There is no one in the Metaverse at the moment

A year ago, the Facebook group, which includes the social network of the same name, Instagram, WhatsApp and others, announced that it wanted to change its name to Meta in order to recognize the company’s investment in the so-called Metaverse, the hypothetical new evolution formalize the web, in which the internet and virtual reality should merge into something new. Pushing social network founder and group CEO Mark Zuckerberg to change his name also weakened the Facebook brand, which was becoming less and less attractive to younger users and embroiled in many scandals in recent years.

The move to the metaverse wasn’t just an advertisement. In the past year, Meta has invested around ten billion dollars in the development of technologies related to virtual reality and the creation of software and virtual environments. An economic effort that coincided with a very difficult period for the group, which lost about 60% of its value compared to the peak in September 2021. Secondly CNBC“Only four stocks have a worse year than Meta in the entire S&P 500 index,” the top in the United States.

Among the causes of the crisis is the loss of Facebook and Instagram users, particularly at the expense of TikTok, but also Apple’s decision to allow iPhone users to stop tracking their behavior from app to app, something Facebook like many other companies to better personalize advertising. This has fundamentally undermined the business model of Facebook and Instagram, creating a $10 billion hole in lost advertising revenue. Commenting on the news, financial analyst Laura Martin said so CNBC to “not sure there is one core business which still works via Facebook ».

To make matters worse for Zuckerberg, some news is coming out of the Metaverse sector, which has become crucial to the company’s future. A few days before Meta’s first anniversary, the website The edge has published an internal document on the status horizon worlds, a virtual environment developed by the company, where the group’s Metaverse manager Vishal Shah complains that the same people who work there aren’t using the platform. “Everyone in this organization should have a goal to fall in love with horizon worldsShah wrote, urging employees to organize virtual experiences “with co-workers and friends,” while admitting that the onboarding process for new users remains “confusing and frustrating.”

The concept of the metaverse itself still seems to elude many, even though it’s actually quite simple. It is in fact a software that reproduces a virtual world in which it is possible to move and carry out activities, both related to work and leisure, wearing a special viewer on the head. In the Metaverses – because the platforms they offer are different – it is possible to interact with friends, colleagues and strangers via an “avatar”, a kind of puppet that may or may not reproduce the user’s physical characteristics.

Last week the New York Times has published the summaries of a dozen interviews with Meta employees (former or current), all anonymously, as well as a number of internal documents that show how this transition to the Metaverse has caused anger and confusion for many. One of the respondents said that the amount of money invested in the project “turns his stomach”, while the number of users horizon worldsalthough it’s growing, it’s tiny compared to the other companies in the group (about 300,000 monthly users).

Above all, among the most pervasive reasons for uneasiness and resistance is the timing chosen by Zuckerberg, who has opted for massive investments in the short term, even though the technology necessary for the diffusion of the metaverse is still in an experimental phase. According to some estimates, it would take years of development and investment to get the technology ready for large-scale deployment.

– Also read: How seriously should we take the Metaverse?

Matthew Ball, an investor who blogged a lengthy and influential essay on the Metaverse in 2020, seems to agree on this point. The success of the paper (from which the author drew a recent US book) initially helped spread the concept of the metaverse, particularly among Silicon Valley investors, including Zuckerberg. But Ball also seems to be joining in the skepticism about the timing of Meta: “There is a risk that almost everything that Mark [Zuckerberg] he sketched the metaverse is correct except that the times are much longer than thought ».

Last Tuesday, Meta held its annual Connect 2022 business conference dedicated to the sector and presented some Metaverse-related news, including a new virtual reality headset, Quest Pro. positive, even if the price of the device is much higher than the previous model ($1,499 vs. Quest 2’s 399), which seems to clash with the goal declared by Zuckerberg in 2017, which aimed to reach the total one billion users.

In addition to internal disputes and economic losses this year, Zuckerberg’s breakthrough does not seem to have done the company’s image any good. Last August to advertise the arrival of horizon worlds In France and Spain, Meta decided to post a selfie of Zuckerberg in a poorly detailed and uninspiring virtual environment, inspiring a teasing meme that lasted a few days. Most notable at the time was the poor definition of Zuckerberg’s face, quite unlike last year’s Meta promotional videos, where it already seems possible to work, play, and play sports in a well-defined virtual world. In reality this is not yet the case.

Additionally, during this week’s event, Meta triumphantly announced that users’ virtual avatars will finally be outfitted with legs, since until now they have been simple busts floating in thin air. The platform’s official account announced the news with a slightly whimsical tweet: “Legs are coming! You are happy?”

However, one of the most interesting news for the future of the platform is the announced collaboration with Microsoft, which will bring highly successful products like Teams, Office 365 and Azure – all owned by Microsoft – to virtual reality.

Recently, journalist Kashmir Hill published an account of a month-long visit to the Metaverse, describing it as a place still sparsely populated but frequented by users of all kinds: video game enthusiasts, parents with young children who can no longer walk . At home, lonely people and many more children than expected, a detail that has already raised many doubts about their safety in these virtual environments. On horizon worlds Friendships and relationships have been formed, and it already seems to have had a significant impact on some people’s lives. As in the case of a 25-year-old illustrator who shared how virtual reality helped her at a difficult time in her life: “If I hadn’t bought VR glasses then, I would probably be dead by now,” she told Hügel. .

Confirming the extreme loyalty of the (so far) few on the platform, the journalist discovered how users have already found various ways to extend the life of the headset’s batteries, which need to be recharged every two hours. Some of them use longer than usual cables to keep the device charged while immersed in virtual reality, a method that’s quickly dubbed “plug and play.”

However, the sporadic good news from the Metaverse doesn’t seem enough to justify such a massive effort at such a troubled time, when even Instagram, which until now had always offset Facebook’s demise, is losing users and needs to make major changes to its Interface. to hunt TikTok.

Meta isn’t the only company slowly moving in the Metaverse. In fact, the other projects of this kind don’t seem to be bursting with life either. According to a report by DappRadar, a company that deals with analytics in the crypto world, products such as decentralized and The sandbox, one of the most well-known metaverses, has less than a thousand users per month: the first, a platform based on the Ethereum blockchain, would have had less than 38 users in a day; the second just over five hundred. Both have prices in excess of a billion dollars.

Investor Sasha Fleyshman, in an interview with the CoinDesk website, agreed with the theory that it’s still too early for this hypothetical new frontier of the internet. These platforms “will be worth a lot more if they work as intended,” he explained. Anyone who speaks of Metaversi until then is lying “shamelessly”.

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