Why the ZuckerVerse is not the Wonderful Thing Some Might Think it is

The concept of an immersive virtual reality world is one that is often talked and written about. It also has been the subject of several movies. When it is the topic of books and movies, it is rarely a good thing. So, when we hear about the creation of a fully immersive world, we view it with a healthy bit of skepticism. Especially when the person behind it is Mark Zuckerberg and his company, Facebook. You might ask why, and there is an easy answer. Facebook ceased being a communication platform a very, very long time ago and is now nothing more than a way to collect information and push ads.

Meta earnings reports have made it very clear that advertising is the major source of their revenue (as much as 98%). The company is built on systems that sustain that advertising ecosystem. This is why the recent change to Apple’s cross app tracking policy hit them so hard as has changes in the EU regarding the collection and usage of personal information for advertising. None of this is a secret, Facebook users and their information is the product that Facebook sells, you (and us too) are their cash cows. So, when a group that is 98% ad focused starts talking about building a virtual universe it is not likely they are going to be people focused, after all you the individual user, are not their customer.

This sentiment has been echoed by more than a few people including a recent comment from former COO of Nintendo America, Reggie Fils-Aime. He recently told Bloomberg that he did not feel Meta was innovative as a company, "They have either acquired interesting things like Oculus and Instagram, or they’ve been a fast follower of people’s ideas." He added that "in order to be innovative, you really need to be thinking about the consumer first," Fils-Aime was not talking about advertisers here. He was talking about the actual end users as the customer, something that Facebook/Meta seems to forget about often.

Similar sentiments have come from Steam/Valve head Gabe Newel. He gave his take on the current state of the Metaverse in a recent interview with PC Gamer "Most of the people who are talking about metaverse have absolutely no idea what they’re talking about." He points out that the focus seems to be in trivial items that already exist in current gaming and interactive technologies or fall into the category of “get rich quick schemes”. Other than the VR component, there is not really a whole lot that is new for the end user here. Facebook/Meta’s focus on advertising is likely getting in the way of building a really compelling experience. This may change in the future as Newel pointed out. “you know, in the end, customers and useful technology win out, so I’m not super worried about that.”

Although it is a bit of a tired reference, when we heard about the push for the Metaverse we honestly could not help thinking about the scene in Ready Player One where the IOI executive was showing just how much of the virtual landscape could be used for advertising without inducing seizures. In the end, Facebook/Meta is not the company to lead the development of this type of technology. They are the type of company to say, “oh that is a cool idea” and then try to find a way to sell ads in it and screw it all up. Instead of focusing on the end user who ends up having a terrible experience on what they are hosting. We have seen this on Facebook in just how abusive things can get and how terribly wrong things can go. In the completely immersive world of the Metaverse things can and will only be much worse as early reports of bullying, harassment and sexual harassment/assault have pilled up.

The craze around the Metaverse is much like the craze that we saw during the ‘dot com” era when everyone was going to be a millionaire on the internet, or Crypto. Everyone is laying it on think to get people into play so they can make money. It usually ends up badly for everyone except for a few people that already have money and just so happen to be is control of critical components of the ecosystem. The introduction of new technologies and their ecosystems usually take quite a while before they work the kinks out and the more levelheaded people get to the party. Gabe Newel said it best, “It will be interesting to see if anybody who’s sort of coming to the party late has much to add, rather than a desire to have a whole bunch of people give them a bunch of money for magic reasons,”



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