Into the Metaverse
Meta, the company formally known as Facebook, wants to be the company of the metaverse. It is claimed that the metaverse is the next evolution of the Internet. A new parallel world. It is slightly unclear what this world is right now. The founder of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg, has suggested it could mean creating a virtual “home” and rooms to meet and connect with friends. A place of virtual work meetings. A place to attend music concerts without the effort of leaving your sofa.
The first issue I have is the business model of Meta and the second is privacy. They are linked. The business model of Meta is that they make money via targeted advertising. Traditional advertising, of the non-targeted variety, is all about advertising with broad appeal. The advertiser knows very little about you. The Meta (Facebook) model is to know more about you than you might know about yourself.
After browsing the Internet to buy a new bed you might log onto Facebook and find you get adverts about beds. Facebook has read the cookies from your Internet browser and used them to target an advert. Facebook makes money from the ad.
We know a lot more about this model in 2022. On iPhones, Facebook relied on the Identifier for Advertisers (IDFA). This was an identity stored on iPhones that Facebook could use to identify the user and align it to a specific Facebook user. This made ads even more personal. Apple are now selling privacy as a feature of their products. From updates in 2021, users of the iPhone can block the IDFA being shared. Most iPhone users are doing this. It’s a popular feature.
In their earnings call to investors, Meta admitted this one feature change has cost them $13 billion in revenue. Google are also now talking about implementing a privacy sandbox to prevent use of personal data.
The power to restrict advertising is in the hands of the platform owners. In order to make money Meta doesn’t really want people to have privacy. It needs to mine as much information as possible.
As well as Facebook, Meta also owns WhatsApp and Instagram. It can use its other products to share data and target advertising. However, it will always be limited by restrictions of the owners of the operating systems on which these applications work.
The question of who controls the metaverse is now in the air. Will there be one metaverse or multiple metaverses? Will a business orientated metaverse talk to a consumer orientated one? Meta also own Oculus. A headset designed to allow you to access the Facebook version of the metaverse. The expectation of Meta must surely be that you will buy an Oculus headset, access the metaverse provided by Facebook, and provide them with enough personal information to serve you personalised ads.
Some may feel that a virtual world controlled by Meta is simply a version of virtual hell.