Zuckerberg’s Keynote presented a grand vision and new identity, but the leadership remains the same
The metaverse is coming; there is no doubt about that
The technology that has been in development for years is becoming more mainstream. RayBan and Facebook produced smart glasses that have a chance of being worn by people who aren’t techno-nerds. Hearst Media has launched a virtual blimp for client meetings and product demonstrations. A very real economy is already booming with purchases the average person is aware of but is still struggling to understand, like NFTs, avatars, their associated assets, and cryptocurrency. These products are coming together in pieces that will someday be much more connected than they are today.
Meta, formerly known as Facebook, is on to something
Facebook, to their credit, sees great potential here. As a digital realm, the metaverse is limitless. Even so, there is still an advantage to being the first-mover in this category. Staking a claim on the name Meta is a genius move. Meta has cemented itself as the primary company associated with the metaverse, just like Band-Aid is the U.S. equivalent of a bandage when you need to cover a paper cut on your finger, even if you are using another brand.
Zuckerberg promises transformative experiences in the hour-plus keynote. He deftly walks through a multitude of exciting scenarios and brings in experts from Meta to introduce key ideas and features. Again, an intelligent move meant to lend some credibility to the announcement.
This new segment of the economy is going to grow quickly and exponentially. The supply chain issues we see with physical goods today won’t be a problem in the metaverse when it is fully fleshed out. The pace of adoption will be slower where bandwidth is needed, but the rate will be pretty brisk globally.
Once the technology and hardware are in place, the constraint will only lie in the ability of humans to think of new and creative ways to use it. New opportunities for creators will abound. Someone has to create the technology; someone has to code. Someone has to dream up wild ways to make our physical and digital worlds complement and enhance each other.
Writing new rules for a new frontier
With a new frontier, new rules are needed. Zuckerberg acknowledged this and called for interoperability. Avatars, for example, should be able to travel seamlessly from platform to platform. Digital assets you own should remain yours and travel with you. Standards will need to be determined, APIs created. Decentralization will be necessary. These are significant points of concern.
Should the wolf guard the hen house?
Is a company that has been repeatedly summoned to Congressional hearings, criticized in the press, and called to account by whistleblowers the company we want making the rules? The ideas and underpinnings under consideration currently stand to benefit one company more than most. As the primary player in the metaverse, we need assurance that Meta can create guidelines and tools without bias for its own commercial gain.
Zuckerberg makes his case in the keynote, claiming that Meta will have high standards and think through this carefully. The problem is, Zuckerberg is not a highly regarded figure. Visionary, yes, but somewhat aloof and unrelatable, even when he isn’t showing us how he comes in second to Kai Lenny in Hyper Foil AR at the 17:33 mark of the keynote. Altruism is not the first word that comes to mind when you think of Zuckerberg or Facebook.
The company formerly known as Facebook has a long way to go to regain public trust. It is the right move to establish Meta as the parent brand to their family of apps and create a new endeavor as a technology-focused company. But the legacy of past decisions as Facebook will continue to play a role in how consumers and regulators view Meta for years to come.
Open source and non-proprietary governance
A genuine commitment to an open and interoperable metaverse should come with decentralized decision-making. The world wide web was founded on this same sort of principle, believing that the system should be open-source and non-proprietary. Meta would do well to encourage the creation of a governance body that is non-commercial to oversee the development of the metaverse.
The metaverse is coming. Let’s get it right.