Who will win the metaverse war?

It’s becoming a daily routine to hear new developments about the metaverse, from poaching of talent to Meta’s AI supercomputer. The big question is: Who will come out on top? Will there be a dominant platform or is the metaverse a lot of hype? How do you see the metaverse war playing out?

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Fabian Bosiger
Potential
January 27, 2022 5:03 pm

I find it hard to discount Meta simply because of the sheer will of Mark Zuckerberg’s personality to destroy his competition. Over the years of Meta’s existence Zuckerberg’s ruthlessness and disregard for public privacy has propelled Facebook from a dorm room website to one of the most powerful companies in the world.

In an IM exchange with a friend in 2004 after Zuckerberg had launched thefacebook.com, he boasted that he had over 4,000 pictures and emails of students at Harvard. When the friend asked how he did it, Zuckerberg replied that they trusted him and he called them “Dumb f***s” for doing so – a presage of what was to come in later years. His famous words, “yea I’m going to f*** them“, when asked about competing websites is an attitude he’s kept since the Winklevoss accusation days.

Since then Meta has been focused on 2 things. Growth at all costs and crushing competitors. By now, the world knows about Meta’s incursions into our private data. But even today people are shocked by how intrusive Facebook’s snooping went. Facebook would monitor what other apps were on your mobile and how much time you spent on them. If people were spending time on another app to the exclusion of Facebook, staff would be alerted and the course of action would be to crush the competition as soon as possible. Or buy the competition if crushing it didn’t work.

Sarah Frier’s book, ‘No Filter: The Inside Story of Instagram’ provides an excellent insight into Zuckerberg’s personality. Staff who join Meta are given a company handbook that includes words by Zuckerberg. Some of these words are:

If we don’t create the thing that kills Facebook, someone else will. The internet is not a friendly place. Things that don’t stay relevant don’t even get the luxury of leaving ruins. They disappear.

It would be easy to get complacent and think we’ve won every time we bring ourselves to a new level. But all that does is decrease the chance we’ll get to the next level after that.

We can get a clear picture of his drive in these words. Facebook’s performance policy was just as revealing. Facebook’s code wasn’t some highly guarded secret. Instead it was highly accessible and could be altered without too much oversight. On one condition. The alteration had to achieve growth. Staff performance reviews were centered on an employee’s contribution to Facebook’s growth. Did your contribution get more users onto Facebook or increase the time spent on Facebook by existing users? If so, then you would get a good performance review.

Mark Zuckerberg is a history buff of the Roman and Greek empires. Meta is his empire that he defends at all costs and he conquers new lands (competitors) to increase his territory. When Google launched their own social network, Google Plus, to compete with Facebook, Zuckerberg quoted Cato the Censor, a Roman senator: “Carthage must be destroyed.” Google Plus no longer exists.

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Irvin Blake
Influence
January 28, 2022 10:41 am

Apple all the way! Before you accuse me of being an Apple fanboy, let’s consider what Apple has that the others don’t. It is consistently ranked in the top spot of the various World’s Most Valuable Brands lists. It also has luxury and exclusivity attached to its name. That’s why it can charge over $500 for Airpods Max headphones and get away with it. Apple has a hardcore fan base. Can you say the same for Meta, Microsoft and Google? Will people stay up all night for the latest Facebook update? Apple fans will pitch tents and queue up overnight for the latest iPhone.

Apple also has a priceless commodity. Trust. Apple’s Anti Tracking Transparency (ATT) was launched in conjunction with a speech Tim Cook delivered on International Data Privacy Day. “If a business is built on misleading users on data exploitation, on choices that are no choices at all, then it does not deserve our praise. It deserves reform.” The ATT feature gives users the option to revoke app tracking permissions on their Apple devices. Estimates are that this feature alone wiped out billions of dollars of profits from Meta’s bottom line.

This may help explain Meta’s commitment to the metaverse. If you operate on someone else’s platform, you have to play by their rules. If you make websites, you need to play by Google’s rules. If you build apps, you need to play by Apple and Google’s rules. If you create videos, you need to play by YouTube’s rules. The platform is boss. Meta would LOVE to free itself from the grip of Apple and Google instead of being subject to the rules of iOS & App Store and Android & Google Play policies. But here’s the magic word again. Trust. Notwithstanding the billions of dollars of resources Meta is investing in its metaverse technologies, it may be at the point of no return when the conversation is about trust.

Apple has revealed its intention to produce its own VR/AR headsets at $2,000. If Apple has maintained its position as the world’s most valuable brand while selling the iMac Pro for $13,000 and the iPhone 11 Pro Max for $1,450, other metaverse hopefuls better watch out.

Jason Ng
Impact
January 30, 2022 11:37 pm

I’m constantly getting recommended articles about Meta’s goals, plans and investments on my phone. Maybe my Android phone want me to get sick of Meta by shoving news about them down my throat. Or the algo saw me read one article and now it thinks it’s a good idea to send me Meta articles every day. 🤷‍♂️ I wonder if Facebook’s culture will resonate with the culture of the metaverse, whatever that might be. If we look at Instagram’s acquisition by Facebook, that was a clash of cultures. By all measures we can conclude Instagram has been a great success. However when I use it now, it reminds me of a road in a busy city like Bangkok’s Chinatown that’s plastered with signs and lights. The type of road that’s so full of signs that you can’t discern one from the other and you end up noticing nothing, which is the exact opposite of what the sign wants.

Also Meta is by no means immune to failure. Quite the contrary. It fails. A lot. But it has the resources to absorb those failures. A good example on the culture front is Japan. Facebook is almost always the market leading social media app around the world. Not in Japan. In Japan, Facebook trails behind Twitter and even loses out to Pinterest. Twitter has a 48.65% share to Facebook’s paltry 16.4%. The explanation for this deviation from the rest of the world (except Uganda, which has similar stats to Japan) is culture and the value placed on privacy and anonymity.

We don’t know what culture will be established on the metaverse. Maybe a platform will set the tone or maybe the first generation of users will. Whatever the case, it leaves open a potential mismatch no matter how many billions of dollars you pour into it. Facebook has experienced failures at times when it least expected it.

When Adam D’Angelo left Facebook in 2008 as its Chief Technology Officer and started the Q&A site Quora a year later, Facebook launched its Facebook Questions app. People at the time wondered if Facebook Questions would be a Quora killer. It wasn’t. I don’t even know if FB questions is a feature anymore.

When Mark Zuckerberg met with Evan Spiegel, CEO of Snapchat, he told him Facebook could crush Snapchat and that the only way they would survive is if they worked together. Facebook launched its Poke app to compete with Snapchat but just like Facebook Questions, it achieved only mild success.

At the end of 2021 Meta hosted three virtual reality concerts that flopped. Attendance figures were lower than expected for each one. Facebook Libra, the company’s cryptocurrency project, is being reported to have ended in failure. Sparked, Facebook’s version of a video speed dating app, has now shut down. Facebook emailed users: “Like many good ideas, some take off and others, like Sparked, must come to an end.”

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Robert Huot
Influence
January 30, 2022 8:38 pm

I like the idea of an underdog shaking things up. I think Snapchat is well-positioned to take advantage of Web3. Snapchat’s user base has grown steadily despite the often-asked question, Is Snapchat dead? I thought Snapchat wouldn’t last when it had its IPO and Snap’s share price tumbled to a measly $4.99 per share. But Snapchat has been resilient. You have to really believe in yourself and ability to innovate if you turn down a $3 billion offer from Facebook!

When Snapchat first got popular, many experts felt it would devolve into a sexting app. Why would photos disappear otherwise? It so happens Snapchat was perfect for people who didn’t want the pressure of posting perfection each time they uploaded a photo or video. To see why I think Snapchat’s resilience is a valuable asset, we can look at another app called Fling.

I downloaded Fling around 2015 because it sounded like such a cool concept. It was the digital equivalent of a putting a message in a bottle and throwing into into the ocean, hoping one day someone would read the message. In short, you uploaded a photo or video and the app would send your upload randomly to another Fling user anywhere in the world. I thought this was a great idea to forge new connections. Unfortunately the first ‘fling’ I received was someone who had recorded himself gyrating to music with the camera pointed directly to his crotch 🤮 I deleted the app soon after. My experience reflected a wider problem in that users were uploading too much sexual content on Fling and eventually it was removed from the App Store.

Snapchat could have had the same fate. However it didn’t. Snapchat’s leadership, innovation and resilience prevented this turn of events. I think the same virtues will put Snapchat in a good position for Web3. Snap bought WaveOptics in 2021 for $500 million, the company that makes parts for augmented reality glasses, so its intention is clear. Snapchat has always been at the forefront of AR technology and I see it making a big dent in the new metaverse war.

Kaitlyn Mora
Influence
January 30, 2022 12:45 am

It’s really hard to say with confidence who will be the metaverse winner or if the metaverse will be adopted en masse at all. The largest tech companies have so much financial capital and human resources to funnel into their metaverse projects. All the same we could be witnessing the birth of a Yahoo! moment. I use this phrase to draw equivalence to a market leader that is perceived invincible but loses their dominant position to a fresh start-up. In this particular case, the start-up that replaced Yahoo! was a small company named Google. Here are some companies to watch out for…

Microsoft
Satya Nadella stressed the importance of the metaverse, “bringing real presence to any digital space”, in his Mesh for Microsoft Teams launch video. Microsoft will want to capture the B2B commercial market but will also take on big tech in gaming with its HoloLens headset.

Baidu
Baidu, China’s largest search engine, filed more than 3,000 VR and AR patent applications in 2020 and 2021. It has also launched China’s first metaverse platform, Xi Rang.

Tencent
Tencent, the parent company of QQ, WeChat and Riot Games, filed more than 4,000 VR and AR patent applications in the last 2 years. It has been talking about the metaverse for some time since its CEO called it the ‘quanzhen’ (all-real) internet. But it’s uncertain if the Chinese government will facilitate its adoption or crack down on it like it has done with video games.

Roblox
Roblox’s Chief Product Officer, Manuel Bronstein wrote in a blog post that “Roblox’s vision for the metaverse is to create a platform for immersive co-experiences, where people can come together within millions of 3D experiences to learn, work, play, create, and socialize.” Roblox has grown to around 50 million daily active users, so is definitely one to watch out for.

Apple
When Tim Cook said in an investor call that he sees potential in the metaverse, Apple’s stock price jumped. Apple’s metaverse plans are being kept secret and they don’t like to use the word ‘metaverse’, but if this is the next forefront of big tech competition, we can be sure Apple will have a part to play.

Meta
When the most-visited social networking platform in the world renames itself to Meta, that is about as clear as sign that they’re all in for the metaverse. Meta has probably been the most vocal about the opportunities the metaverse will offer for deeper human connections and is investing heavily in it. Since December 2021, Horizon Worlds has been accessible from which we’re learning more about the good and the bad of connecting to a virtual world.

ByteDance
When TikTok can supplant Facebook and Instagram in hours-per-day usage, you can bet its parent company ByteDance will be cooking up plans for the metaverse. In keeping with targeting the younger age demographic, ByteDance has launched Paiduidao (translation: Party Island), an invitation-only app that is currently in beta testing mode. Although the app lets users communicate in a virtual world, a representative from the company said “it has nothing to do with the metaverse.”

Google
Google has signalled its growth opportunities to be in AI. It hasn’t announced a metaverse of its own but already has experience with Google Glass. Perhaps released before its time, Google Glass is widely considered to be a failure, largely because of privacy concerns. Now that the metaverse is the tech buzz word of the moment, now 9 years after its original launch could be the time to revisit its possibilities.