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The Metaverse


CONTEXT: It promises a new way to connect

WHY IT MATTERS: Business follows human behavior - which is shifting

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In October 2021, Facebook announced its vision for the future of social connection. Included in its announcements was the news that the company would rebrand from Facebook to Meta. The new direction and subsequent rebrand have been executed as part of its new metaverse strategy. In contrast to today’s mobile-based social interaction, Meta envisions a future where connections are made in the metaverse.

For many, this was the first time they heard the term ‘metaverse’. So, what is the metaverse? Is it a real thing or just another buzzword? Is Meta pioneering the concept or has it been around for a while? Why do they think it’s so important?

The metaverse has been described as an immersive virtual world where all things physical and digital come together. It is facilitated by virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) to create a 3D-like existence. Avatars or graphical representations of a user are used to depict an individual’s persona. Imagination is the only limit to what these avatars look and sound like. The same could be said of the environments or worlds inside of it. Workplaces, concerts, and places to shop, play and hang out are all features of the existing metaverse.

In terms of users, adoption has been subdued. Just ask 10 of your closest friends, family members, and colleagues. The chances are most haven’t experienced it yet - let alone understand what it is. Wayne Gretzky famously said: ‘I skate to where the puck is going, not to where it has been’. So, with minimal user uptake, is Meta figuratively waiting on the ice for a game that no one is playing? Is the concept so original that no one understands the game?

While October 2021 was the first time some had heard of the metaverse, it certainly wasn’t the genesis of the idea. Science fiction writer Neal Stephenson, famously coined the term in his 1992 novel Snow Crash. The novel explores the ideas and concepts of a virtual world and how it collides with human behavior. The catalyst for the events that unfold is a worldwide economic collapse driven by hyperinflation and a breakdown of traditional institutions. While this is a dystopian view, some of the concepts portrayed are relative to 2023 namely:

⁃ inflation or hyperinflation
⁃ political divisions
⁃ intelligent computing
⁃ avatar-based social engagement
⁃ newly evolved digital currencies
⁃ Linguistics, Religion, and anthropology

So, has Zuckerberg or ‘Zucks’ gone all in so to speak, on the concepts of a 90’s sci-fi novel?

There is some logic to Meta’s revised focus. For close to 20 years, Meta has been one of, if not ‘the’ leader in social networking and connection. Few would argue the global dominance of its flagship product Facebook. So useful has it been, that some small businesses haven’t even bothered with websites and use Facebook as their only online presence. That’s right, business is conducted on it. Connections are made and maintained with it. While the social landscape is shifting with newer entrants such as TikTok, Snapchat, WeChat, and others, Meta is still the Big Fish. 3 out of the top 4 social apps are 100% owned and operated by Meta (Facebook, WhatsApp, and Instagram). But Meta’s competitors are experiencing growth in active users which will likely affect their dominance. So, what is driving the shift?


Meta has likely identified a shift in youth behaviors. The founding users of Facebook are now 20 nearly years older. Teenagers who adopted the ‘new way to interact’ are now in their early to mid-’30s. College kids like Zucks, are now approaching 40. Today's platforms were designed for Gen Y and later adopted by Gen X. So why can’t Meta rely on its platforms and tools in the years to come?

Only Zucks and the Meta board know the answer to that. But some behaviors are becoming apparent in Gen Z and Gen Alpha.

Short-form videos of less than a minute, have grown in popularity resulting in the rise and dominance of TikTok.

Snapchat become well-known for disappearing messages, funny filters, and customizable avatars. In a data-collecting world, young people saw value in their content disappearing into the ether and not being recorded for all eternity. You could say they valued privacy. But arguably its biggest advantage was that most parents weren’t on the platform. Regardless of the era lived in, young people have always found this appealing.

And the pandemic got young people accustomed to more digital interaction than previous generations. We are yet to understand the impacts of our youth being on lockdown in their formative years.

Young people have always been at the heart and epicenter of developing changes in technology and business. Meta has likely noticed this anthropologic shift and is trying to adapt accordingly. So, if short videos, disappearing messages, and a parent-free environment are what youths want, is Meta on the right track by building them the metaverse? Only time will tell whether they adopt it in the same fashion that Zucks’ generation adopted social media.

Interestingly Gen Z and Alpha are quite open to and have adopted many of the dystopian concepts found in Snow Crash. Most are open to the idea of alternative digital currencies and wallets that allow anyone to use the technology (a crypto wallet is necessary to participate in the metaverse). Most think their parents won’t bother or won’t be able to explore the metaverse resulting in a parent-free environment. They also realize that exploring all the exciting places on offer in the real world is expensive (even more so with inflation) and has an impact on the environment. Flight’s impact on the earth is a concern for many in this generation. So how do they visit new places, meet new people, and explore the world safely?

Meta thinks the answer is the metaverse and is betting the house on it. Again, the behaviors of young people now and in the coming years will dictate how the business world develops and adapts. History has a way of repeating itself. Some entrepreneurs will conceive and build a product that young people can’t live without. As users grow, so will the ecosystem and business opportunities that surround it. The question is, can Zucks do it again? Does he understand the wants and needs of a new generation?

Some questions remaining are:

⁃ Is the metaverse an unoriginal attempt to give young folk something they may or may not need?
⁃ Is the concept of VR/ AR better suited for other use cases such as education, experience, and travel?
⁃ If the metaverse is adopted, what does that mean for advertisers vying for eyeballs?
⁃ What are the long-term impacts of spending your spare time with a headset on?
⁃ How will your business get noticed in such an environment?
⁃ Will brand awareness be built virtually instead of in the real world?

Reach out to us to learn what others in your industry are doing in this space. Learn about the anthropologic impact young people could have on your business in the future. Make sure you are neither waiting on the ice for the game to arrive nor skating to where the puck was. But like Gretzky, skate to where the puck will likely be.

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