Publish at November 08 2022 Updated November 08 2022

Will metaverses flop?

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"We are a company whose goal is to bring people together. While most technology companies are interested in how users interact with technology, we seek to develop one that allows individuals to interact with each other."                  Mark Zuckerberg

Digital failures

History is filled with digital-failures. Not everything works the first time and sometimes it doesn't work at all and long years will pass before the great idea meets the technical possibilities of its realization. Digital technologies provide many examples. Do you remember Google Glass, 3D TV, Google+, Iris sensors or some smartphones? Do you remember  the passage from Windows Update to Windows 8 and what about the Cambridge Analytica affair that vigorously tainted the reputation of FaceBook. ...

For the prophets of the net, in the race for innovations, everything happens as if a new page of the internet is being prepared, a new conquest that just needs to start.

One of the "innovations" if we can use this word for an idea already experimented in online games since the beginning of the 90s, consists in moving in "virtual spaces", named metaverses. The word is said to have been dreamed up by Neal Stephenson in the 1992 novel Snow Accident.

This idea of an interconnected virtual universe stimulates computer developers and science fiction enthusiasts. But, now the preachers are harping that our social and professional lives are going to be sucked into the metaverse. We will turn into "metanauts" and pursue the endless increase promised to us by exploring ethereal and infinite spaces.

Metaverses, third internet wave or flop in sight?

After the invention of HTTP and connected objects, metanauts conquering new markets, explorers of new sensations and traders form a new elite of pioneers. And beware of the nerds who stay behind and fail to capitalize on this windfall.

But the transposition of the codes of a finite world into an infinite world is surprising, to say the least. How can we justify the purchase of pixels or unique digital objects when technology allows us to reproduce them ad infinitum. Isn't there a conceptual laziness in pursuing the concept of private property bounded by fixed points when the stones of the Roman Empire have turned into lines of code? 

Human beings are eminently visual, yet the sale of headphones for example the Oculus which sell 2 or 3 million units per year is skating by in light of the disproportionate ambitions of the GAFAMs (10 billion in investment for Facebook alone). What if hearing was more promising than sight to enter the metaverse? Indeed the much-vaunted fluidity of metaverses requires wearing an unattractive, heavy, cumbersome and for some users nausea-causing headset, enough to put off the most committed fans.

It is impossible to use headsets in public. At the same time the fluidity seems to nestle in the hollow of the ears. Air Pods are selling 100 million units a year. They approach the aesthetics of birds by borrowing their lightness, allowing simple movement and an overlay of information (augmented reality) between the different senses.

While Air Pods offer a sense of openness, headsets enclose us and hold us tight in constrained spaces. Even more, a 1800 euro headset clearly displays the economic stakes pursued  by business systems combining terminals, platforms, access and software.

While the number of gamers has been steadily increasing through cell phones. metaverses seem to have fairly low attendance. So much so that the developers of the Facebook-backed Horizon metaverse is being shunned by its own  developers! Their manager Vishal Shah even states "Everyone in this organization should make it their mission to fall in love with Horizon Worlds." In fact, he prescribes going there at least once a week.

So will it work or not?

The gaming world touches many followers but from there to transposing its uses to other social spaces, there is a step to be taken, besides according to a ifop survey,  60% of French people think that the metaverse is mainly a way to entertain themselves.

Technophiles and oracles say it will take time to realize the promises and for everyone to understand that they will experience rewarding social relationships in these spaces. 

Doubt is allowed about the generalization of metaverses. This doubt was born on the occasion of the covid crisis. Every human confronted with his dose of confinement had the leisure to test infobesity to satiety. There was nothing else to do but to explore the digital possibilities ever further.

This probably allowed for a better mastery of screens, interfaces, video communication software, but once the health pressure was released, the first thing billions of humans on the planet decided to do was to take a breath of fresh air, share time with friends, stroll, travel and rediscover the beauty of nature.


Metaverse Observatory  

Silkhom. The biggest tech failures of the past decade

The press. Facebook's metaverse is dead on arrival  

Numérama. Are there really only 38 players in the decentreland metaverse  

Numérama. Don't scoff at the 1,800-euro facebook headset, it could change everything  

Coins. Horizon worlds shunned by its own developers

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