Building the metaverse is more about metadata (and less about 3D).

Riccardo Zanardelli
2 min readMar 5, 2022
Elaboration of an original photo by Omar Flores / Unsplash.

When in 1999 Tim Berners-Lee conceptualised the semantic web he couldn’t know he was inadvertently spoiling the technological foundations of the metaverse. And he wasn’t even talking about virtual reality, neither avatars nor anything else similar… he was “just” talking about machines understanding data about data:

“I have a dream for the Web [in which computers] become capable of analyzing all the data on the Web — the content, links, and transactions between people and computers. A “Semantic Web”, which makes this possible, has yet to emerge, but when it does, the day-to-day mechanisms of trade, bureaucracy and our daily lives will be handled by machines talking to machines. The “intelligent agents” people have touted for ages will finally materialize”

But why this is all about the metaverse, you may ask? Because the metaverse (as an engine mapping and elaborating the meta-layer we need in the real-time context we need) requires to understand the world through data. And this requires metadata.

Before a 3D engine could enter the stage, the metaverse engine needs to map the time-spatial relations between entities and compute the results of the laws of physics -or economics or whatever else is the law the code sets- and update the state of that specific metaverse.

By abstraction, the metaverse is a virtual space where real-time computation provides a collectively available and shared state, which can be participated by people and objects through interfaces, regardless if these interfaces are APIs, textual, graphical or even supercool 3Ds.

It turns out quickly that there is a red line joining the words metaverse and web3 towards an idea of computation augmenting the human experience and this line is the semantic web.

If we really want to build a meaningful metaverse, my feeling is that we should look more at its required building blocks and focus on data and metadata, leaving 3D behind for a while…

…great 3D engines are ready to chew the states of our preferred metaverse and serve us a stunning 3D experience when we need it, but we are not going to need it all the times.

What we need is a computable environment, populated by semantic data, so that it can be mapped by the metaverse engine we give authorization to and create/update the virtual representations we need.

You see: the metaverse is about meaningfulness through real-time computation and sense of presence beyond time and space. And this is all about data, semantically described. Then we will have to manage the ownership of this (meta)data, but this another complex story we will not unroll here.

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Riccardo Zanardelli

Digital Platforms @ Beretta | PhD student in Statistics & Data Science @ AEM, UNIBS | Engineer | Only personal opinions here | Code is Law (cit.)