Facebook’s transition to Meta has had tongues wagging for the better part of the last two weeks and possibly for the next few months. Most are still confused or remain sceptical about the move to the metaverse.
What is the metaverse anyway? Is it just a fad or is it the next big thing? These are some of the biggest questions on everyone’s mind.
However, I feel that the most important question should be why. Why exactly is Facebook, a company that makes tens of billions in advertising annually, shifting focus to a, frankly, new and unproven market? Granted Facebook was and is facing legal problems they are (crucially) not suffering financially. The platform still remains to be the most popular social network in the world, with more than a billion users.
No, this was not a moment of madness from Mark Zuckerberg. I think he and a few other top tech firms have stumbled on an important fact that other IT firms are still yet to realize; the era of Web 2.0 is almost done!
What is Web 2.0 you might ask? Well, in a nutshell, is the era of user-generated content, one where platforms allow for more participation for end users. Here I am talking about Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Youtube, Tumblr; platforms that allowed the ‘common users’, instead of established firms and institutions, to generate and share their own content.
At the turn of the century Web 2.0 was a revolutionary idea, one that gave billions of people worldwide a voice and for some a source of income. And, boy, haven’t we milked it? From just a few dozen at the turn of the millennium to hundreds of thousands today, the exponential growth of the number of IT companies and with-it millions of products, over the last three decades shows just how far we’ve come.
But the crucial question to explore here is the Web 2.0 ride over?
Have we completely milked out Web 2.0? Probably not. But there isn’t much left.
We’ve built millions of digital products, most of them failures but some have done pretty well. That is why we have some very huge tech firms today. However, the most important point here is that the markets that these companies dominate are pretty maxed out. There is simply little room for disruption in these markets.
The next billion-dollar startup will not be in the search market, Google has that covered, it will not be some revolutionary computer or mobile operating system, nor will be it in docs, databases, cloud computing, e-commerce, smartphone and certainly not a social network.
No, these markets are pretty much covered. And Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook, now Meta, have realized that and pivoted to a new market. Like Cornelius Vanderbilt who foresaw the end of the shipping business and pivoted to building America’s railways, Mark has realized that there is no more social network to be built, nor is there any sense in expanding on what he currently has.
It’s time for a new adventure!
We are on the cusp of a new digital era. Like any venture, only a few are brave enough to take the risk and dip their toes into a new idea. Mark’s Meta and a few other pioneers are at the front of this brave group.
For other IT companies, however, the message is clear, adapt or die. Like the old industrial giants of the 20th century that failed to take advantage of the digital revolution while it was still fresh, the shift to new digital technologies will leave a lot of companies in the cold.
The new era is about bold new technologies. For Meta, AR/VR are the way forward; creating a Ready Player One style of digital ‘metaverse’ for people to interact, create and play.
More broadly, however, the new era is centered around one idea, decentralization. Web 3.0 will see even more power ‘ceded’ to users. This is a monumental shift from the structure we have today. Social networks like Twitter and Facebook are merely platforms where users are given some space to share content, the ultimate lies with these platforms. This is the same with other structures such as in finance where banks have ultimate control over transactions.
Well, Web 3.0 is here to upend all that. Technologies such as crypto, blockchain and d-apps are built on the idea of decentralization. As such IT companies will have to adapt to this concept to survive. They will have to cede more power to users to gain their participation and interest.
The new digital era is abound with a lot of potential but only for those who are willing to let go of old structures to make room for new ones.