3 min read

The Metaverse - What's All The Hype About?

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Facebook's latest venture, the Metaverse, has been all over our feeds and newscasts, but what is it, exactly? And what's the hype? Given all the chatter about brands jumping on board, is it something you should be looking into for your business? We think not. Here's why.

What on earth is the 'Metaverse'?

The Metaverse is a term that seems to be synonymous with Facebook, or Meta, but it's actually been used for a while to describe a network of 3D virtual worlds focused on social connection. Given Facebook's need to co-opt everything it touches, it makes sense that the name 'Metaverse' would also be something they would happily take on as their own.

The Metaverse is essentially a virtual space where people from around the world can interact with each other without the need for physical interaction. It's not really a new concept, as platforms such as Second Life (launched in 2003) have used this kind of virtual interaction for decades.

What's worrying about the rise of the 'new' Metaverse however, is that it's run by the very company that has been widely criticized for violating its user's data privacy, among other misdeeds.

We all know how problematic Facebook is, so imagine an entire unregulated virtual world run on the same deceitful principles - it's a recipe for disaster.

When a BBC researcher entered an online virtual world posing as a 13-year-old girl, she was astounded at the kind of behavior and violence that was happening in these spaces. She witnessed grooming, racist insults, as well as rape threats. Just because it's virtual reality, doesn't make it any less real.

Facebook/Meta has said that it will make safety improvements to its own platform "as it learns how people interact in these spaces". Essentially, they'll let people loose into this unregulated virtual world and just 'see what happens'. Sounds more than a little creepy to us...

How are NFTs and crypto part of this?

NFTs and cryptocurrency are often mentioned when referencing the Metaverse, and it's because they are all kind of the same thing - something that doesn't technically exist in the real world.

Without getting into the specifics, because it still doesn't really make sense, even to us, NFT stands for 'non-fungible token' and it references a piece of data that can be sold and traded. It's like cryptocurrency, except NFTs can come in any digital file format, such as images or audio files. The kicker here is that these files are meant to be completely unique, and once you purchase it, you are the sole owner of this piece of data, apparently making it ridiculously valuable.

Enter the frat bros and bored rich kids who've run out of things to buy in a bid to one-up everyone they know. They're out here buying an NFT image of a rainbow monkey smoking a cigarette for $2.3 million USD and calling it a 'good investment'. Does it all sound ridiculous to you too? This TikTok video by user @Peachprc sums it up pretty well.

So naturally, people in the Metaverse are creating virtual products and selling them off at an extortionate rate in the name of building their brand.

Should businesses be using the Metaverse?

Many businesses have already jumped on the Metaverse bandwagon, but these are some big-name brands that probably could afford to take the hit if things go south.

For example, Gucci created a virtual handbag in the digital world, Roblox, that sold for more cash money than one of their real-life, physical handbags. Excuse us while we pick up our jaws from the ground.

Some businesses have played with the metaverse concept under the guise of irony, including popular beer-monger Heineken - they invited metaverse users to attend the launch event of a new virtual beer. Their global head of brand stated that it was 'a self-aware idea that pokes fun at us and many other brands that are jumping into the metaverse with products that are best enjoyed in the real world.' We couldn't agree more.

In terms of general brands and businesses venturing into the Metaverse, we would strongly advise caution. Even if you want to front-foot the latest trends, we think this one might be worth sitting out until we see how Facebook intends to handle such a massive shift in our (virtual) reality.

We're usually the first to try new things and innovate where we can, but with such a sordid history, Facebook needs to regain the trust of everyone they hope to lure into their new corner of the universe. Overall, the Metaverse has us worried. And you should be too.