On Zuck's Metaverse — Ads Everywhere

(November 25, 2021)

First off, let's just call it VR. "Metaverse" is a brand name invented to separate current efforts from the previously failed hype around VR. The reasons VR has failed before are interesting of themselves, but more on that in a future post. Here I want to talk about Zuck's ideas for social VR and what I think about the whole concept.

VR as a social and communication medium, which appears to be Zuck's focus, and is likely to end up being one of the widest VR markets in terms of number of users and overall man-hour usage time, is not progress in any way. It doesn't actually introduce any new features that would make life better. It will never replace real world human connections as Zuck seems to imply it can. At least not until we reach Matrix-levels of simulation, but that comes with a whole host of other obvious problems.

Remember — it's not social media, it's marketing media. VR social media is simply a huge investment of developer time, and a trade off of internet bandwidth, to squeeze extra attention and shopfront-facing time from users. VR is fancy, engaging, and can probably be made to be even more addicting than the current flat phone screens. Just like it's hard to take your eyes off of a flashing TV screen, even if you're not actively interested in what's currently on, it will be difficult for the people that plug themselves into VR to take the headset off. Zuck talked a lot about interoperability of "metaverse" systems: this is also going to be useful from a profits perspective, by seamlessly guiding users (useds in Stallmanian terms) from a chat with friends to purchasing a new product.

Internet ads already replaced magazine, newspaper, radio, and to an extent even TV ads. By building a simulated world for people to spend time in and move around, Zuck (and other VR investors) could now also steal market share from highway billboards, sidewalk posters, and other places we encounter marketing while moving around the physical world.

That's all there is to it. If you see Zuck investing billions into a new effort, remember that it's to see a return on investment. And for a marketing product like Facebook, returns come from sapping human attention.

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