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  • Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg outlined some of his visions for a Metaverse in the company’s earnings announcement this week.
  • Zuckerberg said it will take several years to build the Metaverse experience.
  • If Facebook is successful, it will make money from selling virtual goods in the metaverse, as well as from advertising and other virtual experiences.

Mark Zuckerberg wears the Oculus virtual reality headset.

Glenn Chapman | Getty Images

It’s either the next evolution of the internet, or the latest corporate buzzword to get investors excited about a nebulous innovation that may not materialize over the next decade.

Either way, especially tech companies Facebook – increasingly promote the concept of the “metaverse” that classic science fiction term for a virtual world in which to live, work and play. If you’ve seen the Ready Player One movie, you’ll have a pretty good idea of ​​what the metaverse is: don a pair of computer glasses and you’ll be whisked away into a digital universe where anything is possible.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg is the most optimistic about the concept. announced its plans earlier this month Transforming Facebook from a social media company to a metaverse company in the coming years.

It’s less clear how technology companies can benefit from the metaverse concept.

Zuckerberg, his executive team, and Wall Street analysts spent a lot of time on the company’s earnings call Wednesday, discussing the metaverse, how much it will cost Facebook to build, and how Facebook plans to capitalize on it.

In fact, “Metaverse” has been mentioned 20 times hour long phone call. There were 28 mentions of advertising, Facebook’s core business, which brought in more than $28 billion in revenue for the quarter.

Here’s the business case Zuckerberg and his team built for Facebook’s investment in the metaverse:

Facebook will sell the hardware, but the real money isn’t coming from it. Zuckerberg said in the earnings announcement that Facebook’s goal is to sell its headsets as cheaply as possible and to focus on monetizing itself through commerce and advertising within the metaverse.

“Our business model will not primarily be about selling devices at a high price or anything like that, our mission is to serve as many people as possible,” Zuckerberg said on the earnings call. “That’s why we want to make everything we do as affordable as possible, so that as many people as possible can participate in it and then grow the size of the digital economy within it.”

Facebook already powers Oculus, the company’s virtual reality division. Today, Oculus VR headsets are relatively limited in what they can do. But Facebook hopes to improve the tech so that the headsets look more like Warby Parker goggles than a bulky helmet. According to Zuckerberg, the metaverse will only work if the hardware can give the user a real sense of presence in the digital world.

Advertising will continue to play a role, but Facebook will focus on selling virtual goods. Zuckerberg said advertising in the Metaverse will be “an important part” of Facebook’s strategy to capitalize on the Metaverse, but he sounded more optimistic about commerce in the digital world.

Many consider some of today’s video games to be MicrosoftThe early versions of Minecraft, Roblox and Fortnite show what a metaverse could be. These free games make money by selling virtual goods to players. Zuckerberg hinted that when Facebook announced its earnings, it would copy this strategy to monetize its own metaverse and earn a share of every transaction.

“I think that digital goods and creators are just going to be huge…in terms of people expressing themselves through their avatars, through digital clothing, through digital goods, the apps they have, the apps they have, the ones they bring from place to place,” Zuckerberg said, “A big part of the Metaverse experience is going to be being able to teleport from one experience to another. So it’s going to be a big investment to basically have your digital assets and inventory and take them from place to place.” bring.” Make people.”

Facebook spends billions on the metaverse every year. The company declined to provide specific numbers, but didn’t contradict an analyst’s estimate that the company spends about $5 billion a year on Metaverse development.

A reality check: Zuckerberg’s plans will take years to materialize, if they materialize at all. Technology companies love futuristic concepts that are not yet mature, such as artificial intelligence. The definitions of these terms tend to become fuzzy and move away from the original concept. (True artificial intelligence, for example, doesn’t exist yet, no matter how many big tech executives claim it does.)

There is a real risk that the metaverse concept will fall into the same trap. With more companies, notably Facebook and Microsoft, talking about their Metaverse strategies in the near future, keep in mind that we’re still several years (or more) away from making them a reality. The technology still doesn’t deliver on what it promises, and it won’t be for the foreseeable future either.

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