It’s hard to believe that nearly 20 years have passed since a college kid with a bankrolled pivot on “Hot or Not” became a household name. A name that has since created such a reverberation across pop culture.
Let’s face it (pun intended), the man shifted social media onto its current course. And, he got a movie out of it.
Zuck is back in the news (did he ever leave?) but this time for re-positioning and re-branding his Facebook empire to something entirely different.
So, what the heck is this MetaVerse?
At this point, not much. Let us explain:
The Internet Brought to Life
The term, coined by science fiction writer Neal Stephenson in his 1992 novel “Snow Crash,” refers to a virtual world that coexists and overlaps with the physical one, with people interacting as avatars. Zuckerberg has described it as an extensive “virtual environment” you can go inside of, instead of just looking at a screen. That world doesn’t exist today on anywhere near the scale Zuckerberg envisions, but a small version can be found in gaming, especially with virtual-reality (VR) headsets like Facebook’s – or, Meta’s — Occulus.
There are “multi-billion revenue opportunities,” Bank of America analysts wrote. “For example, 50-yard line seats for the Superbowl, taking a hitting class with [Major League baseball player] Buster Posey or shopping for sunglasses with virtual try-on may all be possible in the metaverse,” they said.
Zuckerberg is going all in on what he sees as the next generation of the internet because he thinks it’s going to open up a large new digital economy that sometimes runs in parallel with the tangible world and other times far surpasses it. “Ads are going to continue being an important part of the strategy across the social media parts of what we do, and it will probably be a meaningful part of the metaverse, too,” Zuckerberg said in a recent company earnings call.
But will it though?
Ironically enough, one maxim we’ve always shared with our clients is to think about the internet as if it were the real world. Building a web presence is synonymous with real estate development. In that analogy, social media is akin to high-end retail space – high foot traffic, but also high rent and most importantly real estate you don’t own.
When you approach it that way, you don’t overinvest in your Facebook (or Instagram, or TikTok, etc) presence because the owner of the real estate can change the rent on you with a snap of their fingers (in this case, by limiting organic reach and requiring you to buy ads).
It’s always best to invest in the real estate you own – your website and your email list, the two things that no one can take away from you.
Zuckerberg did a great job building extremely valuable real estate and got a ton of users – but they also built their ad platform on data they got from people’s phones. So when Apple (and now Google) change the privacy settings, all of a sudden it looks like he built his empire on someone else’s real estate.
The Metaverse is his shot to change that. Will Facebook –er, Meta – succeed? Only time will tell. Until then, we remain skeptical and wouldn’t recommend anyone to invest heavily in building a presence on a platform they don’t fully control.
In short: keep an eye on it, but don’t go all-in. Zuckerberg is investing in visions of life-changing technologies, while he can’t even sort his main (and only successful) business out. Creating the metaverse will also be arduous and expensive, and the financial payoff is uncertain – so if it fails, it will likely be the biggest failure in the history of the internet.