Meta wants to be the lead architect of the metaverse and one of the pioneers in the future of web3. But his vision of the future of technology and ownership is at odds with many of Web3’s true proponents. Here are some of the challenges the company formerly known as Facebook will face and how it plans its next steps.
Meta, formerly known as Facebook, is spending billions of dollars to position itself as a leading force in the metaverse. But some see the company as the antithesis of everything the Web3 movement stands for. Today, a split is emerging between the company’s vision for the future of Meta – led by Meta – and the one that centers on the creator.
The dichotomy between these two visions can be summed up in one question: Who controls the metaverse?
In theory, the answer is nobody – and everyone. Metaverse is based on the blockchain, an immutable digital ledger, which is specifically designed to be decentralized; In other words, not allowing top-down centralized control by individuals, companies, governments or any other entity.
At its most basic level, the same is true on the Internet. This was at least true when it was first conceived in the second half of the 20th century, when the Department of Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) set out to build a decentralized network of computers across the United States that could remain intact if the country were to be attacked with a weapon. nuclear. But with the development of the Internet over the past few decades, it has increasingly fallen into the orbit of capitalist dynamics. Today, in the age of Web 2, a small handful of companies control a disproportionate share of the information flow. Google, for example, may not literally own the internet, but this company certainly plays a huge role in controlling how the average person interacts with it.
This is, essentially, the paradigm that Web 3 – the third evolutionary stage of the Internet – seeks to end. Web3 idealists envision a world in which the closed, data-hungry organizations that have dominated for so long and benefited from centralized control of the flow of information are replaced by a decentralized community of programmers and creators working collaboratively to make information more transparent, reliable, and accessible. The metaverse is generally seen as an important part of this vision, a virtual space where people can interact meaningfully across vast geographic distances. Imagine a Zoom call where virtually all participants stand in an immersive digital space as dedicated virtual avatars, communicating not just verbally but through meticulously calibrated body language, conducting business on blockchain-based smart contracts and exchanging currencies that are not controlled by any bank or authority. centralization.
Some idealists suspect that Meta aims to implement the same control model it enjoyed in the era of Web2 in the booming world of Web3.
Web 3, as a socio-political movement and technical framework, has grown rapidly. Today, many companies are trying to join this trend. Meta is clearly particularly bullish on the Metaverse, as evidenced by the company’s rebranding last year.
Facebook, the company’s predecessor, was a major player in the Web2 world. It has become a social media giant, monetizing its rapid global growth primarily through selling user data and advertising. Needless to say, this business model got the company into a legal limbo, and its founder and CEO – Mark Zuckerberg – in the US Supreme Court. Many believe that the company’s decision to rebrand itself as Meta was primarily an attempt to distract the public from its past excesses and give everyone something shiny new – the Metaverse – to focus their attention on.
“It’s all in the name,” says Amanda Cassatt, co-founder and CEO of Serotonin, a company that strives to drive branding to Web3. “It seems that they are trying to create a false impression that the Meta is identical to the Metaverse. And in my opinion, they probably do so not only because it is a profitable new area and appears to be the future, but also because some of their existing platforms and products have failed. And I suspect they may have wanted to distract investors from the fact that Facebook, For example, lost users.
Meta sets its goals completely differently. “Our mission from the start has always been to help people connect in better, more inclusive, and personal ways… The new name truly reflects the direction our company is taking as well as our commitment to building the future of social technology,” says Nicola. Mendelsohn, Vice President of the Global Business Group at Meta.
The company doesn’t claim to be seeking a Metaverse monopoly: “The Metaverse is not something Meta — or any other company, for that matter,” says Mendelsohn. “Our goal is simply to launch the ecosystem and accelerate the development of tools and technologies that will help everyone who cares about that build the system together.”
While Meta doesn’t explicitly aim to monopolize the metaverse, it clearly aims to be the name people immediately think of when they hear the phrase “metaverse”. Intentionally or unintentionally, this has led to some widespread confusion about the metaverse itself: According to a recent study, more than a quarter (27%) of American consumers “misunderstand the term metaverse to refer to Meta-proprietary technology.”
The scale has a cost
With its vast wealth and user base, Meta is able to offer creators – those individuals and organizations trying to sell a product or service in the metaverse – a key advantage: scalability. “They attract a huge global audience of 3 billion people, so they provide an immediate measure of the creator,” says T.J. Leonard, CEO of media and securities firm Storyblocks. “You get instant scale, from day one, and you don’t have it from the bottom up, it’s perfect [version of web3]. ”
Scalability is one thing, cost another. Just a few weeks ago, Meta announced a new “creation fee” on Horizon Worlds of 47.5% – which means the company will take nearly half of all revenue that creators earn on its platform. (Apple currently charges a 30% fee for all transactions on its App Store, a fee Zuckerberg has publicly criticized.)
The rationale for Meta’s high creator and platform fees is that building the metaverse is essentially expensive – so anyone who wants to play will have to pay. “We believe our fees are competitive and allow us to invest in Horizon Worlds and grow the platform while allowing creators to earn the most revenue,” a company spokesperson said from Meta to The Drum in an email. On its Meta Quest platform, for example, the company states that it uses “revenue from our store to directly offset the cost of retail Quest hardware. Our approach is to grow the virtual reality (VR) market by shipping affordable hardware, and this revenue is essential To maintain an accessible retail price of the headphones.
Meta also notes that its current pricing structure will evolve with the metaverse itself. “This is just the beginning – there is still a lot of work to be done and we continue to work closely with our creators and developers to enable them to generate meaningful profits,” a Meta spokesperson wrote. “We are achieving our goal of ensuring that developers have a path to real financial success on our platform. When launching the web version of Horizon, the fee for the Horizon platform will be only 25%, which is a much lower rate than other similar world-building platforms.”
However, the introduction of the new meta graphic seems to alienate many creators – many of whom struggle to make a living from their businesses. The rise of NFTs has certainly represented a huge new opportunity for digital artists, but the picture is much less rosy when a major tech company says it will take nearly half of the total revenue it makes selling your tokens on its platform. .
Yes, creators can still choose to leave Horizon Worlds if they are unhappy with the new Meta Creation graphics. But again, scalability is important. The reality of the current state of the Metaverse is that there aren’t many platforms that offer the massive audience the likes of Meta can offer. The Metaverse is a vast and ever-changing place, and getting out on your own as a struggling artist can be risky.
But after Meta announced its new cartoons, several artists seemingly chose to sidestep the company — which they seem to think is deaf to its community’s needs — in favor of more creator-friendly platforms. Cassatt put it bluntly: “The Web3 community vomited en masse in its mouth when Meta announced a 47.5% build fee.”
Access and cost aren’t the only barriers standing between the metaverse and creators looking to monetize their work. There is also the possibility of interoperability – or rather the lack of it. In the context of Web3, “interoperability” is basically the ability for avatars and assets to move seamlessly between platforms. This is currently a largely theoretical concept, a model that many companies ostensibly aim for but which, for the time being, remains exceptionally difficult to implement due to the massive computing power required.
Metaverse is still in its infancy. As it develops, Meta will take on the challenge of proving to the creator community that it’s not web2 Goliath disguised as web3 David. It’s probably an uphill battle: “Nobody on Web3 thinks Facebook is great,” says Cassatt. “And in fact, all Web 3 find it a curse, and part of the reason why Web 3 was created is to fight that business model… Don’t confuse meta with metaverse.”
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