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South Africans test waters of the ‘metaverse’

Published Jul 4, 2022

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Johannesburg - With almost half the country’s population active on social networks, locals have begun venturing into the next best thing – the “metaverse”.

A study into the country’s current social networking trends, the SA Social Media Landscape Report 2022 by Ornico Group and World Wide Worx, reported that in 2021, 48.8% of adult South Africans accessed a social network.

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“But lurking beneath these numbers is the surprising emergence of a new kind of platform coming to the fore: the metaverse. While most of its users don’t think of it as the ‘metaverse’, 16.1% of adult South Africans say they have participated in a ‘virtual world’ in the last year,” the report said.

The study said South Africans were most active on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and TikTok.

During a presentation on the findings, World Wide Worx CEO and one of the country’s leading technology analysts, Arthur Goldstuck, said that the number of users accessing some form of the “metaverse” was also close to the same percentage of those who say they used online dating sites at 16.4%.

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“While this (online dating) is seen as a mainstream use of the Internet, the ‘metaverse’ is not, yet they are at a similar level of adoption,” he said.

What is the “metaverse”?

The term “metaverse” was coined by Neal Stephenson in his 1992 novel, Snow Crash, in which the traits mentioned mirror those of what has become known as the “metaverse” today.

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According to the book, the “metaverse” is a 3D metaphor for the real world where users can access it via a device’s screen or using Virtual Reality goggles from a first-person perspective while seen by others as a virtual avatar.

Where are locals going in the “metaverse”?

The study says South Africans are flocking to shared virtual environments for gaming.

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“Some respondents would equate various in-game environments, such as Fortnite, Minecraft, and Among Us, with virtual worlds. In other words, these are not necessarily people actively entering a virtual world, but the experience of participating in an interactive, immersive environment gives them a greater propensity to enter ‘metaverse’ alternatives like Second Life, Decentraland, and Ubuntuland,” Goldstuck said.

The study said Fortnite had become one of the most well-known examples of a “metaverse”, popular among South Africans – 13% of internet consumers were reported to have played Fortnite in the last 12 months.

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