It's fair to say that there is some scepticism among the general public about the so-called metaverse. Some may even link Meta's recent stock losses to the company's rebranding and its abrupt strategy shift, making virtual reality its new flagship. In fact it's rather the opposite, Facebook's long-standing social media dominance has been steadily declining in recent years, specially in the youngest demographics. On the microblogging market, Twitter has completely surpassed Facebook. Instagram - a successful Meta's sub-brand, fortunately for Zuckerberg - makes much more efficient use of photographic publications. And more recently, TikTok has taken over the short viral video market. On the plus side, Facebook has established itself as the primary social network for adults aged 50 and up, and it continues to gain traction in some developing countries, particularly in India.
However, there are clear signs that Facebook's long reign as a social network is coming to an end, with a significant drop in active users already disclosed. Therefore we shouldn't assume that the stock market's recent red numbers are the result of the strategy change and rebranding, but rather that both are the consequence of several years of decline.
Mark Zuckerberg's interest in VR is not new. The industry of virtual reality devices was shook when Facebook acquired the top manufacturer Oculus in 2014, and this market hasn't stopped growing, making the VR glasses more affordable to the general public. Their rise has also paved the way for new customer-oriented industries, such as the 360 camera sub-market. The recent Meta’s shift, which starred the entire 2021 Facebook Connect event and was emphasised by the company's renaming, is thus not a panic move, but rather part of a long-planned strategy. Zuckerberg envisioned a completely new land and decided to be the first person to set foot on it.
But, is it really a rich new world to claim? You have been hearing about VR for long time, it's not a new concept. It was always there, in films such as the recent Ready Player One or The Lawnmower Man in the 1990s, but it could even be tracked back to the stereographs back in the 19th century. Or how about the calamitous failure of 3D televisions after their initial popularity was fuelled by successful films such as Avatar? It's tempting to think that VR will also be rejected by the big audience and remain as a funny gadget for a fringe minority who just use it from time to time to play video games.
Let us be more optimistic for a moment. Other disruptive technologies have completely changed our daily lives in the last 20 to 30 years. The internet, an evolution of the old ARPANET in the 1960s, underwent a rapid transition between the late 1990s and the early 2000s. Internet users were once thought to be weird geeks, but now those who are not permanently connected to the internet are as rare as dinosaurs. In terms of business, you can still exist out the internet, but you'll miss out on so many opportunities and become irrelevant.
Or, more recently, something we can all recall vividly. The internet and mobile phones had already spread across the globe by the mid-2000s. However, they were rarely used together. The phone was still primarily used for making calls, sending SMS, and possibly playing some simple games. The arrival of the iPhone completely altered the landscape. Apple surgically deleted the entire traditional mobile phone market in one shot thanks to its innovative tactile screen, neat design, and optimised operating system. Since then, we've all been constantly connected to the internet, receiving inputs, generating valuable data, and engaging in an endless variety of activities on our smartphones.
Nobody knows what the future holds, but there are numerous indicators that show that virtual reality is, indeed, a reality:
We are on the brink of a third stage in the evolution of the internet, following the initial computer-based implementation and the second smartphone-based revolution. The easier it is to use, the more people who will use it, and the more applications that will be available, creating a virtuous circle. Meta's significant move may indicate that they believe a disruptive point is approaching, and nobody knows better than them about this market nowadays.
Perhaps you're unfamiliar with XR, and you think your company can wait and see what happens. That is also what many companies thought back in the 1990s, ignoring the forthcoming internet takeover and wasting valuable years that could have allowed them to capture a significant portion of their market simply by playing a pioneering role in the internet revolution. That's what Amazon did.
We are at that point again, and the forerunners who adapt quickly will be able to make a large return on investment. You could even create a 3D model of your business, but you could also simply prepare to allow your customers to virtually teleport to your physical store or business location using call360. Because the metaverse is not really about eliminating the real world, but rather removing the boundaries between real and virtual, keeping the best of both.
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