Facebook as a Metaverse Company
This article has been updated on October 30 to reflect the actual Meta announcement from Facebook. And I have also done a more recent, in-depth comparison to Microsoft and Apple.
In my Market Map of the Metaverse, I wrote about three of the most significant companies in this industry — Roblox, Unity and Unreal — and identified the various parts of the value chain that they have investments in.
Now that Facebook has rebranded as Meta, and Mark Zuckerberg shared his vision for the metaverse at Facebook Connect 2021, I’ve created a graphic to show how Meta fits into the same model. They certainly do have a strong case that they’re already a strong metaverse contender — not simply a future participant. Here’s how they map out to my value-chain of the metaverse model:
- Experience: its social networks including Facebook and Instagram are a big part of the way people experience the metaverse, and these activities will merge increasingly with real-time activity (and video livestreaming is one example of how they already do this). A fundamental property of the metaverse is a sense of “self” within it, which I’d argue is central to the idea of these applications. Facebook refers to this self, when immersed in AR/VR, as an “embodied” experience.
- Discovery: the business model of Facebook is predominantly advertising, and ad networks will continue to be an important way that people discover content in the metaverse. Facebook also has investments in curation and ratings (e.g., Oculus Apps & Games), messaging platforms for direct communication (Messenger and Whatwapp) and of course the social platforms also double as a word-of-mouth discovery mechanism.
- Creator Economy: there are several examples, but Facebook Horizon is the most comprehensive approach to a content creation platform that the company has taken on.
- Spatial Computing: the Oculus is more than a hardware platform — it represents significant investments in software, usability, interface and related AI.
- Human Interface: the Oculus, of course — but also newer efforts such as the Ray Ban Stories that give a glimpse into what a future, more ergonomic form-factor for VR/AR headsets will look like. And they even have investments in brain-computer interface via their somewhat under-appreciated acquisition of CTRL-Labs.
What Meta Doesn’t Do
It’s also telling what Meta/Facebook is not.
They are not particularly decentralized in any way, although the recent news about abandoning the Oculus proprietary APIs in favor of OpenXR is intriguing. Facebook has also made some tentative steps into crypto wallets and blockchain currency, but it isn’t at all clear how these will be decentralized.
The Facebook Connect 2021 keynote did make mention of NFTs and blockchain, and it suggests they expect to provide creators with a way to make their assets available to off-platform applications; what remains to be seen is whether the experiences and worlds crafted within environments like Horizon will also be portable, or whether they’ll exist exclusively within the Meta ecosystem.
Further Reading and Viewing
- For a comparison of the technologies and business models of Facebook, Apple and Microsoft, read Clash of the Metaverse Titans.
- If you want to read up on the different layers of the industry that enable the metaverse, read The Metaverse Value-Chain.
- To see how over 200 companies fit into the metaverse, check out the Market Map of the Metaverse.
- If you’d like to learn more about the types of things people will do in the metaverse, read The Experiences of the Metaverse.
And if you’re just trying to come up to speed, I recommend my video, “What is the Metaverse?” on YouTube: