On October 28, 2021, Facebook Inc. announced a major change: it was rebranding itself as Meta (Meta Platforms, Inc.). The move was not about abandoning its popular apps like Instagram, Facebook and WhatsApp, but rather about embracing a new vision and direction. Mark Zuckerberg’s company wants to create the Metaverse, a virtual reality where people can interact, play and shop in immersive ways.
But what exactly is the Metaverse, what opportunities does it offer and what challenges does it pose for the future? Let’s find out together!
Metaverse: What Does It Mean?
The word “metaverse” may have Greek origins, but it was first coined by Neal Stephenson in his 1992 sci-fi novel “Snow Crash”. In this book, he envisioned a concept that Mark Zuckerberg is now trying to bring to life in the next few years.
In “Snow Crash”, the metaverse is a virtual world where the protagonist escapes from his bleak reality. The idea is also explored in the film adaptation of “Ready Player One”, which was inspired by Stephenson’s novel. Another example of a computer-generated universe is shown in the movies “The Matrix” and “The Thirteenth Floor”, but that’s a different story… We are not yet ready for such a level of immersion.
So what is the metaverse in our reality, the reality of today? According to Mark Zuckerberg, it is “like being around people, whether they’re in the next room or on another continent; it’s a world where we can express ourselves in new and exciting ways.”
The metaverse as envisioned by modern tech companies (some developers use the term “mixed reality”) is a fusion of computer simulation and the real world, where users can interact with each other and with their surroundings, moving freely within the modelled three-dimensional space. It will consist of virtual public spaces and private home spaces that are closed to outsiders — you can switch between them with a single click. Here you will be represented by an avatar. It is a customizable character that can look like you or take on a different appearance.
You might think that the metaverse is just like a regular 3D open-world video game, such as GTA Online. But you would be wrong. The only similarity is the three-dimensional graphics — the environment created by designers (and users themselves can join this creative process). But the differences are much more significant:
- The metaverse, like the internet itself, is always on — it never reboots or stops. Just like real life, you can’t pause it;
- It operates in real time — developers can plan events in advance, such as a holiday or a challenge. But they can’t control users, undo events or manipulate the economy — everything follows its own course;
- There are no limits on the number of users — there can be two people inside at the same time or seven and a half billion;
- It has an open, self-sufficient economy. You can sell, buy, own property, start a business, invest money in assets, other people’s businesses — just like in the real world;
- Events from the real world can be reflected in the virtual world and vice versa. Parties have to respect obligations incurred in one of the worlds, for example, when signing contracts, buying goods or providing services;
- A large part of the virtual world is filled by people themselves — they can build, create things, decorate their houses, add new “rooms”;
- It synchronises between digital worlds. It’s an ecosystem. Inside, you can create applications that can be accessed from a single space.
The metaverse is not just a new product from Facebook. It is a radically different way of interacting with content and the internet in general. It is not a game, but a projection of the real world.
Mark Zuckerberg compares the metaverse to the mobile internet. It is a technology that completely changes how we think about online interaction.
Technology investor Matthew Ball gives a more precise description: “The internet as we know it today is what can be characterised by the word ‘push’. You notice that a notification has arrived, to see it — you take your device, unlock it, open the app. The metaverse is an embedded engine. You don’t have to reach out to access it. You’re already inside and you can interact with the content.”
To understand what the metaverse is, you can look at the history of the internet and user interface on personal computers. Initially, it was all about typing a text command. The graphics were minimal, maybe a few lines separating columns. Then came the graphical interface, first simple and clumsy, like Windows 95. The websites on the internet in the late 90s were mostly unformatted text, embellished with simple illustrations and icons. With the increase of PC performance and data transfer speeds, it became possible to run heavy applications, browser games, watch movies and online TV through the web. Graphics with complex special effects are no longer something amazing.
What’s next? It’s time to move from two-dimensional to three-dimensional interfaces — this is the idea behind Facebook’s metaverse project. Mark Zuckerberg believes that it is not natural for people to interact with content by clicking on tiles on the screen. People are more used to exploring the world in a three-dimensional environment. This is exactly the kind of experience that Meta Inc. offers.
According to the founder of the company, the metaverse should change the principles of work on the internet, just like social networks did once. At the dawn of the web, there were static websites created by webmasters and users who only received information. With the advent of Facebook, YouTube and Instagram, it was the users who started generating content. Even in the App Store and Google Play Market, most of the apps are not written by big publishers but by small developers.
Instead of tiles on the screen, we move between rooms. We can leave Need For Speed online and go to GTA or from Fortnite to Second Life. And we can take a car or a weapon with us — all without leaving a single ecosystem. It is also easy to move from a concert to a workplace with office programs. And then head to the park or shopping center to spend time with friends or look at new clothes.
The metaverse is more than a single portal on the internet. It is not one of many products. It is an ecosystem within which applications with a three-dimensional interface will be created and run. It is meant to be an alternative to the web protocol. You will be able to launch a YouTube video or open a message right in front of you. Do three-dimensional design, moving individual elements and even walk inside the layout of the building being designed. You will use telepresence technologies to interact with the world and the content being created. At the initial stage, these are VR glasses Oculus, which are promoted by Mark Zuckerberg’s company.
What Are The Development Prospects of Facebook’s Meta?
Meta, formerly known as Facebook, has been investing in the project and showing prototypes of the metaverse for a while, but it has also launched some products and features related to it. For example, it has introduced Horizon Home, Horizon Worlds and Horizon Workrooms, which are VR platforms for personalization, exploration and collaboration (but more on that later). These are some of the steps that Meta is taking to build the metaverse and make it more accessible and engaging for users.
However, Meta is not the only company that has been working on the metaverse concept. There have been successful products in this field for almost twenty years.
The concept is perfectly realised in the popular online game Second Life, launched in 2003. This is a virtual game world where you can socialise, buy and sell plots, build and create clothes. There are even shops of big brands and a virtual NASA research center.
The concept of metaverse fits well into the game world of Fortnite, where concerts with real rappers are already held and one of the episodes of Star Wars was presented by director JJ Abrams himself. The game has even become a cultural phenomenon, where many users go just to socialise. Like World of Warcraft once was, where many future spouses met. A similar idea is embedded in other game projects: Minecraft, Warhammer, GTA Online.
Not only gaming companies but also large IT giants are interested in this technology. Microsoft presented its projects: AltSpaceVR, a social platform for communication and event organisation, and Mesh, a virtual space for collaboration. Nvidia created a platform for developing virtual worlds Omniverse, where real physical laws apply. Chinese giant Baidu also has its own metaverse — Xi Rang. The virtual world Decentraland has officially opened an embassy of Barbados.
But Facebook’s Meta has some important differences from its competitors. The first one is scale. It won’t be just a game or a virtual space for research or work meetings. It will be a full-fledged projection of the real world. A place where you can relax, socialise, travel, work, do business.
Mark Zuckerberg doesn’t plan to create a niche product for gamers, geeks and programmers. On the contrary, it will be a universal space where everyone can do the same things we do in real life. But communication will be much easier, travel time will be saved and more flexible and efficient tools will be at our disposal. One-click information sharing in a single file system.
The metaverse is like Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram, DropBox, Zoom, browser and GTA in one. But with more features. If Zuckerberg succeeds in realising all his plans and creates a cool product, we can confidently say that this will be the beginning of the end of social networks and related projects.
Another important point is that the metaverse is a mixed space where the virtual world is combined and intertwined with the real world. This opens up huge opportunities for everyone: users, entrepreneurs, content creators.
The metaverse can be beneficial for virtual business development. You can open a skin shop and sell digital items for your avatar, such as virtual Adidas sneakers or H&M clothes. You can also create and furnish your own rooms in the metaverse and charge access fees for visitors or guests. Or you can promote your offline business by creating a virtual storefront or a shopping center, where customers can order items with real-world delivery. You can also open an office and receive clients from different cities or countries and hold consultations or meetings in VR. These are some of the approaches that are already used in Fortnite, Second Life and other projects.
The second advantage of Facebook’s metaverse is its huge audience. While other projects such as Fortnite, Second Life and Minecraft have millions of users, Facebook has about three billion potential users (including Instagram and WhatsApp). That’s about 40% of the world’s population. Even Microsoft with its Mesh project — an ecosystem for running mixed reality applications — will not be able to match that reach.
It is very likely that most of Facebook’s users will flock to the metaverse as soon as it becomes available. The launch of the metaverse will also spark interest and lead to rapid audience growth.
How Far Along is The Project?
The metaverse project is still in its early stages, but Facebook (rebranded to Meta for this mission) has been working on some products and features that are related to it.
Mark Zuckerberg said he had the idea of creating a virtual world when he was a teenager, but he started to make it a reality in 2014, when Meta acquired Oculus, a VR headset developer. Since then, Meta has bought seven more startups in the VR segment, including Reality Labs.
Some of the products that Meta has launched or announced are:
- Facebook Horizon, an open-world VR game that was revealed in 2019. It lets users explore, create and socialise in immersive environments.
- Horizon Workrooms, a VR app that enables remote collaboration and productivity for teams. It was released in 2021 and is based on Facebook Horizon.
- Ray-Ban Stories, smart glasses that allow users to capture photos and videos, listen to music and take phone calls. They were launched in 2021 in partnership with Ray-Ban.
- Project Aria, a research device that collects data to create interactive maps for future AR experiences. It was announced in 2020 and is being tested by Meta employees.
Meta plans to fully transform into a metaverse company in at least five years. The level of expectation from the project is high, as Meta is investing about $10 billion and building a team of 10,000 employees. Mark Zuckerberg also invited other companies and governments to participate and regulate the new environment. He said that the metaverse is a “very deep philosophical competition” with Apple, which is also working on its own AR and VR devices. Other competitors include Microsoft, Nvidia, Epic Games, Roblox and Decentraland.
Is Meta Worth Investing In?
The metaverse is a hot topic right now and many people are curious about its potential and impact. The rebranding of Facebook to Meta and the announcement of its metaverse project have boosted the prices of some projects that are developing their own virtual worlds. For example, the tokens of Decentraland (MANA) and The Sandbox (SAND) soared by 250% in a few hours.
Now might be a good time to invest in the metaverse, if you are interested. There are two options:
- You could buy Meta stock, which is still undervalued due to the data leak scandals and the slow response to the spread of fake news on its social network. Meta stock is currently trading at around $285, down from its peak of $326 in November 2021.
- You could buy NFTs, which are digital assets that represent unique items or experiences in the metaverse. NFTs can be used for art, gaming, music, collectibles and more. Unlike cryptocurrencies, they have intrinsic value based on their scarcity, quality and utility.
The metaverse is like a new frontier for the internet, where you can explore, create and connect in immersive ways. It is also a huge opportunity for innovation, entrepreneurship and entertainment. However, it is not without risks and challenges, such as security, privacy, regulation and accessibility. The metaverse is still in its early stages, but it is evolving fast and attracting a lot of attention. If you want to be part of it, you might want to act soon before the train leaves the station.
What Are The Pitfalls?
The metaverse is an exciting and ambitious vision, but it also faces some challenges and criticisms. Some of the common fears and difficulties are:
- The technology is not practical, as a person cannot stay in virtual reality for more than 40-50 minutes. This concern is partly valid, as the current VR headsets are not very comfortable or ergonomic. However, the technology is improving rapidly and new devices with higher refresh rates, better resolution and lighter weight are being developed. Zuckerberg is investing heavily in headset development and has announced a new concept — small glasses that can track the user’s eyes. He expects that in five years, users will be able to use the metaverse without discomfort for much longer than in 2022.
- The metaverse will become “virtual opium” and make people “forget” about face-to-face contact. This is a common fear whenever a new technology emerges that enables online interaction. People have said the same thing about the internet, social media, video games and smartphones. But the world has not become a dystopian nightmare, nor has personal contact disappeared. We still live active and social lives and we use technology to enhance our communication, not replace it. The metaverse will offer new ways to connect, collaborate and create with people from all over the world.
- The metaverse will turn into the Wild West, where personal data is not secure and users are not protected. This is perhaps the most pressing question, given that Meta (formerly Facebook) has had some data leak scandals in the past. However, the company has said that it does not intend to build the metaverse on its own. Zuckerberg has invited other technology companies to participate and cooperate with government agencies to regulate the new environment. In any case, leaks and trolls do not prevent us from using the internet. It is likely that similar mechanisms for blocking annoying users and hiding activity will be available in the metaverse too.
The metaverse is still a work in progress and it will require a lot of innovation, collaboration and regulation to make it a reality. It will also face competition from other companies and projects that are working on similar concepts. However, it also offers a lot of potential and opportunities for users, creators, developers and businesses. It will be interesting to see how the metaverse will evolve and shape the future of the internet.
Exploring Facebook’s Metaverse For Affiliate Marketing Opportunities
Before we dive into the potential of affiliate marketing in the metaverse, let’s take a moment to define what this “world” will entail. The metaverse is a vision of a future where we can seamlessly switch between physical and virtual realities, using VR and AR technologies to enhance our work, social and leisure activities. However, for this vision to become a reality, VR and AR technologies need to break out of their niche and appeal to the masses.
Here are some of the main domains where Facebook Meta will have an impact:
- Networking, working, socialising. Facebook already provides virtual meeting and collaboration spaces (Horizon Workrooms) as well as casual hangouts (Horizon World and Home). In these “spaces”, you can do more than just work; you can also watch movies, attend concerts and throw parties. The usual tools will also be integrated here: WhatsApp, Dropbox, Office Word;
- Scientific research. Virtual labs have been around since Second Life. In such a three-dimensional environment, it is much easier to conduct simulations, develop new devices or study the cosmos using 3D maps;
- Gaming. Facebook is actively developing games with VR elements. In 2021, it launched Facebook Horizon, a social VR platform where users can create and explore their own worlds. It also announced an adaptation of GTA San Andreas for its VR headset Oculus Quest 2;
- Training, There will be gyms, training and fitness rooms where you can learn martial arts or dance with a virtual instructor;
- Education. Virtual reality is already being used to train doctors or visit historical sites such as medieval castles or Roman forums. As the meta-universe evolves, there will be more tools and opportunities, making learning more engaging and effective.
As the metaverse takes shape, it will create new professions and entertainment options, as well as new opportunities for affiliate marketing. Matthew Ball, a leading expert on the topic, explains how this will happen.
The metaverse is a unified space that will connect different services. This means a larger and more diverse audience. One ecosystem, where you can effectively promote products for gamers, fitness enthusiasts, gamblers, entrepreneurs, bloggers and so on. You can sell clothes, accessories, cosmetics, books and anything else you can think of. And on top of that, there is a huge market for virtual items, from skins for avatars to furniture and entire virtual houses.
The metaverse will partially replace real life — users will spend more time here and that’s a gold mine of behavioural data. You can track their daily routine, habits, hobbies, health level: the headset already captures facial expressions and body movements with high accuracy. There is software that can measure heart rate, blood pressure by face using a camera. AI will probably detect joint problems by gait and smoothness of movements. As a result, targeting accuracy will be sky-high.
You will be able to sell weight loss, arthritis or blood pressure medication to the people who really need it. You will be able to plan your advertising by time: during the day offers for business, in the evening — entertainment. And by location: at home — streaming services or new movies, in the park — promotion of concerts, dating services.
It is too early to talk about advertising formats in the metaverse. There will probably be banners inside virtual applications (in messengers, for example) and an equivalent of outdoor advertising: banners, billboards, tickers, lightboxes, classified ads that will be placed in public areas, rooms for work, entertainment.
A separate field for imagination — 3D. For example, instead of a pop-up banner in the park or at a concert, a 3D virtual girl will come up to you and pitch you a shop or lure you to the casino. Or a hologram will appear with a 3D demonstration of a phone, which you can even hold in your hands and get the experience of using.
As the tools of the metaverse become more advanced, Mark Zuckerberg said that users will be able to create their own skins and even build new structures. This opens up a great opportunity to create advertising showcases of promoted products or new public spaces with “built-in” native advertising. For example, you could build or rent “virtual shops” with window displays and moving holograms.
Likewise, landing pages will likely take the form of rooms. A small banner will appear inviting you to click through. Inside, you can try a couple of spins in a slot machine or meet a girl who invites you to register and continue chatting in private.
One thing is clear — in such a world, people will consume even more than they do now. And the launch of the metaverse will only boost the volume of online commerce. The share of digital products will skyrocket.
But there are also pitfalls for affiliate marketers. It is likely that approaches and niches that work well in the “two-dimensional internet” will not work as well in the Facebook Meta ecosystem. This applies to dating — it will be much easier to find friends in a virtual universe with the ability to “teleport”. You can learn the principles of promotion in the metaverse on platforms such as Fortnite, Baidu — Xi Rang, Alt Space or other analogues. So you need to be more flexible and adaptable. And be ready to make creatives in 3D.
Facebook’s metaverse is a daring venture even for a giant like Facebook (now Meta). But Mark Zuckerberg is optimistic and determined to achieve his goal. He has talented developers, cutting-edge technology and a multi-billion dollar budget. He hopes to revolutionise the digital industry once again, just like he did with Facebook.
What does this mean for us? It means we should embrace the change and seize the opportunities that the new technology offers us as soon as possible.