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Metaverse November 28, 2022

What on Earth is the Fediverse?

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What on Earth is the Fediverse?

Although the Fediverse is still small when compared to the number of users on mainstream platforms, those interested in the future of the internet and regulation should be aware of the Fediverse and how it works, who uses it and why it’s important.

The Fediverse is a network of interconnected servers that communicate with each other based on decentralized networking protocols. These servers have varying uses and different services, such as social media or file hosting. 

So far, the most popular Fediverses are Mastodon, PeerTube (video hosting, similar to YouTube), and Pleroma (social networking and microblogging similar to Mastodon).

In order to have a grasp of how the Fediverse works, there is need to understand the central concepts, namely the software platforms that comprise the Fediverse, and the communication protocols used by those software platforms.

Fediverses aren’t websites

Signing up to a Fediverse service isn’t the same as signing up to Elon Musk’s Twitter or Meta’s Facebook, where one creates an account and uses it to communicate only with other users on that platform.

The Fediverse services aren’t single websites, but pieces of open-source software that allow anyone to run their own social networking service using that particular software’s functions.

Picture this; you are running your own kind of Facebook where you keep all the functionality and features that Facebook’s software incorporates, but you determine who’s allowed onto your Facebook and the rules they have to follow. Sounds cool?

Well, the servers on the Fediverse, are called “instances,” and they federate with other “instances”, so the user experience is that of an integrated social network. 

This leads to a decentralized distribution of authority and responsibility across the network.

What on Earth is the Fediverse?

In practice, Mastodon, one of the Fediverses, provides microblogging software, but those hosting instances retain complete authority over how they wish their particular community to function. While this structure provides users and instance owners with greater control, it also means that individual instances must manage their own operations and security.

For example, individual instances are responsible for mitigating distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks themselves—without centralized governance, there’s no centralized protection. 

Which protocols are in use in the Fediverse?

A number of different protocols are in use across the Fediverse, including ActivityPub and diaspora. In Fediverses, shared protocols allow users of different software platforms to communicate with each other. For instance, a Mastodon instance and a non-Mastodon instance can communicate when both use the ActivityPub protocol.

In other words, having an account on Friendica doesn’t limit you to communicating only with other Friendica users—because Friendica is part of the Fediverse, users of other services like Mastodon or Pleroma can communicate with you directly without needing to share a platform.

This would be similar to scrolling an Instagram feed, but Facebook posts from friends and from Twitter users one follows also appear integrated into the platform.

How many users are in the Fediverse?

Although it is difficult to estimate the exact number of Fediverse users because of the decentralization of the services, estimates by third parties, show a growth from about 600,000 users in early 2019 to 4.5 million in late 2021. 

How many users are in the Fediverse?

Different audiences have embraced it for a variety of reasons. Some were concerned about remaining on mainstream social media platforms because of trolling and spamming. For instance, Mastodon focused on its ability to provide a more curated space free from the “toxic behavior” generally prevalent on platforms like Twitter. 

In 2017, federated services were described as appealing to “queer and trans” demographic groups who “fled Twitter due to harassment.” 

This movement was due in part to the increased power of moderation tools to allow users to curate their own online experiences. For example, Mastodon introduced “defederation” in 2017, which allows instances to block all content from another instance considered problematic or harmful. Instances can also choose to only federate with a small number of other instances vetted for, for example, friendliness to LGBTQ users.

While mainstream social media platforms allow individual users to block others, the Fediverse allows for community-level engagement with, or disengagement from, other communities. 

For MetaNews.

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Image credits: Shutterstock, CC images, Midjourney.

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Quest 3 Headset Will Have Better Mixed Reality Tech

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Quest 3 Headset Will Have Better Mixed Reality Tech, says Zuckerberg
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Meta, keen to be a Metaverse giant, plans to launch virtual reality headset Quest 3 later this year, with better mixed reality technology, said CEO Mark Zuckerberg.

Meta confirmed that the release should be called Meta Quest 3. It’s expected to cost between US$300 and US$500, which is about a third of the Quest Pro (the Quest Pro is currently priced at $1,499.99).

Also read: Meta Employees Undermine Zuckerberg’s Metaverse Strategy

The new headset will provide support for Meta Reality, which is technology that enables virtual reality headsets to also be used for augmented reality. This technology allows devices to create mixed reality experiences.

Meta Reality in Next-Gen Consumer Headset

The mixed reality ecosystem is relatively new, but Zuckerberg thinks it’s going to grow a lot in the next few years.

“Later this year, we’re going to launch our next generation consumer headset, which will feature Meta Reality as well, and I expect that this is going to establish this technology as the baseline for all headsets going forward, and eventually of course for AR glasses as well,” said Zuckerberg.

Beyond MR, the broader VR ecosystem continues growing. There are now over 200 apps on Meta’s VR devices that have made more than $1 million in revenue, Zuckerberg said.

How Meta Reality will look in more affordable headsets is yet to be clear.

Meta’s Reported Win over FTC will be Crucial

Meta has reportedly won court approval earlier this week to acquire VR fitness app Supernatural’s maker, Within, which will be a huge boost for Zuckerberg’s ambitious metaverse project.

Meta’s plan was to acquire Within and Supernatural back in October 2021, but it was blocked by the FTC’s complaint file to stop the deal. The FTC’s complaint was justified by saying Meta already owns a “virtual reality empire.”

Zuckerberg’s Meta Quest 2 is arguably the best VR headset, even after a massive hike in its price last year.

“There is a lot of work there that we haven’t actually shipped the product yet. VR, which is starting to ramp, right, Quest 2, I think, did quite well. We have multiple product lines there with the Quest Pro,” said Zuckerberg about Quest 3.

When Meta shipped Quest Pro at the end of last year, it was something their CEO was “really proud of” and believed it was the first mainstream mixed reality device to set the standard for the industry with Meta Reality.

“As always, the reason why we’re focused on building these platforms is to deliver better social experiences than what’s possible today on phones,” said Zuckerberg.

The possible benefit could be expected in Quest 3 through the acquisition of Within.

 

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Metaverse

Interpol Wants to Police Metaverse Crime. But That May Not Be Easy

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Interpol Wants to Police Metaverse Crime. But That May Not Be Easy

The International Criminal Police Organization, or Interpol, is looking at ways to police crime in the metaverse, according to secretary general Jurgen Stock. However, the agency may find that to be hard in the absence of a universally agreed definition of the “metaverse,” let alone of metaverse crime.

Stock said, “criminals are sophisticated and professional in very quickly adapting to any new technological tool that is available to commit crime. We need to sufficiently respond to that. Sometimes lawmakers, police, and our societies are running a little bit behind.”

“We have seen if we are doing it too late, it already impacts trust in the tools we are using, and therefore the metaverse. In similar platforms that already exist, criminals are using it,” he added, according to the BBC.

Defining the metaverse

The metaverse may be thought of as the idea of a post-physical world in which life is lived virtually on the Internet: “a single, shared, immersive, persistent, 3D virtual space” where humans experience life in ways they could not in the real world.

Also read: Is the World Ready for Music Concerts in the Metaverse?

American author Neal Stephenson is credited with coining the term “metaverse” in his 1992 sci-fi novel Snow Crash. He referred to the metaverse as an all-encompassing digital world that exists parallel to the real world.

However, the word gained significance when Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg changed the name of the social media company to “Meta” in 2021, a rebrand that focused on building the metaverse.

While at this point users are already utilizing a range of hardware such as headsets to gain access to the immersive experiences of the metaverse, there’s still no universally agreed definition of the metaverse. Much less of metaverse crime.

What does metaverse crime look like for Interpol?

The building blocks of the new form of communication are still being laid down. Anyone can build their own metaverse and define how that specific digital world works. Interpol has now built its own virtual reality (VR) space in order to catch up with criminals operating in the metaverse.

The VR unit is aimed at helping its officers with training for virtual interactions. Announcing the launch of the virtual reality metaverse last October, Interpol said:

“As the number of metaverse users grows and the technology further develops, the list of possible crimes will only expand to potentially include crimes against children, data theft, money laundering, financial fraud, counterfeiting, ransomware, phishing, and sexual assault and harassment.”

Interpol is still having a hard time defining metaverse crime. Madan Oberoi, the executive director of technology and innovation at Interpol, admitted to the BBC that “there are crimes where I don’t know whether it can still be called a crime or not.”

“For example, there have been reported cases of sexual harassment,” he said. “If you look at the definitions of these crimes in physical space, and you try to apply it in the metaverse, there is a difficulty.”

“We don’t know whether we can call them a crime or not, but those threats are definitely there, so those issues are yet to be resolved,” he added.

Oberoi said law enforcement needed to “know about the metaverse” in order to “help people who have been hurt in the metaverse.” It is one of Interpol’s objectives, he explained, “to make sure law enforcement personnel start using the metaverse and they become aware.”

Uphill task

Alex Kim, chief monetization officer at XR platform Sensorium Galaxy, said while discussions around metaverse regulation may help create “safe digital environments” for users, there is still need to strike a balance in implementation.

“The metaverse is being envisioned as a decentralized platform over which no central authority has control over,” Kim told MetaNews.

“This begs the question of who exactly should be tasked with monitoring the metaverse and what powers can this entity potentially have, and over what and whom.” Continuing, Kim added:

“It’s clear that policing the metaverse won’t be as straightforward as some might be hoping, but it’s very positive that the conversation surrounding the topic is moving forward, especially given the rapid pace of current technological developments.”

Software engineer Brandon Church laughed at the idea that the global police agency wanted to play guard to the metaverse.

“[The metaverse] is just an idea at the moment. The problem with ideas is that sometimes they never see the light of day. So these guys [Interpol] are working on policing an idea? I’m seriously wondering [where they are going with this],” Church told MetaNews.

Arseny Myakotnikov, cofounder and CMO of drive-to-earn Metadrive, believes the Interpol initiative goes against the ethos of decentralization, a key foundational principle of the Bitcoin cryptocurrency, and Web3.

“Each metaverse must exist as a separate digital universe, where investors would be able to set their own rules and regulations based on the weight of their votes through decentralized voting within the project’s DAO,” he says

“It’s important to stress that most of the violations mentioned by the Interpol cannot be committed at the current stage of metaverse technology development.”

Interpol is an international organization that facilitates worldwide police cooperation and crime control. It was created 100 years ago and is made of 195 member countries.

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Meta Reportedly Defeats FTC to Receive Court Approval to Acquire Within

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Meta Reportedly Defeats FTC to Receive Court Approval to Acquire Within

Meta, Facebook and Instagram’s parent company, has reportedly won court approval for the acquisition of VR fitness app Supernatural’s maker, Within, after the Federal Trade Commission attempted to block the deal.

Also read: Lawsuit Filed Against Meta, Snap, TikTok for Mental Health Crisis

A US district judge, Edward Davila in San Jose California, “denied the FTC’s request for a preliminary injunction to block the proposed transaction” in a sealed decision on Wednesday, reported Bloomberg, citing a source familiar with the ruling.

Meta’s plan was to acquire Within and Supernatural back in October 2021, but it was blocked by the FTC’s complaint file to stop the deal. The FTC’s complaint was justified by saying Meta already owns a “virtual reality empire.”

Following the news, shares of Meta were slightly positive on Wednesday afternoon.

Facebook and The FTC also declined to comment with Bloomberg’s query citing the sealed nature of Davila’s decisions.

Push for Metaverse

The reported victory in this case may boost Mark Zuckerberg’s push towards the Metaverse. Zuckerberg’s Meta Quest 2 is arguably the best VR headset, even after a massive hike in its price last year.

Meta Quest Pro for $1500 and Meta Quest 3 are also in the company’s VR line-up, which has already developed VR spaces for work and play.

The Supernatural, developed by Within, was one of the first subscription-based services on the original Meta Quest.

Supernatural, a fitness app that features video instructors and motion-tracked workout routines, carries similarities to Meta’s successful fitness VR music game Beat Saber. Beat Saber was also acquired by Meta in 2019.

 Meta’s Dominance

A trial before the FTC’s administrative judge will start on Feb. 13. The FTC will also decide if it will continue with the case. Lina Khan, the chair of the FTC, was appointed by US President Joe Biden to bolster antitrust enforcement as a key principle of his administration’s economic policy. Hence, if this order stands, this loss to Meta will be a significant setback for Khan.

The FTC sued Meta back in July, arguing this acquisition would expand its dominance in the consumer VR market, highlighting its purchase of Beat Saber three years ago. The agency even emphasized that the addition of Within would even eliminate a “beneficial rivalry” between the two companies.

At the time, “the case was) based on ideology and speculation, not evidence, the idea that this acquisition would lead to anticompetitive outcomes in a dynamic space with as much entry and growth as online and connected fitness is simply not credible,” said a Meta spokesperson in a statement.

It’s still to be decided whether this will be the end of this story or not, as the FTC has declined to comment.

“Out of respect for the court’s orders, the FTC is not in a position to comment at this time,” FTC director of public affairs Douglas Farrar told The Verge.

Within would be the third start-up acquired by social media giants over the last decade if this case ends here and Meta purchases one more VR start-up. Previously, Meta acquired Oculus in 2014 before purchasing Beat Saber in 2019.

 

 

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