What is the Metaverse?
Coined from the dystopian novel “Snow Crash” by Neal Stephenson, the Metaverse is a broad term used to describe a virtual world where technology allows people to meet as if in real time within an augmented reality. Individuals can engage in hobbies like gaming, produce and sell virtual goods, and take their social interactions to the “next level”.
So, how does Facebook’s Meta fit into the metaverse? As of this weekend, app users are seeing branding changes on both FB and Instagram’s platforms. Its social profile on Google-owned YouTube now has a little over 100k subscribers and features introductory videos for users to explore. But, before we discuss where Meta is going next, let’s take a look at the building blocks that represent a few controversial yet key components to its infancy.
1. A World Wide Web, Only Virtual
Zuckerberg states that he believes the metaverse to be the next chapter of the internet. While his interpretation illustrates the standard dystopian version, all of us wearing VR glasses strapped to our faces, this isn’t the only depiction. Yes, users would be able to interact with each other as if in real life, but the “people-centered” aspect of the metaverse seems contradicted even by the head of Facebook himself. He claims that while our current devices are built around apps and not people only further emphasizes the push for Facebook users to assemble around the company’s virtual reality app, Horizon on Oculus.
It is true that a metaverse as a decentralized internet is upon us, but it doesn’t quite resemble what Zuckerburg describes. People are already building virtual realities in the form of decentralized apps, cryptocurrencies, and blockchain technology as a way to differentiate themselves from the watchful eye of big tech companies like Google and Facebook while adopting the exchange of global currency without another overlooker, the U.S government. Whether the environmental and socio-economic impact of mining cryptocurrency is proven to be a better opportunity, the building blocks are there.
2. Competition Over Tech Consumption
This brings us to the real web or “matrix” battle if you will. While it may seem like Facebook is pioneering the technological shift, it’s a leap to say that Zuckerburg’s vision put the “meta” in metaverse. Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella announced that the company is gearing up for the same, urging users to take to the ‘verse with the same ferocity, only behind its HoloLense.
On a micro level, the competition over tech consumption is not new for these giants. Tech CEOs and the U.S. government commonly express frustration over Google’s monopolizing of “equitable” digital real estate. In October 2020, the Justice Department filed an antitrust lawsuit against the billion-dollar search engine claiming it has created a stranglehold in search and ad space, “building up a deep trove of data on users and rivals”.
So, are we surprised that the saga continues with the “invention” of the metaverse? It only seems natural that an organization like Facebook would similarly seek triumph in the area of data loopholes while capitalizing on the opportunity for new digital property outside of Google’s already-controlled search results.
3. Use of Blockchain Technology
As the saga continues, we approach a trepidatious standstill with the unfolding of blockchain technology. Blockchain technology is a specific type of database that stores information in connected blocks of code or data. The data in a blockchain is chronologically ordered and presently, the most common use of blockchain is ledger for digital transactions.
It represents a decentralized form of commerce not backed by banks. Decentralization is the transfer of control and decision-making from a centralized entity to a distributed network of equal entities. Information stored in blockchain is in nature decentralized as it can not be controlled by one person. Once data is entered, it can not be changed or removed.
Digital Assets, NFTs, and Cryptocurrencies
Examples of blockchain transactions include but are not limited to:
- Secure sharing of medical data
- NFT marketplaces
- Music royalties tracking
- Cross-border payments
- Real-time Internet of Things (IoT) operating systems
- Personal identity security
- Anti-money laundering tracking systems
- Supply chain and logistics monitoring
- Voting mechanism
- Advertising insights
- Cryptocurrency exchange
- Original content creation
- Real Estate processing platform
Cryptocurrencies like Ethereum contain their own blockchain technology and include “smart contracts” which attach code to the token exchanged. This allows for the digital currency to be programmable and have particular functionality created by its developers. A smart contract can hold assets like NFTs or cryptocurrency.
NFTs are non-fungible that are unique and irreplaceable assets. For example, a home, an electronic device, a digital artwork, a limited edition sneaker, or even a domain name represent non-interchangeable NFTs. For an item to be an NFT, it must simply be unique and minted through smart contracts that assign ownership and manage transferability of the item within the blockchain.
4. The Problem of Privacy
So, how does the Metaverse fit into it all? According to Forbes, cryptocurrency is the key to the metaverse as it ensures an unhackable, immutable record of data. This might be an out-of-the-ordinary concern coming from FB headquarters as the evolution of Zuckerberg’s infamous platform left a lot of people feeling too “tapped in” and over-inundated. While big tech experts pose solutions to this new age dilemma, the argument is that building a metaverse is Facebook’s way of avoiding the responsibility entirely.
In fact, FB whistleblower Frances Haugen shares her concerns that privacy may be even more at risk in the metaverse, stating that “beyond the fact that these immersive environments are extremely addictive and they encourage people to unplug from the reality we actually live, I’m also worried about it on the level of – the metaverse will require us to put many, many more sensors in our homes and our workplaces,” forcing users to relinquish more of their data and their privacy. The company has already announced its plans to shut down facial recognition software as a response to public outrage.
As marketers, we are usually the middle men of data and commerce; as consumers ourselves, we must also brave these warnings. There is a comfort level that should be ensured in order for consumers to feel safe and able to make their own purchasing decisions online. From the murky waters of big tech itself sprouts the data-mining, digital “rebellion” we are seeing today.
5. Mega Leap from the Existing Internet
POV. You’ve invested in HoloLense, acquired a crypto wallet, and entered Zuckerberg’s Meta for the first time. You may be waiting a lot longer than you intended before the virtual experience is a social one. While What Zuckerberg doesn’t explain in his introductory video is how much of a leap from the existing internet users must take to “build” a metaverse. Whether or not crytocurrency and bitcoin mining is environmentally friendly, individuals are taking to its promise of privacy – or the illusion of it. With IRS reporting regulations currently in place, the leap to the metaverse may decline as individuals flocking to the $28 billion industry recuperate their losses.
Still, most individuals who are seeking decentralized forms of communication and currency are not building Zuckerberg’s metaverse, rather, are tailoring their own virtual journeys within their own communities.
Apps vs. Dapps
Let’s take a look at the newly emrging world of DApps, or decentralized applications. DApps are apps that run on blockchain technology which have an open-source code and are hosted on P2P networks. For example, Discord allows users to upload their own games, build and host communities and their servers, and data is privately stored. It prides itself on having no algorithm or agenda and is a unique set up for those investing in or exchanging digital assets – consider it an intelligent text chain.
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In the marketing world today, it’s hard to envision a time where app users will flock to decentralized forms of communication – but are we that far from the possibility? Some may see Facebook’s Metaverse as a dystopian chase for dopamine rather than an evolutionary form of communication and connection. While apps are still fair game for advertisers, the verdict is not out on whether Dapps or the Metaverse (micro or macro) will allow for advertising, data tracking, and retargeting; however, history tells us that it’s a likely opportunity.
If you’re curious about the transition to Meta from Facebook or want to capitalize on your growing audience, build a brand through social media, or start an e-commerce site, reach out to your friends at Data Street Marketing near Jackson, MS.