What is a Metaverse? There is a real answer — aka the science fiction answer. And there is an answer you will get from Zuck and his acolytes. They are busy rearchitecting the company away from social networking. They are literally putting Meta into the metaverse, as per this report in The New York Times.

Reality Labs is now at the forefront of the company’s shift to the metaverse, employees said. Workers in products, engineering and research have been encouraged to apply to new roles there, they said, while others have been elevated from their jobs in social networking divisions to lead the same functions with a metaverse emphasis.

The New York Times

Say what you may about Mark Zuckerberg, but when he decides to move, he doesn’t give a damn. You do it his way or simply leave the company. Quite a few senior team members are cashing in their checks and quitting the company. My old colleague Wagner James Au in a blog post last year about the Meta-makeover had an interesting comment from an insider.

“I think Facebook has the money and people to throw at the problem,” as they put it to me, “but making 0-1 products as a large entity hasn’t been one of Facebook’s strong suits… it’s been to acquire other products and integrate them into the Facebook ecosystem.

New World Notes

Facebook reminds me of the old Microsoft — the company that would announce a new initiative and the collective technology industry would twitch uncontrollably. It is no surprise that everyone is talking up their Metaverse game.

Metaverse is the new “cloud” or “big data.” It is a new buzzword, that is going to be bastardized into every conversation — no one will let the facts come in the way of fiction. I am waiting for Marc Benioff to announce a SalesforceVerse any day soon!

Here are a few articles that might get you started to get a grip of the hype.

  • Silicon Valley has a Metaverse FOMO, writes John Naughton. It doesn’t matter whether it is dystopian or not — there is money to be made, so everyone is jumping on the bandwagon. [The Guardian]
  • Wall Street hasn’t met a technology buzzword it hasn’t like and wanted to profit from. So why are we surprised that they are all over the “metaverse.” [Fortune Magazine
  • If Zuck says Metaverse, the whole ecosystem starts to get warm and fuzzy. At CES 2022, lot of small players were taking Meta and Metaverse. [SP Global]
  • Metaverse is all about marketing and advertising. The only reason Facebook is all over it. Here is how influencer marketing is going to work in this new space. [Vogue]
  • And in summary, Metaverse must be stopped. [Tribune UK]
Yosemite from Air. Made with iPhone 13 Pro Max

One day somebody will explain to me why it is that, at a time when science has never been wiser, or the truth more stark, or human knowledge more available, populists and liars are in such pressing demand.— John Le Carre

Did You Know?

Only “11% of companies are able to fully meet California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) requirements” or that 44% of companies do not provide any mechanism for consumers to exercise their data rights? Just because there are rules doesn’t mean anyone is following them. Source: Cytrio

Future Proof 

  • What does the web look like in 2036? A fantastic read from one of my favorite bloggers/web-technologists, Jim Nielsen. [Also, how the web was destroyed one blue link at a time.]
  • Five books about science fiction and philosophy, recommended by Eric Schwitzgebel is a professor of philosophy at the University of California, Riverside. Admittedly, I read only one of the five  — Klara and the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro and thoroughly enjoyed it. I find science fiction hard to read, as much of it is eats into the optimism you need for the future. 
  • The future of clothing is smart, and for that, we need new kinds of sensors. Scientists have developed a soft, stretchable, self-powered thermometer that can be “that can be integrated into stretchable electronics and soft robots.”It will likely open up “new possibilities to create new human–machine interfaces and soft robots in healthcare, engineering and entertainment,” said Zhigang Suo, one of the paper’s authors. 

Write-On

There are 1.3 billion ballpoint pens shipped every year in Japan. And while it might not seem a lot, that’s still a lot of plastic. So Japanese pen makers have decided to do **something about it** — their pens will have 30 percent less plastic. And their refills will replace 30 percent less plastic with more ink. I am glad that the pen makers are trying — Japan produces 8 million tons of plastic waste every year— so every 30 percent cut helps. Or be like me: use a fountain pen. 😉

Facebook, if nothing else, is good at diverting attention away from itself and its pesky public relations nightmares. It doesn’t matter how bad things get – they know that everything becomes the proverbial fish wrap in time.  

Do you even remember that it was not even a week ago when The Facebook Papers dominated the media cycle? Me neither! I had already forgotten what it was all about. The slush of repetitive media coverage based on internal documents was nothing more than just a public relations headache. 

It was an easily solved problem. Change the company’s name (start with a careful leak,) throw in some vision, whip up a slick video, and then on the day of the annual developer conference, rename yourself, Meta. Facebook’s new name comes from Metaverse, which according to its CEO Mark Zuckerberg is the future of the internet where you are “in the experience, not just looking at it,” and “it will touch every product we build.” 

Even if you believe that Zuckerberg has been thinking about this for a few years — I don’t have any doubts about it — the timing of this announcement is expedient and shows that they are and will be masters of media manipulation.  

“It is a political strategy too, part of a broader push to rehabilitate the company’s reputation with policymakers and reposition Facebook to shape the regulation of next-wave Internet technologies, according to more than a dozen current and former Facebook employees,” reported The Washington Post. It will allow the company to “turn the conversation away from such urgent but distasteful matters as the massive antitrust lawsuit filed last year by the Federal Trade Commission.”

All this talk about Metaverse is an excellent way to refocus the attention to the future and away from its present problems. A video that essentially uses a video-game-like interface, Facebook can wash its hands off reality and whatever toxicity of the reality. After all, it is all just a game. You can’t be any angrier about fake information being shared in the metaverse than you can be angry about running over someone in grand theft auto.  

Strategically, the decision makes sense as well. Facebook needs to be independent of hardware and operating system platform owners, Apple and Google. The recent brouhaha with Apple over tracking and privacy has exposed the vulnerability of Facebook’s advertising business. All this talk about the Metaverse and billions of dollars in spending on new hardware-centric opportunities is an excellent signal to Wall Street that they have a strategy to keep the stock flying in the future. It also allows the company to achieve its long-standing goals — a single sign-on for all its products — Facebook, WhatsApp, and Instagram. “I think it’s helpful for people to have a relationship with a company that is different from the relationship with any a specific one of the products, that can kind of supersede all of that,” Zuckerberg told The Verge

That said, it doesn’t solve the one big hairy problem: young people don’t give a shit about Facebook, no matter what banner they hang outside their headquarters. “Facebook was invented on campus for people to get laid, “a long-time observer of the social media sector quipped. “Meta was invented in a conference room.” The person pointed out that Metaverse demos are  what they think is “cool” based on research reports 

“It’s a stretch to believe Facebook can make that work, especially for a company that has shown little development in the nearly ten years since IPO,” wrote Tiernan Ray, a veteran technology writer, in his critique of the big VR bet by Facebook. “There is no evidence the company can organically innovate its way out of being mainly the Web site for old people, as Zuckerberg now characterizes his creation.”