What Would Zuckerberg’s Metaverse Mean for Ecommerce?

We've seen this movie before, and it's bad.

The Zuckerberg beast is at it again; it wants to consume your eyeballs by way of Oculus, absorb your innermost thoughts through Facebook data collection, and now, it craves more. With plans to hire 10,000 workers for the job, the Zuckerberg wants to build a metaverse. And the shift has just begun with Facebook's new name: Meta.

If you're wondering, the term “metaverse” was created by science fiction author Neal Stephenson in his 1992 novel “Snow Crash.” The story takes place in a virtual, dystopian world that's run entirely by a dictatorship corporation. Oh yeah, the citizens are mainly broke and manipulated by the previously mentioned corporation. In short, Zuckerberg is a fool for using the term. It's not meant to evoke images of community but separation, not individuality but depersonalization, not equality but servitude.

But let's give him the benefit of the doubt. Let's say his grand plans won't destroy humanity. Is it even that great of a technological idea anyway? Could it assist in medical procedures, or maybe result in a more democratic society?

Let's get serious…the big question is: Could it help people make more money? What does a metaverse mean for ecommerce, small businesses, big businesses, entrepreneurs?

I'm betting it means disappointment, at least for most of us.

Although occasionally “the next big thing” finds some sort of corresponding success, a red flag pops up in my mind when it's in any way related to big tech, especially when the main hype comes from larger-than-life CEOs and celebrity endorsements (hello NFTs). It's almost like the easiest-to-read crystal ball when we start seeing headlines like “Companies are pouring money into X,” or “X is coming and it's a very big deal,” or my personal favorite “Facebook, Microsoft, and other tech companies claim X is the future.”

Visions of WeWork, Juicero, and Theranos swirl in my mind. Investors love the hype, and journalists buy into it with sensationalist headlines.

And what makes companies like Facebook and Microsoft reputable in today's world of privacy-concerned users? I'm sure people won't be psyched to let ole Mark Zuckerberg devour even more of their lives with a metaverse.

Seeing big brands flock to a hot space means absolutely nothing. It's a tactic–a tactic for wannabe-rockstar CEOs to partner with athletes, actors, and astronauts to convince naive investors to throw around money.

However, I do believe the dust eventually settles, and we're left with something that's not really what anyone expected, usually something that's not nearly as revolutionary as what we were initially told.

Wearables are an excellent example: Google made us think we'd all be walking around with Ironman-like super computer glasses, but in the end, Google Glass has a far more niche purpose in industries like medicine and logistics, while the average consumer is just walking around with a wrist wearable that tracks your heart rate and steps (both of which were already very easy to do with other tools – they just digitized it). Don't get me wrong, wearables are helpful, but compared to the hype they're hardly close to anything from science fiction – more like glorified pedometers.

With all that, what do I expect from these metaverse claims? I'm leaning towards an in-between result, especially since we've already seen certain levels of a metaverse in gaming and ecommerce (Fortnite, PokemonGo, NFTs…Even Brave Browser has elements of a metaverse since it offers its own currency for browsing and content creation). But those are all remarkably specific use-cases, not even close to anything where our entire society would throw on a headset and log into an alternative world.

So sure, it appears the closest thing to a metaverse we're looking at right now is for gaming and NFTs (non-fungible tokens), but those are somewhat closed, smaller communities where the people already spend much of their time in digital worlds.

The average person doesn't care about that. Look at the pandemic. Working through Zoom was as close to a digital world most people have come to, and at least in my circles, there wasn't a single person who would rather do a Zoom call over a face-to-face meeting, or at least a phone call.

I'm leaning more towards Jack Hanke's theory about the metaverse, where he states that tech should enhance the human experience, not replace it. And I feel that history shows us (like with wearables) we haven't yet seen a generation that wants to be all-consumed by tech. And I hope we never will.

As for ecommerce, it makes sense for brands to get involved with those gaming and NFT-like metaverses (they already have). You'll be able to buy a Disney princess outfit, an NFL-branded jersey, or a Porsche Carrera within a game or as digital collector items.

Unfortunately, big corporations will dominate any speck of metaverse that comes out. They have the technical teams, time, and money to run these types of campaigns–like how fast food companies basically dominate screen space on Doordash, or how Google Maps sometimes recommends McDonald's or Starbucks while you're driving. How could a small or mid-sized ecommerce store compete for exposure?

Overall, I think we've learned that when born, the tech gods packed Mark Zuckerberg's brain with prodigy programming skills. Unfortunately, they left out empathy, reason, and that feeling that tells you when to stop. Even if he crowned himself king of Hawaii, he'd still turn his emotionless gaze to Midway Island, maybe conquer some natives there.

Zuckerberg knows an actual metaverse is a dangerous idea, but he's getting people excited about it because the hype attracts investors, puts his name in headlines, and pumps him up with validation that's clearly never enough.

Stop thinking about the metaverse, Zuck. A fully realized metaverse is nothing but terrifying. Bits and pieces of a metaverse seem promising for online business, but they're already here, in motion. So, why not retire, Zuck? Why are you even still at Facebook? If you're truly a work-until-you-die type, why not start a new company from scratch instead of the constant acquisitions? Ya know…actually innovate instead of building a dystopian fantasy on top of your previous disaster.

Featured image via Pixabay.

Joe Warnimont

Joe Warnimont is a Chicago-based writer who focuses on eCommerce tools, WordPress, and social media. When not fishing or practicing yoga, he's collecting stamps at national parks (even though that's mainly for children). Check out Joe's portfolio to contact him and view past work.

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