Facebook Plagiarizes Yet Another Crypto Idea for Its Irrational Rebrand

Facebook Metaverse News

Facebook Metaverse News

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Mark Zuckerberg’s metaverse goal differs significantly from the open, interoperable concept espoused by the blockchain industry.

There’s a lot to say about Facebook’s announcement yesterday that it’s changing its corporate name to “Meta” as part of a concentrate on what amounts to online virtual reality. The majority of what has to be communicated isn’t appropriate for Facebook. This is a desperate maneuver in the face of a public relations catastrophe that has a limited chance of working as a market proposal and almost no possibility of turning around the company’s falling political and market fortunes in the United States and Europe.

Let’s start close to home, given the target-rich environment: “Metaverse” is the second buzzy idea that Facebook has plundered from the blockchain sector. It’ll almost certainly be as poorly done as Zuck’s first craven magpie act, the would-be stablecoin Libra, now known as Diem (Facebook botched the launch so terribly that it had to rename the product: Sense a theme?). Libra, Diem, Novi, Calibra, or whatever name you want to give it, was an attempt to steal some nebulous crypto halo while really producing a strong flood of new data for Facebook, in clear violation of the principles that underpin the whole paradigm being hijacked.

Similarly, the genuine “metaverse” is a blockchain notion, but you can already tell that Facebook’s metaverse will be just as perverted as Bitcoin’s Libra. The blockchain metaverse’s central concept is broad interoperability of virtual assets kept on a neutral and verifiable ledger. The same blockchain technology that makes non-fungible tokens (NFTs) usable across a variety of immersive experiences, from Decentraland to (let’s say, in theory) Second Life to Minecraft, would be used to create tokens that represent virtual reality assets usable across a variety of immersive experiences, from Decentraland to (let’s say) Second Life to Minecraft.

Though there will be some type of NFT integration in Facebook’s online VR, the wider concept is not what Zuck is releasing. Much of his talk yesterday focused on his dissatisfaction with Apple’s App Store and Facebook’s intention to develop a competing, parallel walled garden focused on online VR experiences (I’m not going to call it “the metaverse” because see above). They’ll charge fees to creators who, for example, develop a virtual sweater. Come on, Facebook communications staff, we know you’re sleepwalking in a state of moral paralysis, but at least pretend a bit harder). Zuck even warned that platform costs would be high for a time.

Facebook (no, I’m not going to call it “Meta” either, since see above) will be building up its online VR company at a loss for a time, including by subsidizing equipment, according to Zuck. One of the other major red flags for Facebook’s turnaround is this. It’s evident that very few people desire to use virtual reality, especially in the type of sustained fashion that would make it a profitable walled-garden content store company. For at least three or four years, the Oculus VR gadgets at the heart of Facebook’s aspirations have been quite strong technology, but sales have been disappointing.

Other virtual reality and augmented reality firms, such as the infamous Magic Leap, have squandered money due to a lack of product-market fit. The only way Facebook appears to have of making mass-market VR work is to spend a lot of money to stimulate adoption.

That expenditure, too, demonstrates how desperate this is. It’s not that this wasn’t obviously a long-term strategy; in fact, it may have been in the cards since the acquisition of Oculus in 2014. As Zuck admits when he states, “we anticipate to invest many billions of dollars for years to come until the metaverse reaches size.” Compare that to Instagram’s significantly speedier payout after Facebook purchased it in 2012.

(We may also see how little Facebook means what it claims about user privacy once more.) Palmer Luckey, an ideological authoritarian, developed and launched Oculus before going on to found Anduril, a military contractor that sells espionage technology like camera drones and recon towers, no doubt influenced by his technical work on Oculus. Make what you will of it.)

A regular firm, one that isn’t under fire for abusing its people and breaking the law, would not rename itself after a corporation that has already collapsed. And spending money to gain clients is the behavior of a risky company that uses private VC money to improve its chances of seizing a fresh business opportunity, such as Uber employing subsidies to win ridesharing. It’s not clear that the strategy makes sense for a large publicly traded firm seeking to breathe life into a business that appears to have little traction on its own.

It also doesn’t make sense because the cost of gear, like as a virtual reality headset, isn’t the limiting barrier in adoption that Zuck would have you believe. In the world of technology, there’s a concept known as a “adoption curve,” in which early adopters spend a lot of money on unusual items, and as they become more affordable, more people buy them. Even during a pandemic when everyone was stuck at home, the first portion of that adoption curve for VR has yet to materialize. Making the headsets less expensive won’t fix the obvious lack of interest among the hyper-engaged audience who aren’t supposed to be concerned with pricing.

The monopolistic outspend-the-competition strategy, on the other hand, comes from another of Zuck’s favorite people, neoreactionary authoritarian Peter Thiel (feeling a pattern here?). Returning to a known playbook is presumably comforting to Zuck. And there are probably still enough gullible, bootlicking Web 2.0 investors out there that Zuck will be able to keep the company afloat for the next ten years by saying something along the lines of “you gotta spend money to make money, fam” on investor calls as Facebook’s new VR unit, and then the entire company’s balance sheet, bleeds to death.

Because there’s a greater picture at play here. Aside from regulatory and legal worries, Facebook as a corporation has likely passed its prime. In the United States, user numbers are decreasing, particularly among young people, on both Facebook and, more importantly, Instagram, which had prolonged the company’s relevance by a few years. Unfortunately, Facebook’s future is most likely to be found in second- and third-tier economies, where governments are even weaker and citizens are much poorer.

As a result, Facebook will be freer to act on its darkest instincts. Ironically, it may mean that the metaverse comes closer to the deepest origins of the word in Neal Stephenson’s dystopian cyberpunk science fiction masterpiece “Snow Crash” from the 1980s. The global poor play out a digital facsimile of lifestyles they can’t afford in Stephenson’s metaverse, while their malnourished bodies wither in confined dwellings back in reality.

In a nutshell, the Facebook metaverse is a digital version of hell. Mark Zuckerberg, who has already released so many demons on the waking world, would be an excellent Charon to lead us there.

This article appeared first on CoinDesk

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