Calendar An icon of a desk calendar. Cancel An icon of a circle with a diagonal line across. Caret An icon of a block arrow pointing to the right. Email An icon of a paper envelope. Facebook An icon of the Facebook "f" mark. Google An icon of the Google "G" mark. Linked In An icon of the Linked In "in" mark. Logout An icon representing logout. Profile An icon that resembles human head and shoulders. Telephone An icon of a traditional telephone receiver. Tick An icon of a tick mark. Is Public An icon of a human eye and eyelashes. Is Not Public An icon of a human eye and eyelashes with a diagonal line through it. Pause Icon A two-lined pause icon for stopping interactions. Quote Mark A opening quote mark. Quote Mark A closing quote mark. Arrow An icon of an arrow. Folder An icon of a paper folder. Breaking An icon of an exclamation mark on a circular background. Camera An icon of a digital camera. Caret An icon of a caret arrow. Clock An icon of a clock face. Close An icon of the an X shape. Close Icon An icon used to represent where to interact to collapse or dismiss a component Comment An icon of a speech bubble. Comments An icon of a speech bubble, denoting user comments. Ellipsis An icon of 3 horizontal dots. Envelope An icon of a paper envelope. Facebook An icon of a facebook f logo. Camera An icon of a digital camera. Home An icon of a house. Instagram An icon of the Instagram logo. LinkedIn An icon of the LinkedIn logo. Magnifying Glass An icon of a magnifying glass. Search Icon A magnifying glass icon that is used to represent the function of searching. Menu An icon of 3 horizontal lines. Hamburger Menu Icon An icon used to represent a collapsed menu. Next An icon of an arrow pointing to the right. Notice An explanation mark centred inside a circle. Previous An icon of an arrow pointing to the left. Rating An icon of a star. Tag An icon of a tag. Twitter An icon of the Twitter logo. Video Camera An icon of a video camera shape. Speech Bubble Icon A icon displaying a speech bubble WhatsApp An icon of the WhatsApp logo. Information An icon of an information logo. Plus A mathematical 'plus' symbol. Duration An icon indicating Time. Success Tick An icon of a green tick. Success Tick Timeout An icon of a greyed out success tick. Loading Spinner An icon of a loading spinner.

Sir Nick Clegg says the metaverse is coming ‘one way or another’

Former Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg (PA)
Former Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg (PA)

The metaverse is the “logical evolution of the internet” and will become mainstream “one way or another”, Sir Nick Clegg has said, but admitted tech firms have “a lot of work to do” to build credibility in the idea.

The former deputy prime minister, now a senior executive at Facebook’s parent firm Meta, said the technology had its risks and challenges, but if done well could be a “positive force” for inclusivity and bridge divides between people.

The metaverse is the idea of the internet becoming a 3D, virtual space into which users can be immersed using a virtual reality headset, smartglasses or their phone, and can be used for work and social experiences often using virtual avatars.

Meta logo
The Meta logo outside the company’s headquarters in Dublin (Brian Lawless/PA)

The idea has come to prominence in recent months following Facebook’s company rebrand to Meta last year, and founder Mark Zuckerberg’s declaration that the metaverse is the future of online connectivity.

Writing in an online essay, Sir Nick, Meta’s president of global affairs, said although the technology was unlikely to come to full fruition for 10 to 15 years, the metaverse would eventually have global ramifications.

“When Facebook started 18 years ago, we mostly typed text on websites,” he said.

“When we got phones with cameras, the internet became more visual and mobile. As connections got faster, video became a richer way to share things. We’ve gone from desktop to web to mobile; from text to photos to video.

“In this progression, the metaverse is a logical evolution. It’s the next generation of the internet — a more immersive, 3D experience.”

Facebook Horizon Workrooms
Facebook has already launched the Horizons Workroom app, giving an early example of what a metaverse meeting could look like (Facebook)

Its defining quality will be “a feeling of presence, like you are right there with another person or in another place”, he said, adding that it would “build on the interconnectedness the internet enables so that we can do more and have even richer experiences”.

“All this has the potential to unlock new opportunities and spark new ideas we haven’t yet imagined, and to have a huge positive impact both socially and economically,” he said.

“Done well, the metaverse could be a positive force for inclusion and equity, bridging some of the divides that exist in today’s physical and digital spaces.”

Offering examples of the potential benefits of the metaverse, Sir Nick described school children being able to use the metaverse to go on field trips to historic landmarks and locations and “experience them as they would have been at the time”, or medical students being able to practice surgeries virtually without the risk of harming real patients.

He also spoke of people in virtual meetings being able to respond to and feed off the body language of other participants, because of the virtual avatars being used in the online meeting space.

But the former Liberal Democrat leader also acknowledged the potential dangers of the technology and the need to learn from the current internet and harmful content which appears online, which he admitted could be heightened in this new virtual world.

“Of course, the unique characteristics of the metaverse will contribute to negative as well as positive experiences,” he said.

“For example, a sense of immersion can heighten the emotional impact of offensive or aggressive interactions that would probably be less affecting in a 2D, text-based environment.”

Critics have suggested that given many platforms – including Meta-owned Facebook and Instagram, struggle to contain the levels of harmful content users are exposed to, this proposed expansion of the internet is alarming.

But Sir Nick argued that “time is on our side” with the metaverse because it was still many years from becoming a reality and therefore it was important to start a debate on the subject and how to best regulate now.

“We must create thoughtful rules and put guardrails into place as the metaverse develops to maximise its potential for good and minimise the potential harms,” he said.

He added that part of the reason for writing his essay was to increase the discussion around the subject and gain more support for it.

“Companies like Meta have a lot of work to do both to build the credibility of the metaverse as an idea, and to demonstrate to people that we are committed to building it in a responsible way,” he said.

“It means drawing on existing work to protect marginalised communities online, and listening to human and civil rights, privacy, and disabilities experts as systems and processes are developed to keep people safe.

“And it means being clear that our intention is not to develop these technologies on our own, but to be one part of a wider technological movement.”

Already a subscriber? Sign in