Meta wants to be the main architect behind the meta-verse and one of the leaders of the web3 of the future. But his vision for the future of technology and ownership contradicts many true Web3 followers. Here are some of the challenges that the company, formerly known as Facebook, will face and how it plans its next steps.
Meta, formerly Facebook, spends billions of dollars on positioning itself as a groundbreaking force in the meta-verse. But some see the company as the opposite of everything the Web3 movement stands for. Today, a dichotomy arises between the company’s vision for the future of the meta-verse – led by Meta – and the creator-centered vision.
The dichotomy between these two visions can be boiled down to a single question: who controls the metaverse?
In theory, the answer is no – and all. Metaverse is based on blockchain, an immutable digital ledger designed specifically to be decentralized; in other words, not allowing centralized top-down control from individuals, companies, governments or any other entity.
At its most basic level, the same goes for the Internet. At least that was true when it was first devised in the second half of the 20th century, when the Department of Defense’s Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) set out to build a decentralized network of computers through the United States that could remain intact if the country was to be attacked by a nuclear weapon. But as the Internet has evolved over the last few decades, it has increasingly fallen into the cycle of capitalist dynamics. Today, in the age of web2, a small handful of companies control a disproportionate share of the information flow. Google, for example, may not literally own the Internet, but that company certainly plays an overarching role in controlling how the average person interacts with it.
This is basically the paradigm that web3 – the third evolutionary phase of the internet – seeks to end. Web3 idealists envision a world where the closed, data-hungry organizations that have long controlled and benefited from centralized control of the flow of information will be replaced by a decentralized community of coders and creators working together to make information more transparent, reliable and accessible. . The meta-verse is generally seen as an important part of this vision, a virtual space where people can meaningfully interact across great geographical distances. Imagine a Zoom call where all participants are actually standing in an immersive digital space like personal virtual avatars, communicating not just verbally but through finely calibrated body language, doing business on blockchain-based smart contracts and exchanging currencies that are not controlled by any bank or centralized authority.
Some of the idealists suspect that Meta aims to implement the same control paradigm that it had in the Web2 era, in the burgeoning Web3 world.
Web3, both as a sociopolitical movement and a technological framework, has grown rapidly. Today, many companies are trying to join the trend. Meta is clearly particularly bullish on Metaverse, as evidenced by the company’s renaming last year.
Facebook, the former iteration of the company, was a major player in the Web2 world. It has become a social media giant making money on its rapid global growth primarily through the sale of user data and advertising. Needless to say, this business model got the company into legal hot water, and its founder and CEO – Mark Zuckerberg – in the U.S. 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 transgressions and give everyone a shiny new object – 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 guide brands to Web3. “It seems that they are trying to create the false impression that Meta is identical to Metaverset. And in my opinion, they probably do it not only because it is a lucrative new field and it looks like the future, but also because some of their existing platforms and products failed.And I suspect they may have wanted to distract investors from, for example, Facebook losing users.
Meta defines its goals very differently. “Our mission from the beginning has always been to help people connect in better, more immersive and more personal ways … the new name really reflects the direction our company is taking, and also our commitment to building the technology of the future socially,” says Nicola. Mendelsohn, Vice President of Global Business Group at Meta.
The company does not claim to seek to monopolize Metaverse: “Metaverse is not something that Meta – or any other company for that matter – will own,” says Mendelsohn. “Our goal is simply to kick-start the ecosystem and accelerate the development of tools and technologies that will help anyone interested build it together.”
Although Meta does not explicitly refer to a metaverse monopoly, it clearly aims to be the name people immediately think of when they hear the term “the metaverse”. Intentionally or not, this has led to some widespread confusion about the metaverse itself: according to a recent survey, “more than a quarter (27%) of US consumers misunderstand the term metaverse to refer to proprietary technology from Meta”.
The scale has a cost
With its vast wealth and user base, Meta is able to offer creators – the people and organizations trying to sell a product or service in the meta verse – a great advantage: scalability. “They attract a massive global audience of 3 billion people, so they provide an instant scalable creator,” said TJ Leonard, CEO of stock media company Storyblocks. “You get instant scale from day one, and you do not have that in the bottom-up, idealistically [version of web3]. ”
Scalability is one thing, cost is another. Just a few weeks ago, Meta announced a new “creator fee” on Horizon Worlds of 47.5% – meaning the company will take almost half of all profits creators make on its platform. (Apple currently charges 30% for all transactions in its App Store, a fee that Zuckerberg has publicly criticized.)
Meta’s reason for its high creator and platform fees is that building the meta-verse is basically expensive – so anyone who wants to play has to pay. “We believe the fees we charge are competitive and allow us to invest in Horizon Worlds and grow the platform while allowing creators to earn the most revenue,” a Meta spokesman told The Drum in an e-mail. -mail. In its Meta Quest platform, for example, the company states that it uses “the revenue generated from our store to directly offset the cost of our Quest devices in retail. Our approach is to grow the virtual reality (VR) market by sending devices to an affordable price, and this revenue is essential to maintain an available headset retail price.
Meta also indicates that its current pricing structure will evolve with the metaverse itself. “This is 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 earnings,” the Meta spokesman wrote. “We reach our goal of ensuring that developers have a path to true financial success on our platform. When the web version of Horizon launches, the Horizon platform fee will only be 25%, a rate that is much lower than other similar world builders. platforms. »
Yet the introduction of the new Meta fees seems to alienate many creators – many of whom struggle to make a living from their works. The advent of NFTs has certainly marked a great new opportunity for digital artists, but the picture is much less rosy when a major technology company says it will take almost half of all the revenue you earn from selling your tokens on its platform. .
Yes, creators can still choose to leave Horizon Worlds if they are unhappy with the new Meta Creation Fee. But again, scalability matters. The reality in the current state of Metaverse is that there just are not as many platforms offering the massive audience that Meta is capable of. The Metaverse is a large and constantly changing place, and it can be risky to venture out alone as a struggling artist.
But after Meta announced its new fees, many artists apparently chose to omit the company – which they think is deaf to the needs of its community – in favor of more creator-friendly platforms. . Cassatt summed it up bluntly: “The Web3 community collectively threw up their mouths when Meta announced the 47.5% set-up fee.”
Access and cost are not the only obstacles that stand between metaverse and creators who want to monetize their work. There is also interoperability – or rather the lack of the same. In a Web3 context, “interoperability” is essentially the ability of avatars and assets to move seamlessly between platforms. This is currently a largely theoretical concept, an ideal that many companies seem to be aiming for, but which at present is still unusually difficult to implement due to the enormous computing power required.
Metaversen is still in its infancy. As it evolves, Meta will face the challenge of proving to the creative community that it is not a web2 Goliath disguised as a web3 David. It’s probably going to be an uphill battle: “Nobody on Web3 thinks Facebook is cool,” Cassatt says. “And in fact, the whole web3 finds that it’s banned, and part of the reason we created web3 was to fight against that business model … Do not confuse Meta with the metaverse.”
For more, sign up for The Drum’s Inside the Metaverse weekly newsletter here.