Mark Zuckerberg grew up. At the start of his presentation – virtually, of course, it’s about jumping from the real world to the digital world – he is seated in a stilted gray armchair. He wears black jeans and a black sweater; the bedroom looks like a hipster’s living room in his thirties: decorative bookcase, retro bike and surfboard, fancy plants. He speaks like someone who is always hip and cool, a visionary; but also as someone who takes people’s concerns and needs seriously and wants to offer solutions, he uses the term “humility” many times. Humility, humility.
The solution, according to Zuck: Metaverse, in which the virtual and real world merge. He wants to combine virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) so that people can meet as avatars in the digital space, work together and interact with each other. “I know people are now going to say, now is not the time to focus on the future,” Zuckerberg says early on, given the many problems his business has in the present and in the real world, and it actually works a bit like an escape from yourself.
Maybe that’s why he announced at the end, and he actually chose the words “One More Thing” from Apple founder Steve Jobs, whom he had renamed his company, from Facebook to. Meta – the new logo looks like a mix of glasses and the symbol for infinity.
In bathrobe to talk to investors
Grown up. This is probably the worst possible assessment for a guy who, especially in the early days of Facebook, took great pride in not knowing exactly what this platform was supposed to be – except: cool. Who slipped on a bathrobe to talk to investors and later appeared in a hoodie and flip flops. Naivety, curiosity, and megalomania are wonderful when you have an idea in the Harvard dorm – but not at all cool when you’re in charge of a company that made $ 29 billion last quarter and is pretty much as popular as a brand due to many scandals like athlete’s foot.
Zuckerberg, 37, is on an image advertising tour for his company and of course for himself; for a visionary, he does so with a surprisingly predictable strategy: betting on the future. But hey, what should this metaverse look like? And what will Meta be for a business?
Computer games like Fortnite provide the first glimpses: teenagers hang out, pop stars give virtual concerts in front of millions of fans. Or the fascinating VR experience with Oculus glasses, which transforms you into a Star Wars character, a boxer or a spectator on the sidelines of sporting events. Facebook, sorry: Meta, bought Oculus in 2014 and now makes tons of glasses. This year alone, Meta is investing around ten billion dollars in the Facebook Reality Labs division, which is tinkering with the virtual future.
The end of the screen
Zuckerberg, meanwhile, moved from a hipster lounge to a virtual room, presents this evolution of the tech industry as the end of the screen: a virtual world in which users are completely immersed and which seems limitless. Play chess with friends on another continent; a walk through a forest with flying fish; Attend a concert in Los Angeles even if you are sitting in Kyoto, Japan. Naive question: is a concert always cool when everyone is sitting at home and you don’t smell other people’s sweat? Too early for that? OKAY. But you can buy group merchandising for your own avatar. Naturally.
For the group, Metaverse means, of course, entering two technological areas in which the group has not been particularly successful so far: its own mobile operating system and its hardware. At the end of the screens, we need new devices that allow us to enter virtual worlds: VR headsets, glasses for augmented reality, sensors for facial expressions and bracelets for gestures. Facebook wants to offer this, but does not need specific products – the vision is more important at the moment.
It currently sounds a bit like Facebook twelve years ago. But because many remember the development of Facebook, they fear that utopia will turn into dystopia; a hype that will make few rich, but could ultimately do more harm than good to mankind. After all, like virtually no other business, Facebook has helped transform the once open network into a collection of closed platforms and ecosystems.
What Zuckerberg presented looked like the start of an episode of the sci-fi series “Black Mirror” – which always starts out fascinatingly and often drifts into disaster. He talked about wanting to bring people together. But, and Zuckerberg admits, that’s exactly what he said on Facebook, and aren’t we just seeing the negative consequences? For a good month and a half, the media have been publishing the details of the so-called Facebook files. Internal studies, presentations and discussion logs provide a disturbing insight into the inner workings of the group.
Zuckerberg is visionary, optimistic and confident, but also curious and a little naive. “We don’t know exactly how it’s going to turn out,” is a previous statement from Zuckerberg, and it makes it curious, but also cautious, what will happen to the Metaverse. Ultimately, the goal, and this should also be stated by every business leader: to inspire young people, that is to say to be cool, instead of optimizing existing platforms for older people.
Presentation, no matter how cool things were, is more important to the group with the new name than to humanity. Zuckerberg introduced himself as an adult who can still be cool and inspire those under 30. However, they should tell him that those two things are mutually exclusive, and Zuckerberg will also have to make a decision at the Metaverse: be cool for kids or be cool for investors. The decision on Facebook is known.