The move was a clear line in the sand. Beyond that line, the company wants to be known as a Metaverse company.
The move came hot on the heels of the Facebook Papers, a clear and documented history of the company ignoring the harm it was doing to users.
And so, Facebook’s move was met with a combination of tech fascination (countless articles trying to explain the Metaverse to casual readers) and abject horror.
We’re clearly at an inflection point. The Metaverse may take years to be fully realized, but we need to ask hard and serious questions today:
Are we going to simply ‘port’ all of the old models and approaches from web 2.0 and hope that they’re somehow less harmful?
Will data still live in a few large silos?
Will advertising still be based primarily on surveillance?
Will we still acquiesce to the conventional wisdom that “I’m going to be tracked, there’s nothing I can do about it, so I’ll just live with it”?
Maybe that was one of the benefits of Facebook making such a huge splash in the Metaverse: it forced the media to pay attention and ask questions about the potential downsides to this new shift in technology.
Wired was one of the few publications to place it in the broader context of ALL of Big Tech. It noted that the giants (from Microsoft to Niantic) have very little incentive to work together to create an interoperable Metaverse, and that the era of big silos is likely to continue.
Meta Platforms (formerly Facebook), which Mark Zuckerberg has vowed will eventually become a “metaverse company,” owns not only four of the top six social media platforms, but also Oculus, which manufactures VR hardware. What could sell VR headsets more effectively than the notion that everybody will need one to access the internet of the future—especially if that same internet is Meta’s own?
For Microsoft, the metaverse is a sci-fi skin over its aggregation of platforms and products, which include its operating system (Windows), servers (Azure), comms network (Teams), hardware (HoloLens), entertainment hub (Xbox), social network (LinkedIn), and IP (Minecraft).
Right now, the metaverse lives in the space between these total service environments and their owners’ corporate blogs. It’s an invitation to work under, not with, tech giants’ services.
If Big Tech’s unchecked growth continues, there will be multiple metaverses, if there are any at all. Each will be interoperable under one tech giant’s umbrella, the same way Apple is both a walled garden and a convenient, habitable terrarium for its dedicated consumers. Users love the seamlessness of Apple’s proprietary operating system, the ubiquity of iMessage. And Apple, presumably, loves the 30 percent commission it can charge those developers who sell apps in iOS through its App Store.
Hidden Secret #1 of All This Metaverse Talk:
In a neat act of corporate jiu jitsu, Meta Platforms made it seem like it was contradicting itself. And the media lapped it up.
But after following Zuckerberg’s effusive keynote address, which was filled with all sorts of nifty concept videos of how fun the Metaverse will be, one of his lieutenants had a different take.
John Carmack, who is renowned in tech circles for his work in gaming (Doom) and VR, seemed to throw cold water on Zuckerberg’s vision. As reported by Fortune (and others):
"I want it to exist, but I have pretty good reasons to believe that setting out to build the metaverse is not actually the best way to wind up with the metaverse," Carmack, who has been talking up the metaverse concept since the 1990s, said. The problem, he explained, is that the concept is a "honeypot trap for architecture astronauts…a class of programmers or designers that want to only look at things from the very highest levels." Such people don't want to talk about "any of the nuts and bolts or details," he complained.
Carmack actually perfectly set up the Meta Platforms narrative, because the company is in desperate need of developers.
This is one of the reasons so many big companies are announcing Metaverse plans now: to attract developers (and investment, either through advertising or goosed-up stock prices).
Carmack’s message was perfectly crafted to appeal to the developers who scorn “big picture” thinking. They just want to play with cool stuff.
So, while Zuckberg was appealing to the media, regulators, and your mom…Carmack was simply packaging up the same message but in a more granular way.
But the takeaway from his message is still important:
Namely, the Metaverse hasn’t been built yet. And we need to get down to the nuts and bolts of how it will work before it actually happens.
Hidden Secret #2:
Web3 Communities Are Way Ahead of You, Meta
Now, this won’t be a huge surprise to those of you who already hold a MetaMask full of NFTs, or who are a Friend with Benefits.
But if all you read is the mainstream media, you’d think that only Meta, Microsoft, or Epic Games has the capacity to build the Metaverse.
And so the secret, at least on Main Street?
Sure, there’s a lot of work left to do for the Metaverse to fully emerge. And decentralized communities, powered by DAOs, tokens, NFTs and just pure, unbridled creativity are building it.
But let’s unpack this a bit further. And let’s think about what Carmack said:
“The problem, he explained, is that the concept is a "honeypot trap for architecture astronauts…a class of programmers or designers that want to only look at things from the very highest levels." Such people don't want to talk about "any of the nuts and bolts or details," he complained.”
With web3, however….the devil is IN the details. And even more importantly, those details aren’t obfuscated in a large monolithic software package (like the Unreal game engine, say, or walled away on an Azure compute cloud somewhere).
The hidden secret, therefore, isn’t just that web3 communities are already building the Metaverse; it’s that they’re doing so in transparent ways. They’re learning from each other, and they’re working in a very detailed way - from the bottom up.
In other words, web3 is already living what Carmack is evangelizing: paying attention to the nuts and bolts.
Hidden Secret #3:
There’s More to NFTs Than Just Art
It’s clear by now that NFTs are more than just ways to verify ownership of digital art. We’re now seeing deep innovation, where avatars have utility and form the backbone of value exchange and community.
But let’s step back for a minute and look solely at the visuals of NFTs. Because there’s something intriguing going on.
Here are two ‘visions’ for our future in this emerging spatial technology we call the Metaverse:
First, Zuckberg on a surfboard:
And next, a Beeple:
The first is…sterile. Bland. The second has a vibrant energy. It’s provocative and challenging.
Neither one ‘exists’ in the Metaverse yet. Meta Platforms showed off …well, it was vaporware mostly. Concept videos.
But so is a Beeple. Or a Bored Ape.
This difference, even if we only look at it aesthetically, is profound - and it reminds us that technology is most often first adapted by those who want to subvert the status quo.
The printing press was primarily used for pamphlets. It gave a voice to those who didn’t previously have one, and it was used by pamphleteers to subvert traditional hierarchies.
Meta Platforms wants to deliver experiences TO us. Web3, on the other hand, is purpose-built to subvert hierarchies. Therefore, it’s creating its own language, its own visual shorthand.
So, the third secret is that we are seeing the early signs of a creative revolution, one that stands in stark contrast to Big Tech’s attempt to deliver “Experiences” (which mostly consist of conference rooms and dull-looking concept videos).
Hidden Secret #4: The Tent Is Large
How often do you hear Big Tech invite others into their tent?
You’re either on the inside, the outside, or you’re a user.
Web3 takes a different approach: the tent is large, we’re all building the future together, and there’s very little distinction between those who are building and those who are “users.”
In fact, the term “users” is a legacy. You can see it in coverage of the emergence of blockchain-based play-to-earn games like Axie Infinity. The legacy way to phrase this would be:
Users on Axie Infinity have earned XX billions playing the game.
But they’re not users. They are people who have ownership in the game. They can increase their stake by playing, and yes: they can convert that stake into very real-world dollars.
Play-to-earn is an exciting development, but it isn’t exclusive to games. It’s an upending of all of our old models.
Until now, we could mostly buy stuff online, or we could BE the product (every click converted into data that can be resold to advertisers)
The ‘Creator Economy’ is an exciting shift - but it’s still primarily an economy driven by middlemen. You can tip someone ON Twitter; you can become someone’s patron ON Patreon; you can pay to subscribe to someone’s newsletter ON Substack.
But the blockchain-based economy broadens the tent. It extends the chance to invest in, own assets in, or share value with everyone who wants to participate.
And so, the fourth secret is that while Big Tech wants to deliver Experiences (with a capital E) and monetize your participation, web3 turns the idea of ownership on its head. This has the potential to unleash value for millions (or billions) of people.
So, four secrets:
Winning the hearts of developers will be key to realizing a vision for the Metaverse
Web3 communities are already creating value from the ground up
This value includes forms of creativity that will contribute to a “language” for the Metaverse that will stand in counterpoint to the sterile “Experiences” of Big Tech
Because the web3 tent is large, it has the chance to even take on the 10,000 person ‘factory’ being put together by Meta (and all the billions being invested)
These four secrets also lie at the heart of the DigiCorp vision for the Metaverse:
Provide amazing tools for developers
Help communities to flourish, both through grants and through our wider advocacy
By thinking deeply and creating world-changing products, help facilitate entirely new forms of online experience and creativity
Wait for the benefits of web3 to reach more and more people
And, in bringing these benefits to more people, we will build two key bridges:
Bridge One: Bridge the TOOLS From decentralized technologies like provided by DigiByte and Threefold to Larger Communities.
In particular, we think that quantum-safe storage provides a critical bridge to larger enterprises. By solving an extremely difficult problem, we can attract new people and organizations to the web3 ethos.
The Metaverse will add an exponential storage challenge to our current computing paradigm, because we won’t just be storing photos or schematics - we’ll be storing ALL of your content in 3D.
Whether a digital mirror of a factory floor or your full catalog of widgets, the physical world will be converted to having a 3D equivalent.
That’s a lot of storage - and a lot of danger.
By building quantum-safe, scalable storage solutions, we can help organizations to solve their storage problems and, in the process, build a bridge from web3/crypto into larger domains.
Bridge Two: Bridge an Understanding of Value and Responsibility
And this is perhaps our deepest mission: because it’s about valuing humanity itself.
A growing number of people don't trust centralized platforms. We as DigiCorp believe privacy should be a human right, and people should have the choice.
But the solution to this goes beyond creating a sovereign identity for the Metaverse. It extends to helping communities and individuals to understand the responsibility that comes with taking back control of our identity.
It means providing tools so that people can innovate. It means exploring the frontiers of how individuals will enter into Metaverse spaces and how they will interact with each other.
What will the “digital handshake” of the future look like? What will it look like to exchange permissions? What happens when ‘trust’ is codified and transparent? How will we deal with bad actors? How will this connect to issues related to safety or equal access?
The battle for the Metaverse is now being fought in earnest.
But we don’t need to wait for Big Tech to deliver us “Experiences” from the mountaintop. Whether you’re an individual or an enterprise, you can participate in its creation today - focused on the nuts and bolts, joining innovative communities, and taking advantage of solutions that will solve immediate problems, while advancing a more human-centric vision for the Metaverse.