When I first used a Commodore 64 in 1988, I never imagined the Internet. When I connected the Internet to our home in 1997, I never imagined Social Media. When I first used Social Media on a Smart Phone and was connected to almost everyone I had ever met almost all the time, I never imagined Digital Currencies. There’s no doubt that in 10 years I will look back and see more unexpected innovations that have not only changed the way we do business but also the way we relate to each other in profound ways.
Mark Zuckerberg’s announcement about META is signalling what he sees as the next seismic shift in the internet. In the past, these innovations have been more grassroots. Little David’s, like email, have overthrown massive Goliaths, like state-owned postal services, by changing the paradigms with which we use things rather than through continuous improvement.
I’m not a betting man so I wouldn’t wager whether this will be a success or not, however, when one of the big tech giants puts $10Billion USD behind a project like this, it’s worth considering. Further, if Mark isn’t successful someone else will be. If you are thinking that with all the change in the past 25 years that somehow we are done with innovation, think again.
I listened to Mark’s interview with Matthew Ball in its entirety and noted down some keywords that were mentioned. If you don’t know what some of these words mean, let me encourage you to stimulate your curiosity and learn about them. I suspect they are part of your future so you will need to learn about them at some point anyway.
- GDP (This is a term usually used to describe the size of a countries economy, Mark is using it to describe the size of the economy of Meta)
- Block Chain (This technology is likely to be a key part of proving ownership of digital goods and services in the Metaverse)
- Cryptocurrency (Bitcoin has been with us for 12 years now and hit all time highs in the past weeks. I’m increasingly convinced it’s here to stay.)
- NFT (Non-Fungible Tokens are a method of owning a digital product. People have spent spectacular amounts of money on seemingly worthless jpegs over the past year or so. This is likely to be how we own things online in the future.)
- Virtual Reality & Augmented Reality (These technologies have never really been taken up by the mainstream (other than Pokémon Go), will this change with better technology? Mark seems to think so.)
- Decentralised v Centralised (The internet works so well because it’s decentralised, human nature tends to want to make things centralised. How decentralised will the metaverse be? Interoperability is a repeated statement in this interview)
- APPS (Mark wants to break down walls between apps and make the person the centre of the technology. This requires interoperability)
- Roblox (75% of kids in the US, AU and UK between the ages of 9-12 have a Roblox account. Our children are very used to virtual worlds, they will integrate with the Metaverse very naturally)
- Digital Goods (Will Calvin Klein come up with a range of digital clothes for your online avatar to wear which you can buy as an NFT, with proof of ownership on a blockchain?)
- Advertising (Advertising will be part of funding the Metaverse as businesses look to use it to promote their goods and services. As the owner of a digital marketing agency I’m particularly interested in what paradigm shifts we will need to take over the coming years)
- Social Media (Mark sees the metaverse as the natural next evolution of Social Media in order to make it a better, more visceral experience)
My first observation is that Mark is looking to tie together a lot of different pieces of technology into one place, the Metaverse. I think this is inevitable. The question of central control vs decentralised control comes to the surface as an important issue here. Data privacy and the use of your digital footprint is the next consideration that comes to mind.
Lockdown has taught us that many of us can work from home. Our kids have also studied at home and we have learnt that the online experience of endless Zoom meetings whilst workable, doesn’t have the same feeling as meeting up with people in person. Mark is attempting to use new technology to make our online experiences feel immersive and natural. It’s not hard to imagine that your kids may go to school through virtual reality, sitting in a classroom and interacting with their friends and teachers in a very similar way to they way they do today, except that everyone is at home. The same could happen for music concerts, movie theatres, church services, weddings and funerals, playing cards with your friends and the list goes on and on…
I’m curious to know what the other tech heavyweights will do with this. Will Google, Amazon and Apple join the party or set up their own “metaverse?” Will there be another David who slays these Goliaths? Where does Government sit on this?
I’ve learnt that the best way to convey a concept is not to give technical details but instead to tell a story. If you would like to get a picture of how this might look I would suggest watching “Ready Player One.” It’s a dystopian story of a future world where your online world is a larger part of your life than your offline world, where you buy, sell, work, play and form relationships online. It’s not utopian, which helps, but neither is it completely pessimistic. It’s only a story, but it will help to paint a picture in your mind of how life might look in the next 10-20 years. It’s also not designed by Facebook’s marketing department.
I’m particularly interested in how this will impact the millions of small and medium businesses in the way they work day to day, dealing with staff and customers, marketing their services, selling their products and services.
I’m very curious to see where this goes. My guess is that it will be both better and worse than we expect…