Facebook becomes Meta as Mark Zuckerberg tries to deal with the Metaverse. Why is it unlikely.


There’s nothing Silicon Valley loves more than the Next Big Thing, and after years of whispers, the Next Big Thing has suddenly become the metaverse, which big technology calls the next generation of the Internet. The metaverse is a catch-all term for a connected set of immersive virtual experiences that you explore online through your three-dimensional avatar, an on-screen character who may or may not look like what you do in the real world. .

Facebook still operates on an old and soon to be outdated conception of what the future will be.

Unlike the World Wide Web, which is made up of flat, two-dimensional pages that we access through browsers, the metaverse would be more like a video game where each destination is three-dimensional space. The metaverse is often associated with the use of virtual reality (VR) headsets, such as the one depicted in the 2018 blockbuster “Loan Player One”, To immerse yourself in a digital world.

The chorus of big tech CEOs who say their companies will help build the metaverse includes CEOs Epic, creators of the hugely popular Fortnite video game, Nvidia, the leader in chips that facilitate graphic displays, and even a mainstay of the industry Microsoft.

But no one stepped in like Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerburg. First, Zuck announced that his business would become a metaverse business. Recently, Facebook said it plans to hire 10,000 engineers in Europe to build the metaverse. And just Thursday, Facebook announced that its business name going forward will be Meta to reflect its goal of being a metaverse business.

Some suspect that Zuckerburg’s metaverse obsession is just a way to distract from all the negative news about Facebook. But connoisseurs know that his obsession is not entirely new: he talks about it at least from the social media giant. bought Oculus, the leading consumer VR headset company, for $ 2 billion nearly ten years ago.

Zuckerburg clearly wants to become the dominant ramp to the next generation of the Internet, an “Internet personified” in which we don’t just passively navigate by looking at the screens of our phones and computers, but explore with our avatars. . to how you might visit a real place.

Facebook is betting big that the metaverse will be accessible through virtual reality headsets, like Facebook’s Quest for Oculus. Facebook is also betting that lighter augmented reality (AR) glasses, like the ones Facebook is launching in conjunction with Ray-Ban, will allow the Metaverse to overtake the computer, making it seem like virtual objects are in the world around us. .

This would allow Facebook to bypass the gatekeepers that dominate the ramps of our current web-based internet, which is increasingly accessed through mobile devices controlled by Apple and Google. (I own stocks in Google, Facebook, and Microsoft.)

It’s no surprise that Silicon Valley, an industry obsessed with turning sci-fi into reality, has turned to the metaverse and is using video game technology like headsets as a starting point. Video games are more popular than ever (the size of the video game industry in 2020 is expected to reach nearly $ 180 billion, bigger than the hollywood box office), and a whole new generation feels comfortable presenting themselves as online avatars in games and virtual environments like Fortnite, Roblox, Minecraft and League of Legends, which claim hundreds of millions of players each month.

But those who pursue the metaverse, especially Facebook, might well be using bad imagination – a term for how a sci-fi vision inspires real life – and, as a result, might end up missing the boat. The idea of ​​the metaverse is manifesting and changing before our eyes based on innovations and disruptions that weren’t anticipated just a few years ago, and the idea that today’s tech mega-companies can defining its terms is unlikely.

In the past, major disruptive technologies – like Facebook – have left existing industry leaders scrambling to catch up. When the web got big, for example, Microsoft, a leading company in operating systems and desktop applications, strove to become the Internet’s ramp. This fought to kill the popular web browser startup, Netscape (which he did), but it was a Pyrrhic victory at best, as new native web companies like Google became dominant instead.

Likewise, the metaverse is evolving before our eyes today, and while virtual reality and augmented reality will certainly be part of what emerges, they may not even be the most important part.

On the one hand, virtual reality headsets haven’t spread as quickly as most of us thought. And in the original concept – coined by sci-fi writer Neal Stephenson in his classic cyberpunk novel “Snow Crash” in 1992 – the metaverse was much more dispersed, built, and managed via standards. It is no different from the way the Internet and the Web were built, rather than being dominated by a single company or group.

One of the interesting aspects of Stephenson’s metaverse that still dominates is that there must be multiple ways to access it, adapting to your connection speed, device and user interface – mobile, desktop. desk or headset.

And as we’ve seen in the past, they’re usually innovative startups whose disruptions are fueling new waves of technology. The metaverse probably won’t be any different. In fact, there is already another set of innovations that define the Metaverse, and these all have to do with portability and accessibility.

These include portable digital identity (think avatars that don’t belong to any video game and can instead be used on any website or virtual world); possession of digital goods (think of things you can put on your avatars like virtual clothes and sneakers); and digital ownership (consider owning a piece of a virtual card like this in video games).

The latter two are starting to be implemented through blockchains, which are used to track transactions in cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin and Ethereum (both of which I own). A recent innovation on the blockchain are NFTs, or non-fungible tokens, which record who owns what in the virtual world, and allow these items to be portable without requiring a big player like Facebook, Fortnite, or Roblox.

Everyone from Reese witherspoon To the nfl To Gucci are experiment with the creation of NFT for the generation of the metaverse. Who owns the blockchains that keep track of these NFTs? Anybody; they are managed in a decentralized manner on thousands of computers.

So while there are many in Silicon Valley and beyond who fear, given Facebook’s track record with social media, that it will “take over the metaverse”, I would say Facebook is still working. on an old and soon out of date conception of what the future will be.

Innovation and disruption are the real forces that will propel the metaverse, and this tends to benefit new players, not old ones trying to bring outdated visions of the future to life. To paraphrase Yogi Berra, if we have learned one thing from the technological waves of the past, it is that when the future arrives, it is seldom what it was.

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