Ethereum co-founder says Meta “will misfire” on the Metaverse

Vitalik Buterin, the Ethereum co-founder, has ignited the debate between centralised and decentralised metaverses with his comments on Twitter. Speaking about the future of the Metaverse in a conversation with Dean Eigenmann, Buterin expressed doubts about the corporate creation of the Metaverse, saying 

The “metaverse” is going to happen, but I don’t think any of the existing corporate attempts to intentionally create the Metaverse are going anywhere.”

Buterin added 

My critique is deeper than “Metaverse Wikipedia will beat Metaverse Encyclopedia Britannica”. It’s that we don’t really know the definition of “the metaverse” yet. It’s far too early to know what people actually want. So anything Facebook creates now will misfire.

Facebook intensified its interest in the Metaverse when it unexpectedly changed its name to Meta in October last year. Meta offers several Metaverse platforms through the Oculus Quest, including Horizon Venues and Horizon Worlds. They have launched a star-studded lineup of events to attract audiences, including shows featuring the Foo Fighters and David Getta. Reviews, though, were mixed with events going unnoticed or plagued by technical problems. Mark Zuckerberg has pledged 10 Billion Dollars to Metaverse development. In many ways, Zuckerberg has “bet the house” on Facebook reinventing itself on the Metaverse. Facebook’s rebranding and statements on Metaverse privacy came at a time Facebook was under scrutiny over privacy isssues and algorithms that promote negative emotions.

According to JP Morgan, decentralised Metaverses have seen interest soar since Zuckerberg’s announcement, with prices doubling within six months. Meanwhile, Bored Ape Yaught Club broke Ethereum, such was the popularity of their “Otherside” NFT Metaverse Land sale. Otherside was the largest NFT Mint in history, showing many the viability of the Metaverse. The Web 3.0 ideas on decentralisation and shared ownership have now proven to be both popular and commercially marketable to a wide audience. Buoyant by the growth in decentralised currency, investors were prepared to invest in digital real estate. 

In many ways, the Metaverse up to October last year was reminiscent of an early world wide web. Populated with enthusiasts and much of the technology remained experimental. As big tech moved in, and Metaverses grew in popularity, the push for commercialisation intensified. Just as early investors reaped the rewards on the internet, early movers in the Metaverse (Notably Microsoft and Meta) hope to gain a “first mover advantage.” 

Buterin’s point is that it’s “too early” to predict where the Metaverse will go may have historical validity, and in many industries, it’s not the pioneers that profit. Google, for instance, came long after Alta-Vista and neither Apple nor Microsoft developed the first Graphical User Interface (GUI). The idea came from Xerox Parc. In the tech market, whilst Microsoft has bought impressively within the Metaverse Gaming sector and Facebook rebranded to Meta, both Apple and Google have been tight-lipped about the Metaverse, although both are developing headsets and can be game changers.  

Decentralised Metaverse platforms have been received favourably. But is this a sign that people are tired of growing their audience on free Social Media and want a stake in their presence? Centralised platforms, generally, allow users to create their own Metaverse World through the community. In return for providing the platforms, Meta has made no secret of its plans to sell advertising. The business model has proved successful for many internet companies, including Facebook. But the decentralisation and the desire for web3.0 values incorporating ownership may become the zeitgeist of the Metaverse. Web 3.0 offers people a stake in their following.  

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