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Meta - The Immersive Metaverse by Facebook That Might Still Be Bad For People

Facebook, along with its name change, is definitely bringing in innovation and adoption with the vision and investments in the metaverse space, but will it truly be good for people?

Mukeh Kanagbo
Facebook Announcing Meta
Credit: Meta Inc.

“The term metaverse just went boomer”.

Today Facebook announced a name change. They are now called Meta, and as you can expect, twitter exploded with interesting reactions. See how Wendy’s (or Meat) decided to chime in here. Like it or hate it, this is a pivotal moment in history, and possibly a much needed push for adoption of online open world economies. This is definitely a version of good for the metaverse, but is it truly good for people?

There is no real mention of the fact that your every move is being tracked by a massive centralised corporation that will still not compensate you for passive contribution of your data, and doesn’t address the question of their products being addictive in nature (among other things).

“Predictable. Cheesy. Attention diverting. Good for metaverse awareness to the wider public” observed Richard Hobbs, CEO of Brand New Vision, the Fashion NFT company. Yat Siu, founder of Animoca Brands (the world's biggest investor of blockchain games) recently shared his worries on the threat of Tech Giants like Facebook as they rush to claim the metaverse. Indeed, for many that are already innovating on the blockchain and building communities and products that you opt into instead of the other way around, Zuck’s presentation diverts us from many concerns in their way of doing business.

Realtime Chess In VR
Making Moves with VR Chess. Credit: Meta Inc.

What They Did Mention

This high profile rebranding reveal came at the end of a Facebook Connect Live event where the company went deep into how they envision their future of connecting people. They believe that Facebook has a huge role to play in culture’s gradual shift to the metaverse - a visually immersive environment where real life can blend seamlessly with virtual environments.

An environment where you can work at your desk at home in your clothes of choice and “still feel a sense of shared physical space” as you collaborate with your colleagues’ virtual avatars/ presence. A way of playing games or attending concerts with friends in real time while not being in the same space in reality, but brought together in augmented reality. They even briefly mentioned NFTs and lightly elaborated on the idea of the importance for people to own their own stuff in the metaverse.

Avatars looking at NFTs in a metaverse environment
Credit: Meta Inc.

Probably the most important element of their presentation was their take on interoperability between metaverse environments being built by teams all over the world. For example, they see it would be important to have the things you own in one metaverse environment easily transferable to another, so as to not create limited, closed worlds that make it feel like you are locked into one platform.

Indeed, this is currently one of the biggest challenges in the current state of affairs of today’s metaverse builds. Our CEO, Richard Hobbs has spoken multiple times about how interoperability between these worlds is one of the keys to creating a robust metaverse ecosystem, but will still take a long time to achieve.

What They Didn’t Mention

While they were spot on about the benefits and excitement surrounding the metaverse, they were completely silent about their centralised business of using our data. While Zuck goes on about how facebook is about connecting people, they don’t mention how their business at its core is about connecting us to content, which is fundamentally a different thing.

More often than not, content is fed to us, and the platform scores big every time we provide the machine with an emotional response. Keep the drama going and the platform remains sticky. The content (both ads and user generated) we see is not something we opt into, can meaningfully contribute to merely in comment sections, or be incentivised to responsibly fact check. It’s the reason why links to depression arising from long exposure to social media are common.

You don’t realise, by using the service, what you are “opting in” to.

Lady sits on couch looking at her phone
Credit: Meta Inc.

They didn’t mention how current centralised businesses are still essentially slaves to the shareholder that needs to see continuous growth in numbers as the determining factor of whether or not they will keep or withdraw continued investments in the company.

This is where there is a stark difference between centralised corporations and the emerging decentralised autonomous organisations (called DAOs) that are being built on the blockchain. With these companies, people build a system around a highly incentivised community where they can remain anonymous, can directly own and develop elements built in the system and get direct reimbursement for their contributions. All economic interactions are visible on a public ledger and participation in events, etc. is trustless - it doesn't have any bias on who you are, how much money you have or what you have done. It just needs you to have enough to contribute.

Investors are investing directly in the system - the virtual and open economy and the community, rather than in a small group of decision makers. Examples would be decentralised environments like Decentraland, where people can create or play to earn tokens in the virtual economy that can be converted into real money.

Critically, such systems won’t feed you content you don’t directly opt into, and your social interactions are still genuine. It doesn’t need to rely on FOMO because there are already enough incentives to discover, play, work and connect without the addictive drama. Purer autonomy.

It is a new era of Web 3.0 gamification-driven communities, and NFT Twitter communities (and to an extent, even Twitter) knows it.

Zuck can take the name "metaverse" because it's ambigious. He can NOT take "Web3," which he would never in his life dare to build in.

- @beercandid, via Twitter

The Metaverse

The metaverse is a space where we can become more of who we would like to be, without boundaries that are set in the real world that could hold us back like distance, gravity, financial status and even race. For us specifically, we think that the Fashion Metaverse is a network of explorers that bring their ledger of connections and aesthetic wherever they go.

The transition from today’s Web 2.0 to 3.0 could be such an equaliser. Mark did say towards the end of the presentation that “it’s something we are building for” and that we have a lot of time to get right by planning for it early. But unless we want to recreate the same conditions of today in the metaverse, we might need to make sure that the open, transparent and trustless elements we are already seeing as empowering to the early Web 3.0 communities are made ubiquitous. 

Let’s be rewarded for opting into a system we can meaningfully and directly contribute to.