In his monthly crypto-tech column, Israeli serial entrepreneur Ariel Shapira discusses emerging technologies in crypto, decentralized finance (DeFi), and blockchain, and their role in shaping the 21st century economy.
Sometimes the name of a project tells you everything you need to know about it, no matter what the niche. Take Kryptomon, the NFT game that recently completed a 24-hour sale in a second, for example. You understand, from the name, that some kinds of cute monstrosities that evolve and fight each other must be involved, and you know it must be block chain based. Clear, concise and to the point.
Facebook’s new name, Meta, isn’t exactly right fit on the same shelf. Granted, it makes it clear that the company is setting sail for the Metaverse, but that goal remains unclear. As many commenters have pointed out, the metaverse at this point is as vague as it is enticing or dystopian, depending on who you ask. All that remains is the reference to a strong Virtual Reality (VR) / Augmented Reality (AR) component of gadgets such as haptic gloves told us not much of what the future holds in store.
What is clear about Meta’s name game is that it is an ambition. The company has already tried this trick with scales. its expected stablecoin Backed by other tech giants when it was under some of the same reviews Meta is now having. The renaming of the coin to Diem should underline his ambition to be independent, and it didn’t fly considering the project was still being scrapped for good. Just like Google and Alphabet or Snapchat and Snap Inc, the rebranding of Facebook announces its intention to go beyond the original platform – meta in Greek by the way.
But there’s something else at play here: an echo of a larger technology trend that could have serious effects on the Internet itself, as well as on us, its users.
Rules for me and for you
You have probably taken up the central theme here. Being tied to a specific ecosystem of products and services has its limitations – just think of Apple, which removed the standard 3.5mm audio jack in 2016. Sure, it helped with water conservation, but it was just as much about promoting your own connection to increase your revenue. By the way, this rule also applies to small developers who publish their products on other platforms, and also to giants like Epic and Facebook. You get the convenience of distribution, but it comes with more than a few conditions. To assume that the conditions will remain the same in the long term would at least be unwise.
Today, few would realistically expect Big Tech to advocate a freer and more open digital ecosystem, where interoperability is a legal requirement and users can choose the best devices and services without commitment. You’d rather make sure users are locked into their respective platforms while having the maximum versatility that comes with running your own ecosystem – and setting all the rules. This makes good business sense, but is not conducive to a trusting collaboration, and one of the main reasons for building your own platform is that you don’t trust anyone.
This is exactly what I see in the name change from Facebook to Meta as an effort to build up an all-round ecosystem of our own, which would be most likely Take over a variety of components, from all VR / AR gadgets to its own operating system. However, I wonder if other giants bidding for the metaverse are catching up and building whole technological stacks, possibly for the internet itself, because if they do, things could get ugly.
Caught in the net
There is concern that this “game of platforms”, if brought onto the Internet, could encourage its stratification and delineation.
When you visit a website, your device downloads its building blocks from a remote server, ideally with a series of instructions that adapt its design and functionality to different types of devices such as desktops or mobile devices. Adding metaverse functionality doesn’t seem that difficult. All you need to do is download more data so your haptic shoes, scent generator and other things know what sensory experiences you are looking forward to. But the devil lives in the details.
In line with the good ol ‘product support cycle, we may run into situations where some services may eventually end support for their non-metaverse versions. This is especially true for projects operated by conglomerates that offer Metaverse hardware. Why shouldn’t they encourage more consumers and businesses to buy their products? In the same way, we could have a web divided into metaverse and non-metaverse portals, and if search engine algorithms began to favor the latter, it would again drive costs up for developers and consumers alike.
If the pressure on separate platforms with different sections of the metaverse operated by different and non-interoperable protocols goes far enough (good old vendor lock-in, remember?), This could lead to web segregation. There is no telling how far things could go on this front. On the one hand, a segregated metaverse as a concept would be downright self-destructive. On the other hand, at least certain frictions between competing protocols and networks are not uncommon. Yes, you might want to immerse yourself in an Ariana Grande concert on Epics Fortnite with your 3D avatar from the Facebook verse, but for that it must first and foremost be fully compatible with the game. To do this, Meta and Epic must first achieve product compatibility, and for this they should have a more or less trusting relationship.
Trust, but blockchain-ify
Going forward, one of the ways to build bridges, not walls, in the technology world could be to do business on the blockchain. Yes, the idea that you can fix something broken by putting it on the blockchain is a bit of an exaggeration, but the argument applies in this case.
The reality is that blockchain-based smart contracts are very effective at building trust. The reason is, you have to trust the contract, fully verifiable software that automates your business interactions. It performs all by itself under the right conditions and ensures that your interests are safeguarded regardless of your partner’s actions.
It’s unlikely that all business will shift to the blockchain anytime soon, but Big Tech is uniquely positioned to be a leader in this space with its endless supply of know-how and experience. By investing in this area, tech giants could set the new business paradigm for any other industry, removing trust from the equation and laying the groundwork for future collaboration. This is increasingly important at a pivotal moment like the advent of what may be a new iteration of the Internet, a technology that has transformed the way we work every day and profession in too many ways to even count.
Granted, things don’t have to be that dramatic. Perhaps the metaverse will boil down to a number of VR / AR solutions doomed to remain a niche market for the wealthy masses. But measured by the sheer number of multiverse projects, something bigger is on the way, and blockchain technology could ensure that our foray into the metaverse becomes a little more egalitarian than it imagines in the long run.
This article does not provide investment advice or recommendation. Every step of investing and trading involves risk, and readers should do their own research when making a decision.
The views, thoughts, and opinions expressed herein are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of Cointelegraph.
Ariel Shapira is a father, entrepreneur, speaker, cyclist and founder and CEO of Social-Wisdom, a consulting agency that works with Israeli startups and helps them build connections to international markets.