The pandemic has seen massive adoption in the metaverse concept. For some people, virtual and augmented reality is something they have lived on Zoom. Community-built and operated worlds like The Sandbox, CryptoKitties, and Decentraland use the gaming market, where people can buy or rent digital real estate, crypto-collectibles, and host online events. Virtual Reality platforms help connect the real world with a virtual one. The Sandbox describes the concept as a player-owned economy.
The metaverse era has also attracted artists and celebrities to sell their albums, personas, and images through NFTs. The growing popularity of metaverse has succeeded in attracting the attention of tech giants. More recently, Facebook and Microsoft are fighting for dominance and early grab of the virtual world.
Facebook’s move to rebrand to Meta buzzed the term ‘Metaverse’ to new heights. Given the company’s capital and influence, it makes sense that they want a part in VR. Moreover, their participation will also drive mass adoption of the concept. However, people have not forgotten about the Facebook controversies. They suspect that the tech giants are only in the game for two reasons. One, to help save its skin from the problems it is facing. And two, to collect more data from users because the platform will still be centralized.
Facebook poses a massive threat to the concept of community-built and -operated Metaverse. What Facebook brings is a war between centralization and decentralization. Should Facebook, a centralized platform and criticized over misinformation, division, anti-trust pressure, and privacy issues, be allowed control over the Metaverse? We know that no platform has completely solved online speech, misinformation, and privacy problems. But shouldn’t they be trying to solve their social media issue? And what is metaverse?
What is Metaverse?
Metaverse refers to a new internet concept that is an extension of the real world. In other words, the metaverse completely engages users in a virtual dimension, created via conventional computing, that imitates the real world. Metaverse already exists on platforms like Second Life, CryptoKitties, the Sandbox, VR Chat, and Decentraland.
The most exciting thing about the Metaverse is the endless interconnection of communities. The users can play, work, meet, and do other activities. People can do anything via VR headsets, augmented reality (AR) glasses, mobile applications, and many more. The Metaverse provides endless possibilities, a reflection of people’s dreams and hopes. Thus, the force behind Metaverse is not yet comprehensible even within the crypto industry.
The Problem with Facebook’s evolution to Meta
The Metaverse aims to allow users to own their avatars (digital identities) and their data that exist in the virtual realm. Digital identity ownership is possible through non-fungible tokens and blockchain networks that enable community-creation and ownership in the Metaverse.
Facebook has the capability of muscling the Metaverse because of its influence and network effects. However, this could stir a war in the ecosystem, where the established corporations will be battling alongside Facebook over the control of the Metaverse and cryptopreneurs. While the social media giants will be fighting for centralization, the cryptopreneurs want the Metaverse to be community-created, operated, and owned. Thus, it will be a war between centralization and decentralization. Unless decentralization alters the balance, companies are likely to have a clear advantage.
Consequently, the Metaverse is inclined in the way people spend their time. For instance, the Sandbox allows users to own and rent virtual real estate, which is the founding idea behind the Metaverse. Hence, the players can monetize their time, incorporating staking into the gaming world. Moreover, Etheria, the first NFT project on Ethereum, intended to offer alternatives for Google and Facebook in a Metaverse way. Etheria offered a virtual reality for players to own tiles and farmed them for blocks to create things. Facebook, on the other hand, cannot fit the Metaverse description.
Crypto diehards and investors argue that Metaverse is Facebook’s antithesis. While the Metaverse tries to erase the barriers between developed and developing countries, Facebook creates the differences. Crypto ventures have so far managed to stay ahead of corporate influence.
Conversely, multiple socioeconomic metaverses are already present. For example, Facebook users already exist in a virtual platform with the ability to post pretty much online. Thus, Facebook already knows what people want and need. This works in favor of Facebook’s evolution if it utilizes its strong influence and makes it accessible, given that non-crypto natives cannot access NFTs. Moreover, a massive part of the population is already locked out by the gas fees that prohibit them from mining and trading NFTs.
Finally, the tech giant does not understand the concept of the Metaverse. The Metaverse begins with owning assets and creating and trading value. Virtual reality is only a consequence of these capabilities. Hence, crypto natives know something that Facebook is ignoring – encouraging people to build, own, and operate their own infrastructures while earning is the key to Metaverse. Moreover, the ability to earn from doing things that people usually do free through the Metaverse plays a vital role in the ecosystem.
Facebook should take notes of what it means to join the Metaverse before making the changes. Moreover, its centralization poses a problem to blockchain networks’ work to move away from corporate control. An open-source and open community network effects surpass that of any corporation. However, time will tell whether the optimism of decentralization will win against social media giants.