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Guillaume Clement

Principal Technical Program Manager
Canmore, Alberta

Facebook's Metaverse and Web 3.0

Let's start with Facebook as we know it. As an "elder millennial" there is something strange about being the last generation that lived before social media. Facebook used to be where the "cool kids" hung out (right after MSN Messenger lost its top spot and after everyone grew tired of making personal websites using Piczo). For years, Facebook was the social media platform. Fast forward a few years later and Facebook is a place full of ads, misinformation, and your aunt sharing cat memes. With 2.85 billion monthly users, Facebook is still an active platform. With the largest demographics made up of 25-34 year olds, elder millennials make up the largest user group. Having lost a lot of traction with the "cool kids", and with all the buzz around Web 3.0 I think now is a good time for Facebook to think about a rebrand.

What is Web 3.0?

Although this topic alone could be the subject of an entire article (coming soon), here's a quick brief:

  • Web 1.0: Static desktop web pages designed for information consumption. Usually served from a costly self-managed architecture.
  • Web 2.0: Mobile-first, interactive experiences, and user-generated content that brought us the websites and applications we use today. Includes the rise of cloud computing, big data, and the generalization of APIs.
  • Web 3.0: Open, trustless, and permissionless networks spreading the data from the data center out to the edge (perhaps even personal devices). Widespread use of AI and Blockchain as a means of interaction and exchange.

Today we are still in the Web 2.0 era and still dealing with all of the unfortunate side effects of that time which give social media platforms (especially Facebook) a bad name. With most internet companies as we know them becoming what they are today during the Web 2.0 period, a number of them had to come up with monetizations strategies to keep growing. Unfortunately for us end users visiting free websites where financial transactions usually do not occur, that meant monetizing something else; our data.

This brings us to where Facebook is now. A company no one trusts, that uses your data as a currency, is full of ads, and that the younger generations don't care much for. So how can they change this?

The Meta rebrand

There's no doubt about it the Facebook name hasn't aged very well but they are going to need much more than a rebrand to fix that. Here's where this gets interesting. We now know that the Meta name is to align the company to the vision of a Metaverse. So what is a Metaverse? Let's start by defining a term we are more familiar with, the universe. The universe can be described as all existing matter and space considered as a whole. The term meta also denotes something of a higher or second-order kind. A metaverse could then be described as a "second universe".

Universe: all existing matter and space considered as a whole.

Thinking about Web 3.0 technologies and about the technologies that Facebook already owns such as Oculus, it's easy to see how they could now create a digital universe and likely be the first ones to do it. For that to happen though, they need to detach themselves from the Facebook brand and reinvent themselves as a new company.

What are we going to do in the Metaverse?

Communicate

As a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, remote work is here to stay. Although there are many benefits to remote work, we've now come up with new terms such as Zoom-fatigue to also define the negative aspects of remote work. Some say that the cognitive load caused by the constant focus of a video camera and the challenges of one-way audio are to blame but one thing is certain, we now rely on technology more than ever to communicate. With that said it is still hard to replace face-to-face interactions with today's tools. In a virtual world such as the Metaverse, it may be easier to create virtual environments where groups can gather but where side conversations can still occur by virtually distancing ourselves from others. This would allow us to reinvent the "breakout rooms" we've come to know for both personal and professional contexts. With offerings like Portal and Workplace, Facebook is already well-positioned to make the Metaverse available to friends, families, and colleagues alike. In a professional context, one thing is certain, the name Facebook is probably one of the last ones we associate with work (e.g. the cat meme reference above). A rebrand could certainly provide the company with a new vision and help detach themselves from the Facebook brand we currently know.

Shop

A large component of Web 3.0 is Blockchain and more specifically Cryptocurrencies while one of the most common online activities in today's Web 2.0 is e-commerce. Certainly, e-commerce is here to stay, but e-commerce as we know it will only continue to evolve. Companies like Shopify are well aware of this and are already spending R&D dollars on augmented and virtual reality to push the vision of e-commerce experiences. Soon enough, our online shopping experiences will gain an additional level of dimension to migrate from the 2D we use today to an interactive 3D world. Not only will you be able to visualize products and even see if they fit in your living room you may also be able to shop in a virtual mall or market and perhaps interact with others as you do.

Where Cryptocurrencies come in is, in my opinion, twofold. First, we should be able to integrate payments and exchanges directly within digital experiences. We should never have to leave the experience to process payments or look at a checkout screen. Second, crypto gives us the ability to deal with micropayments (fractions of pennies). This sounds positive for two reasons. While Web 2.0 primarily relies heavily on paid advertisement, Web 3.0 will allow micropayments. A concept such as being charged 0.001 dollars to visit a virtual market could help control the immense amount of marketing we are submitted to daily. With 10 million active advertisers on Facebook in Q3 2020, there are no signs of that slowing down.

With products such as Marketplace, who knows, you may be able to visit a virtual Garage Sale soon as well!

Hang out

Lastly, the Metaverse may be a place where we can virtually hang out. The pandemic has shown that when there aren't any other options, it is possible to virtually hang out with friends and family. Although this doesn't replace the real deal, being able to talk, hang out, and even play games with friends and family virtually can be better than nothing when circumstances don't allow for your physical presence.

During the last few years, we've seen online concerts be very successful such as the performance by Travis Scott in Fortnite. We may see more of these in a virtual world like the Metaverse. Another trend that we've seen is the rise of Non-Fungible Tokens (NFTs). We know that online users are spending what sounds like ridiculous amounts of money to buy digital art and property, but it does not feel like we know what to do with those digital objects yet. In a virtual world, you may be able to visit art galleries filled with NFT art and perhaps even host "open houses" where you can entertain your digital guests.

Final Thoughts

With all of that said, the Facebook rebrand to Meta is a massive undertaking and it's going to take an equally massive amount of effort to regain any trust from its users. Metaverse or not, I think Facebook has a lot of work to do, but it is interesting to see a company align its vision with the future of the web so sharply. Hopefully, this gives them the option to rethink and explore new revenue and data strategies that benefit our online world in the long run.

If you agree, disagree, or have any comments, use the Share button above to send me a reply!