Monday, November 29, 2021

The Metaverse is More Than Facebook's Domain

Zeynep Yurday, Strategy Director, UK and Europe

Rightpoint attended the 2021 Web Summit in early November. Alongside an inspiring and diverse slate of speakers, events and attendees, the most buzzworthy news item focused on Facebook's latest announcement. While the company’s namesake product will keep the Facebook moniker, the parent organization is now known as Meta. 


In a nutshell, the “metaverse,” as it’s known in the industry, has been around long before Facebook ever coined the term. The first examples date back to the online gaming experience Second Life. For years after, the metaverse existed as an AR, VR and Mixed Reality world enabled by a continuous flow of data and intelligence. This allowed for the kinds of 3D digital interactions we only see in movies like The Matrix. 


Summit attendees were trying to figure out what Meta is and what this change will ultimately mean for the world at large. Yet, not many people had a clear view on how it will manifest itself in daily life. 


Still, is the world even ready for Facebook's version of the metaverse? And how can we ensure it’ll be any different to the Second Life this time? These questions don’t have easy answers, but any company hoping to play in the metaverse is going to need to start looking for solutions. 


It helps that one of the world’s biggest tech companies is actively investing in the space. But can, or should, Facebook do it alone? Will their actions spark a race among Big Tech to see who can get to the endgame first? Will they inspire an ecosystem of corporate, tech and government partnerships to unite in realizing what is a truly collaborative open innovation platform? 


It feels like we are on the cusp of another technology apocalypse. In this moment, the decisions made by industry leaders will set the path we take. It could result in a democratization of the next wave of our digital reality or a surrender to Big Tech to determine our destiny. 


To realize the metaverse's true potential, we must start by dreaming of the types of otherworldly yet value-adding experiences it can help us realize. Second Life never reached peak levels of success because companies couldn't yet show consumers how the metaverse could meaningfully integrate into their existing lives. 


Sure, future metaverse users will be able to develop avatars and start constructing a digital version of their lives that offers the opportunity for fun, new immersive experiences. But if we believe music, gaming and 3D social interactions are the only things to look forward to from these emerging technologies, we'd be missing the mark. And if we allow Big Tech to define what the metaverse environment should deliver, we'd restrict ourselves to what they believe are the capabilities of these technologies and potentially introduce new kinds of societal risks by empowering the FAMGA folks (Facebook, Apple, Microsoft, Google and Amazon) even more than we already have. 


Corporates, start-ups, non-profits and governmental institutions alike have an opportunity—even responsibility—to lead with a more human-centric, experience-led point of view. They can design what the ideal future state could look like to elevate and transform user experiences and become co-creators of what the metaverse offers consumers, other businesses, societies and even the planet.  


The benefits of such a proactive and strategic design thinking approach can be exponential. It allows companies to design the metaverse for consumers as a holistic, multi-layered and connected ecosystem of value-adding experiences. It also offers industry players a seat at the table with large tech companies in defining the metaverse's optimal tech infrastructures, platforms and coalitions. It will also offer regulators a window into any necessary guardrails they need to establish to de-risk the metaverse and ensure it remains a source of good.  


If you’d like to start thinking about how you can design your metaverse experience strategy, come talk to us.