When the Internet effectively launched with Netscape nearly three decades ago, several companies sprang up overnight and then crashed and burned in what we termed the Dot-Com collapse.
The Metaverse appears to be following a similar hype model, with many folks getting excited about this coming game-changer long before we have a foundation for how it will work. We don’t even have the equivalent of Netscape Navigator for the Metaverse yet or a clear idea of how different companies will collaborate to create a consistent whole.
Yes, companies like NVIDIA are selling tools to create the Metaverse, but this would be like getting excited about cars when we’d just figured out assembly-line technology and well before we had cars, gas stations, and paved roads.
Facebook making a massive pivot to the Metaverse seems more motivated by the need to distract people from the bad things Facebook has been doing than the maturing of the Metaverse effort. First movers are rarely successful, but they can drive a feeding frenzy towards the new technology that can speed up adoption if they are big enough. Had Facebook not misbehaved, I doubt this would be a problem, but Facebook did misbehave, and the firm’s future is questionable as a result.
Let’s talk about Facebook’s move on the Metaverse this week.
The Metaverse is expected to eventually grow to become a digital representation of the natural world and anything we can imagine. It is to be populated by digital twins of real places used for simulations and testing and a place where your imagination can run wild, allowing you to create and interact with 3D objects that only exist in this new virtual world.
Currently, aspects of the Metaverse are used to train AIs, particularly the coming wave of autonomous cars and robots, but it isn’t yet anything like it will become. Once it matures, it will provide a photorealistic alternative to the real world. People will be able to navigate through the Metaverse and visit virtual representations of the companies they deal with, and interact with the objects in this virtual world as if they existed in real life.
Rather than going to a location, directors will move from using LED Walls to working with avatars in this virtual world to create movies with lower risk to the actors. For instance, the recent accidental shooting on a western movie set would have been impossible in the Metaverse. LED Walls may also become a way to bring the Metaverse into the real world until we can figure out hard light.
The Metaverse’s potential is there, but the timing for Facebook to do this is extremely aggressive and likely more tied to the need to distract from the leaks exposing Facebook’s intentional harm to populations than the viability of the Metaverse.
Also read: The Logic Behind Renaming Facebook
Could Meta Become MySpace?
MySpace preceded Facebook in the market, and it was the first mover into social networking, but it was Facebook, which came later, that thrived. Meta (Facebook) could easily do the same thing by seeding the field for the next metaverse social network to become successful. Facebook, which currently appears ethically compromised, also doesn’t seem to grasp human behavior well, which is ironic given how hard Facebook seems to study and be impacted by that behavior.
The biggest problem for Meta (Facebook) is that it is no longer trusted, meaning that regulators are likely to be all over this effort, making it near impossible for Facebook to be successful with it.
Facebook’s Ethical Problems Will Hamper It
I, too, believe that the Metaverse could be much bigger than the Internet is. But I also believe it will take years for it to become fully populated, provide the same kind of seamless experience that we get from the Internet, and understand how it can be misused and to protect against that misuse. The Internet started pretty safely, but currently it is a mess of false information; it is being used to spread malware, and much like Facebook, it is flush with scams.
Meta (Facebook) could substantially accelerate the creation of the Metaverse. Still, Facebook’s ethical problems suggest the company is more likely to create an environment harmful to users and not competitive with companies that come later. Facebook desperately needs to find its moral center, but I doubt it will get there with Mark Zuckerberg set as CEO for life. As a result, I think Meta will likely create a future MySpace event.
I think the Metaverse will be successful, but only in the hands of a more ethical company, one that governments trust with what could be a massive change in the tech industry.
In short, the Metaverse will come to market with even more significant initial potential than the Internet did. Still, Facebook’s timing and behavior suggest that Facebook won’t benefit from this because it moved too soon, and people no longer trust the company.