The Metaverse is coming and the world is talking about it

2021 has had many tech buzzwords. NFT, bitcoin, blockchain, crypto. Add “metaverse” onto the list. Ever since Facebook’s change of name to Meta, the metaverse is getting more media attention. Hailed as Web 3.0, the next evolution of the internet, opinions about it are divided. 

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Anna Alonso
December 22, 2021 1:17 pm

We are at the beginning of the next chapter for the internet, and it’s the next chapter for our company too.

This is how Mark Zuckerberg started his Founder’s Letter, 2021. The internet is a very different place to what it was in 2004 when was launched. Since that time Zuckerberg has poured all his energy into making Facebook the dominant social platform. Facebook is still the top dog with 2.792 billion monthly active users, followed by YouTube with 2.291 billion. However challenges along the way have revealed insecurities on the part of Zuckerberg.

There are rumors that he became jealous of Instagram’s success, and was hesitant to announce when Instagram reached 1 billion users. This growth was a challenge to Facebook, which could make it look weak. More recently we’ve learnt that people are spending more time on TikTok than on Facebook. This one has been a difficult battle to overcome while dealing with PR scandals from whistleblowers like Frances Haugen. Meta has tried to compete by launching Instagram Reels but TikTok’s growth has been steady. It’s a real competitor that is not going away anytime soon.

With Facebook’s name change to Meta, perhaps Zuckerberg is finally starting to let go of his Facebook insecurity. The potential of the metaverse being the next evolution of the internet is large enough for him to think this way. Horizon Worlds has opened up to everyone aged 18+ in the US and Canada, and creators have already built games and worlds of their own. The PR around meta and the metaverse in general has drowned out some of the news that Zuckerberg doesn’t want to hear, for example, TikTok’s steady growth or Facebook’s declining reputation.

Maybe taking the lead in the next wave of the social-technology nexus relieves him a bit of the burden Facebook has become. Facebook is still the most used social platform but it is apparent that it causes more problems than it solves. Zuckerberg is looking to the future instead of holding on to the past:

I’m dedicating our energy to this — more than any other company in the world. If this is the future you want to see, I hope you’ll join us. The future is going to be beyond anything we can imagine.

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Rayan Tanwar
December 23, 2021 4:27 pm

An integral component in the social media battle for supremacy that Facebook is lacking is celebrity culture. TikTok, YouTube, Twitter and Instagram has them. Even Quora and LinkedIn have their versions of influencers! If Facebook has them, I don’t know who they are and they’re not as well known as the mega influencers on other platforms. Meta’s announcement of going all-in with the metaverse is an opportunity to redress this imbalance.

Meta announced a $10 million Creator Fund to encourage creators to build stuff in Horizon Worlds. This could be the start of a redefinition of what it means to be an influencer. In the early years of the metaverse, influencers won’t be people who pose in front of Lamborghinis and wear designer clothes. They could be people who create exciting experiences, building imaginative worlds and pushing the boundaries of the metaverse’s capabilities.

Even if this scenario doesn’t play out how I have described it, influencers and wannabe influencers of today will be eager to get in on the metaverse early. Just like creators who got started on YouTube early had a leg up on those who joined later, a lot of people will be looking at the metaverse’s monetization potential.

This is already underway in the digital property market. Singaporean singer, JJ Lin bought a metaverse property for $120,000 in Decentraland and virtual real estate agents have already established themselves to rent and manage properties! Whether this is a speculative bubble or an indication of the way things are headed remains to be seen. Personally, I’m undecided about it. In the real world, shelter is a basic necessity for survival. We won’t have this need for survival in the metaverse, will we? Just log off or remove your headset.

Although we can rationalize away the need to buy a house in the metaverse, a creator could make a world where it is a necessary condition for survival. One might think, “Well, if I need to buy a house to spend time in this world, then forget it. I’ll just go to another world.” Not so simple, my young padawan. If a world generates enough value, there will be an incentive to spend money on a digital property. This value could come from social proof, for example if many influencers reside in that world. It could come from exclusivity, for example if owning one of the few properties in that world gives you status.

Think of a digital newspaper that charges readers a monthly subscription. One could think that there are a ton of other free newspapers on the internet. Why should I pay a subscription for this one? Because it provides value enough for you to part with your money. That’s why. If a world deems it necessary to own a digital property as a condition for entry, and the world provides some form of value, people will pay for houses in the metaverse. Welcome to Web3.0!

Nasro Djebbar
December 25, 2021 3:32 pm

Are we getting a bit ahead of ourselves? I tend to be sceptical when something is earmarked as the next big thing before it is established. Who remember the minidisc? No one? There’s a reason for that (lol). It was predicted to be the successor to CDs. Instead all that’s left of it are theories about why it failed. Let’s not jump the gun with the metaverse.

Elon Musk and Jack Dorsey are two influential tech CEOs who’ve cast doubt on the imminent arrival of Web3. Elon Musk thinks the metaverse is more a marketing buzzword than reality right now. He is well aware that he could be wrong. He posted a video of Bill Gates explaining the internet in 1995 on the David Letterman show where Letterman and the crowd didn’t quite understand the possibilities.

Even so, there are a lot of cynics from the top of the tech echelon to the regular internet user, who view Web3 as a slick marketing campaign at best and a dystopian nightmare at worst. And , you make a good point about the dominant platform. Meta could lead the way or they could fall behind in the transition, if there is a transition to Web3 at all. Other companies with billions in development funding are working on their own metaverse platforms including Snap, Tencent, Microsoft and Baidu, which recently launched Xi Rang (translation: Land of Hope), China’s first metaverse platform.

As much as we like to think we know what’s coming next, it’s anyone’s guess. An indication that it won’t all be rosy is the fact that sexual harassment is already being reported on in the metaverse. Technology has a way of getting the best out of humanity but also bringing out the worst. One thing is for sure. The coming years have the chance to disrupt humanity, positively and negatively, in the most unexpected ways.

Merry Xmas everyone!!

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Irvin Blake
December 24, 2021 2:59 pm

On one hand the adoption of the metaverse could be the successor to the mobile revolution. On the other hand the metaverse could flop entirely. Despite the billions of dollars of investment being poured into the metaverse, is it a sure thing? Not at all. You could argue that it has the backing of some of the biggest, most powerful tech companies in the world like Meta (formerly Facebook). In my opinion, that’s not necessarily a good thing.

While the metaverse is a concept that isn’t owned by Facebook, the association between the two is becoming tighter, especially to non-techies, and especially since Facebook changed its name to Meta. Therein lies the problem. Facebook is known as a platform that squeezes the privacy out of its users. The re-brand to Meta could have been an attempt to distance itself from the poor reputation of Facebook. The question is, are people willing to join a metaverse platform in which Meta will collect data about you? Or are people willing to join the metaverse at all because they see it as synonymous with Facebook?

I’ve never been too concerned about it. I don’t really have anything to hide. However the more I learn about how Facebook uses my data, even I start to draw a line. Now let’s consider Facebook’s reputation. In a Yahoo Finance survey, Meta was crowned Worst Company of the Year for 2021. Some rumors in the tech world say staff are concerned with having Facebook/Meta on their resume because of how bad the reputation has gotten. They believe that their chances of getting another job will be hamstrung, not enhanced by having Facebook in their work history. I don’t know what to think about these rumors because I have heard the opposite too; that if you have Facebook on your resume, recruiters will think you’re a smart person and it will help you get into other companies.

Regardless, I think we can all agree that Meta’s reputation as a whole is negative. And society is shifting to a place where we value our privacy more – perhaps because of the extent to which our privacy has been abused by Facebook in the past. We still know that one person who posts photos of their breakfast, lunch and dinner, and tweets 30 times a day about the most mundane things. But that oversharing culture is largely over and people value their privacy a lot more. We see this on YouTube as well where a lot of creators are choosing to be Faceless YouTubers.

So the adoption of the metaverse is not a sure thing by any stretch, nor is Meta’s dominance assured. History has seen this scenario played out time and again with a once unstoppable brand falling behind new competitors. The metaverse is coming. But is it here to stay? Time will tell.

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Jason Ng
December 26, 2021 10:11 am

How things have changed! In the mid-to-late 1990s as a kid at school, it was a bit embarrassing to admit you were into computers. You’d be labelled a ‘nerd’ or ‘geek’. The internet wasn’t as universal as it is now, and you’d leave yourself open to a grilling if you admitted to spending your Friday night on a computer😄🙈

When blogging became a thing in the mid-2000s, there was still some residual embarrassment from the 1990s lingering around. The internet was used much more by this time but people generally looked at blogging like an online diary of sorts. Social networking would finally break down these barriers. Myspace, Friendster, Hi5 and Facebook came at a time when internet use was becoming widespread. Social networking let you ‘connect’ with people that you kinda knew instead of close friends that you’d chat to on AIM or MSN Messenger.

The internet was no longer this exotic place for ‘geeks’ and ‘nerds’. The tables had turned. You would be the odd one out if you weren’t on Facebook. Opinions also changed when these ‘geeks’ and ‘nerds’ were becoming some of the richest people in the world. You couldn’t scoff at the internet anymore when platforms like Twitter, Facebook and YouTube boasted millions and millions of users.

With the rise of Instagram in the early 2010s, the concept of an influencer came to life. Not only could you amass a following, but you could also earn a lot of money in the process. The internet wasn’t just a place to spend your time. It became a place where you could make a living.

12+ years after the start of the mobile revolution, the world is talking about the metaverse. Precursors have existed for some time. The Sims, IMVU, Pokemon GO are some apps that come to mind. However just like the rise of social networking sites, timing is everything. Interestingly on October 28 2021 when Facebook changed its name to Meta, Meta Platforms Inc’s stock price went up from $317 to $341 per share. People want in on it, in particular they want a slice of the metaverse economy pie. How quickly attitudes can change 🙂