. A commercial analog of this today is Cyworld in South Korea, with 15 million users, a large fraction of which have 3D home pages people can wander through, trade objects, wallpaper, music, form groups, etc, all under the umbrella of a single service provider. Will there ever be a compelling reason to do this open source? As the technological ability to have 3D object interchangeability comes about, what will be the legal roadblocks to migrating user experience and objects from proprietary virtual worlds? When users of balkanized 3D worlds demand the ability to take their products into new shared spaces, what will happen? Summit quote: "If I want to bring my 60th level character and objects from Blizzard’s World of Warcraft into a new game environment, with reverse engineered protocols but new adventures on a platform not designed by Blizzard, one would expect them to sue to prevent this. But as players get increasingly invested in their characters, some will demand increasing flexibility and interoperability. What legal options will they have?" Will efficient 3D behaviors in online workplaces (like Amazon’s one-click buying algorithm) be patentable? Will patent holders be able to prevent users from using those behaviors in competing online work environments?
• How popular will peer-to-peer file sharing networks be in 2016? There is some early evidence that peer-to-peer networks are saturating in popularity. BigChampagne Online Media Measurement reports the total estimated simultaneous worldwide P2P users averaged 7.8 million users in 2004, but there were only 8.9 million users two years later in July 2006 [59]. Increasing ease of purchasing and affordability of online music, increasing copy protection on digital media (music, video, software), and increasing consequences of using peer-to-peer systems for criminal purposes, both minor and major, may continue to keep P2P growth flat. At the same time, legal liability for operating networks which facilitate piracy may only continue to grow, hampering the profitability of P2P platforms. In 2005, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the owners and operators of file-swapping networks could be held liable for encouraging people to download copyrighted works. After every major filesharing service has been sued for promoting piracy (Napster, Kazaa, etc.), its popularity has fallen dramatically. On the other hand, increasingly powerful computers, better bandwidth, and intelligent platforms may make P2P networks more popular. Also, P2P networks designed for other purposes, such as the VoIP program Skype, have been growing on a much faster trend, with 1 million concurrent users in Oct 2004 and 6 million concurrent users in March 2006. Skype now handles an astounding 7% of the world's long distance minutes as of May 2006 [59]. As Skype 2.0 with Video emerges, the opportunity for file sharing may occur, or Skype may avoid this to prevent liability issues. Finally, P2P antipiracy and transparency standards, like the Broadcast Flag, a continual objective of many in the political arena, may emerge after a high profile "catastrophe" involving encrypted P2P use, as with child pornography sharing or other organized criminal behavior. Much seems uncertain on this issue at the present time.
• Metaverse hype cycle. Since the VRML days in the mid-1990's we've see a well documented hype cycle in virtual world technologies (see Cycles, 7Ba). When will we see a hype cycle of investment begin in businesses based on Web 2.0 virtual world and geospatial platforms, and how fast will there be another phase of disillusionment with these technologies? How short-lived will that be before the next technology-enabled hype?

• Impact of virtual consumption on environmental sustainability. Clearly the developed economies consume so much real goods and raw materials per capita that the rest of the world couldn’t sustainably consume at the same level. Will increasingly virtual consumption among developed economies youth help us transition to global sustainability? What will be the impact on per capita physical world consumption (goods, energy, etc.) of a fully enabled metaverse? Is the consumption of ideas and experiences (entertainment, communications, etc.) increasingly competing against the consumption of physical items? If so, this may have very positive implications for the decreasing use of energy and other resources. Parts of the traditional physical economy like business travel, even tourist travel may decline, at least per capita. The production, shipping, storing of many types of real physical goods may go down.

• Incremental vs. exponential advance of virtual worlds. Once it reaches a threshold functionality, will virtual worlds technology adoption advance as rapidly as the 2D web did? Faster? The software is more complex, but our updating tools are getting much better. VoIP, for example, has rapidly expanded (Skype, etc.) in a short period once adequate quality was available.
• Long-run impact of virtualization. As Dmitri Ivanov argues ("Postindustrialization and the Virtualization of the Economy," J of Soc and Social Anthro, 1998 1(1)), are we seeing the beginnings of the start of a major shift of human activity into virtual space? Over the longer term, will our physical world economy start to saturate as the virtual economy goes exponential? If so, will increasingly more of the labor cost of tomorrow’s companies go to paying the virtually creative people? [85]
• New geography of jobs. What will be the typical spectrum of jobs in a fully metaverse-enabled world, one navigable by conversational interface?
• Top ten uses of the metaverse. What will people most use the 3D web for by 2016? Entertainment? Games? Socializing? Commerce? What else?
 
 

16C. Key Uncertainties - Social, Legal and Other

• Banking oversight in virtual world businesses. By 2016, will U.S. courts rule that U.S. banking regulations apply to the management and exchange of virtual world economic assets and/or to the financial markets (currency exchanges, etc.) associated with virtual worlds? Or will the virtual economy stay free of banking oversight within this time horizon?
• Securities oversight in virtual world businesses. By 2016, will U.S. regulators rule that U.S. securities and investment laws apply to at least some 3D world stock exchanges or investment markets, or will today's early virtual versions (e.g., Metaverse Stock Exchange in Second Life) remain unregulated and uncertified?
Fair use in virtual space. How will image rights play out in virtual space? Will it be legal to make highly accurate copies of national monuments and public buildings? Of private buildings? Of private individuals? What will constitute fair use, and how will image rights and trademark law be changed to reflect the protection of images in 3D space?

• Liability of virtual worlds platforms for intellectual property violation. To what degree will virtual world companies (as opposed to the infringers) be held liable under common carrier and other laws from users copying and trading in others’ intellectual property? During the first years of public photocopiers, the law was unclear to what degree the photocopier companies (Xerox, etc.) would be held liable for user infringements. This lack of clarity slowed the development of the technology, and for years only small, risktaking companies like Copico were willing to enter the self-service copying industry. The law has matured so that the user is solely liable for infringements with self-service copying, but companies that provide copying service (FedEx Kinko’s, etc.) share the liability and burden of ensuring the copying jobs they do for customers are legal. When will we see a similar clarification in virtual worlds, and to what degee will 3D world providers be held liable for self-service/user-created IP violations?

Digital identity developments. By 2016, will U.S. law require U.S.-based 3D world providers to employ any of a variety of third-party verification or otherwise validated digital identity systems (ex: linking identity to bank account, credit card, or other nationally recognized ID document or online system)? Or will users in such worlds still be allowed to bypass identity reporting or self-report their identities with no verification? Paul Saffo of IFTF states “Koreans carry a national identity card with a unique serial number. So unlike in the United States, where as the joke goes, on the Internet no one knows you are a dog, when you log on to the Korean Internet and to NHN's site, you have to give your national identity number. That way they know exactly who you are. This shows that there are different populations of users out there, and that there are different cultural norms. There are going to be different things that excite users abroad that may not be big in the U.S.” [84]
• Online trust and reputation. By 2016, will the most popular global 3D worlds allow the importing of user trust and reputation systems from other online environments, the exporting of trust and reputation ratings outside the 3D world, and the creation of user-customizable metaratings? Or will trust and reputation remain mostly fragmented and isolated by system?
Taxation in virtual worlds. How soon and to what degree will the declaration and taxation of 3D world assets be addressed in federal, state, or local tax codes? Ten year possibilities include:
A. No significant change. Tax codes do not mention virtual assets as a declarable asset class. As under current law, income taxation occurs only when virtual assets and currency are converted to legal tender currency.
B. Some change. Tax codes require declaration of at least some classes of virtual assets. Government audits may include virtual assets in some cases.
C. Significant change. As virtual world property continues to accumulate with only partial transfer back into physical space, some virtual (in world) assets will be ruled appraisable and taxable as property or capital gains (appreciated assets) whether converted into U.S. currency or not.
• 3D avatar adoption growth in the more developed countries. Over the next ten years, what percentage of internet users will adopt the use of an interactive 3D avatar for any purpose other than games and entertainment? Our estimate of weekly interactive avatar use in 2006, on sites like Cyworld, Playdo, Habbo Hotel, IMVU, major instant messenging platforms, educational games, etc. is 1-2% (9-11M) of the 658M internet users in the more developed countries (U.N. MDC definition, Human Development Index >0.9). How quickly will this change in coming years?
• Social adoption of remote 3D symbiotic groups. In 2016, what percentage of the U.S. population ages 13-30 will allow their trusted group to view 3D images of what they are doing in realtime (through wearable computer cameras or even EyeTaps), and to be able to give feedback or advice? Will there be social backlash against the psychological effects (less individual identity, more groupmind) on groups with such connections? Will the potential economic and performance advantages that accrue to such groups be marginal or substantial?
• Illiberal vs. liberal digital democracy. In Fareed Zakaria's terms (Future of Freedom, 2003) is our baseline trend presently toward an increasingly illiberal or liberal digital democracy? [86] Can we maintain an appropriate balance between state and corporate interests and individual freedoms as we build network and metaverse functionality? Network neutrality requires universal access, nondiscriminating service policies, and a network structure that is immune to centralized censorship, and which allows user-encrypted communications that can be decrypted by authorities as needed. Yet democratic policies and safeguards may be eroded in an increasingly commercialized and government-controlled network.
• Virtual world access and development. When, if ever, will a leading global political or economic body (eg, United Nations, WTO, World Bank) advocate unrestricted access to globally shared virtual worlds as an international policy or liberalization guideline? Will virtual world environments eventually reach that level of importance to political and economic development?

• Social backlash against VW etiquette. What will be the social backlash against an increasingly avatar-mediated and attention-limited culture? Will people accept interacting with mediator bots, which may have only the partial attention of the individuals behind them, versus individuals themselves?

Cognitive overhead/load as a limit to the use of augmented reality. AR pundits often propose that people will be able to use augmented reality overlays without significant cognitive drawbacks. But cognitive load theory argues that we have a sharply fixed capacity to deal with complex interfaces. How much can that capacity be extended by intelligent AR interfaces?
Political relevance of metaverse issues. The next ten years (two and a half election cycles) in the United States have a significant ability to impact metaverse development and management issues like digital identity, trust networks, broadband, and subsidization of R&D. Will they?
• Social usefulness of 3D technology. How useful will 3D web technologies end up being? In the physical world we use 3D for initial social encounters, but once familiarity sets in, we often prefer to use "thin pipes" (IM, email, telephone) instead of face-to-face contact. Videophones/ videoconferencing are most useful for dating, early contacts, and some online collaboration environments, for example. Are we overselling the metaverse?
 
 

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