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This Week in the Metaverse (W44.2022)
One year since Facebook became Meta; Is web3 needed for the metaverse; Insights on digital fashion in a new report by Roblox and Parsons; Brand activations weekly roundup; Other news.
Welcome to Letters - commentary, analysis and ideas from Into The Metaverse.
This Week in the Metaverse:
One year since Facebook became Meta
Is web3 needed for the metaverse
Insights on digital fashion in a new report by Roblox and Parsons
Brand activations - weekly roundup
Other news from around the metaverse
Let’s dig in!
(1) One year since Facebook became Meta
A year ago Facebook changed its name to Meta and turned on the light on the “metaverse” as a concept. It’s been a rocky year for Meta to say the least - its core advertising business is contracting due to competitive pressure from TikTok and changes to Apple’s privacy; its massive loss of nearly $10b in the first nine months of 2022 on it metaverse initiatives are gaining an ever growing scrutiny from investors; and there are serious doubts about whether Virtual Reality headsets are indeed the next computing platform. And these are just some of Meta’s challenges.
Why It Matters
Regardless of what the metaverse will actually look like, Zuckerberg is using its promise as a rallying cry for his organization to buckle up and help shape the next iteration of the Internet. He deeply believes, right or wrong, that connecting Meta’s future with the metaverse is the company’s greatest mission in the years to come, and he’s betting the house on it. Like it or not, this is a conviction-led bet with an unprecedented level of investment. Zuckerberg is already a multi-billionaire, he changes the world with the introduction of Facebook in 2005 and growing it into the world’s largest social network and social media business, and therefore I believe that what drives him now is to not only to establish Meta as the platform of the future but also, and perhaps no less important (for him), to cement his position is one of this era’s greatest entrepreneurs.
Complement this item with my letter: A Perspective on Meta's Metaverse Creation Efforts.
(2) Is web3 needed for the metaverse
Tim Berners-Lee, the British computer scientist who’s credited with inventing the World Wide Web, is asking us to ignore web3. Speaking at Lisbon’s Web Summit, he said: “It’s important to clarify in order to discuss the impacts of new technology… You have to understand what the terms that we’re discussing actually mean, beyond the buzzwords… It’s a real shame in fact that the actual Web3 name was taken by Ethereum folks for the stuff that they’re doing with blockchain. In fact, Web3 is not the web at all.” (read more in CNBC’s article). For additional context, Berners-Lee’s new startup, Inrupt, aims to give users control of their own data, including how it’s accessed and stored. The company raised $30 million in a funding round in December, TechCrunch reported.
Why It Matters
Berners-Lee is one of many web3 skeptics, folks who do not believe that crypto and blockchain will play an instrumental role in the next version of the Internet, and he makes the distinction between web3 and web3.0. Similarly, there is a conversation as to whether web3 is critical pillar to enable the evolution of the metaverse. On one side of the aisle, folks like the CEO of Animoca argues that “there is no metaverse without web3”. I on the other hand believe that web3 and blockchain can help make the metaverse, potentially, be more open and interoperable, but it’s not mandatory as the metaverse will emerge in some shape or form without it. Earlier this year I was interviewed for an article on Cointelegraph which asked the question “Does the Metaverse need blockchain to ensure widespread adoption” - my answer:
"Raz-Fridman was asked why crypto people, in particular, seem to be so interested in the Metaverse. Is it because they think it will potentially boost cryptocurrency adoption? “If you look at it historically, there has always been a struggle over the narrative — different versions of what the world should look like,” he answered. At one extreme are the crypto maximalists who envision a decentralized, blockchain-based and open-source world where people own and control their data and digital assets. Raz-Fridman has sympathy for this position, but ultimately he doesn’t think it will prevail, overall, at least. Facebook, Google and others “own a large piece of economic activity over the internet, and they won’t be toppled overnight.” By the same token, the continuance of private, closed platforms isn’t realistic either. In the short-term, one might expect a sort of “clash of civilizations” between the two visions, continued Raz-Fridman, with an eventual middle ground emerging as consumers themselves decide the extent to which the Metaverse is decentralized.”
(3) Insights on digital fashion in a new report by Roblox and Parsons
It’s been an eventful week for the emerging category of digital fashion and beauty. Starting with the excellent report from Vogue Business - Sidebars, limiteds and digital gowns: How fashion can win on Roblox that dives in on why Roblox is emerging is an important destination for fashion and beauty brands, what are some of the key pillars that are important to keep in mind in order to be successful on the platform, and what are measures of success currently being used. Proud to have seen such a great coverage of the experience NARS Color Quest created by Supersocial (of which I’m founder & CEO) in partnership with the prestige beauty brand, NARS Cosmetics.
Alongside the coverage in Vogue Business, Roblox also announced the release of its first Metaverse Fashion Trends Report, created in partnership with Parson’s School of Design (you can find the report here). Among other things, the report states that in 2022 alone, more than 11.5 million creators designed over 62 million virtual clothing and accessory items on Roblox.
Why It Matters
As I’ve stated many times on the podcast and in different letters, one of the most important pillars of the emerging metaverse is the opportunity to creatively and meaningfully express ourselves in new ways through the lens of a 3D avatar. While people above age 35 may not fully comprehend why virtual goods are such a big thing for young people, these young people are spending hours per day on platforms such as Roblox and for them virtual worlds and outfitting their 3D avatar is as real as it gets. We now have roughly 2 billion people around the world under age 18, most of whom were born after YouTube was launched. They grew up spending time with friends on Minecraft and Roblox and manifesting their personality digitally with an ever evolving 3D avatar is second nature. Anyone who’s underestimating the tectonic shift in the way young people express themselves virtually and what it means for how people will socialize and express themselves in the future, is up for a major surprise.
Complement this item with Episode 27 of Into The Metaverse where Timmu Toke (CEO, Ready Player Me) explains why avatars will be a big deal in the metaverse.
(4) Brand activations - weekly roundup
Elton John launches a virtual world in Roblox (link)
Gucci Vault opens in The Sandbox (link)
Burberry partners with Minecraft as it goes deeper into gaming (link)
Ralph Lauren partners with Fortnite to create fashion collection (link)
Netflix launches new activation on Roblox for Stranger Things (link)
(5) Other news from around the metaverse
Decentraland’s Metaverse Music Festival is back for 2022, bigger and better (link) → complement this item with my conversation with Marja Konttinen, Marketing Director at Decentraland Foundation, about The Ethos of Decentraland.
Slack CEO Stewart Butterfield On Meeting Overload, A ‘Dystopian’ Metaverse And A More Intentional Future Of Work (link)
Why Mark Pincus sold Zynga for $12.7B and still has unfinished business with blockchain games (link)
Fortune speaks to Nick Clegg: Meta’s global affairs chief on the future of the metaverse, Apple getting away ‘scot free,’ and Elon Musk joining the social media club (link)
Tech vs Media: Podcast Episode 5 with Kevin Mayer (link)
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Into The Metaverse is a multi-segment podcast show that covers companies, technologies and trends through deep interviews with the brilliant minds who build, create for, and invest in the metaverse.
Into The Metaverse covers companies, technologies and trends that are bringing this promise to life. Yonatan Raz-Fridman “Yon” (founder & CEO of Supersocial) interviews the brilliant minds building for, and investing in, the Metaverse.