I’ve been writing about technology for about 22 years and I’ve never seen a hype engine running at full steam like this before.
Every time I turn around, there’s a new report about how the metaverse will take over the world, save Facebook, and provide a catalyst for extreme social connection.
I rarely if ever see any doomsayer reports about how Facebook (or, more accurately, the parent company Meta) will do anything but transform how we use technology.
It’s all smoke, mirrors, and prognostication.
My take? The smoke will eventually clear. It will likely happen when we realize the metaverse is really not about gaming, or social connection, or even virtual adventures.
It’s about the ads. And shopping. And more revenue.
That’s a sad statement, since the metaverse does look promising.
Imagine walking up to a virtual Starbucks and hanging out with a group of friends. Someone orders a latte and you start engaging in conversation.
Next thing you know, you’re playing virtual putt-putt golf, sharing about your job troubles, and maybe even making plans to chat in the real world. I’m not against virtual avatars who can talk and connect as a way to help us all learn, grow, and even mature in some future society. I’ve written many times about how it will be cool to have an avatar who does a job interview for us or teaches a class.
It’s inevitable that social media will become virtual socializing by combining the best parts of online gaming, VR and AR, social media, graphics technology, and even apps like Discord. Why not create a virtual realm where everything we love about technology can coexist in real-time? Computers and high-speed connections have been up to the challenge for years. Why complain?
Sadly, it’s because social media companies like Facebook do not have a great track record when it comes to a pure play in technology. There is always a catch. It’s often related to capturing your personal information and selling it to the highest bidder.
The metaverse is a great way to push the attention economy forward, and there will be a massive bastion of sponsored content. That will ruin the experience, even if it is successful in luring us all into its eternal abyss. That virtual Starbucks is a great place to meet, but it won’t be hard to understand how Meta will rake in the cash. Once they have our eyeballs they also have our pocketbooks. It’s just a matter of time.
What I’d like to see is a different company rise to the surface (and soon) who is in this not just to capture our attention and show us ads. It would be wonderful if there was a completely different business model, perhaps one that involves more of an actual product and actual innovation. Sure, we could wander into shopping malls with our cryptocurrency; this company that does not actually exist yet could make commerce part of the equation. I’m just worried commerce will be the only equation.
Do you agree? How do you feel about the metaverse? Is it all awesome and nothing even remotely like an advertising ploy? Drop me a note on my Twitter feed to share your view. Let’s hope we are not just changing how Facebook makes money.
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