What Facebook's rebranding tells us about Big Tech's “platform game”

In his monthly column on crypto technologies, Israeli serial entrepreneur Ariel Shapira covers emerging technologies within the crypto sp...


In his monthly column on crypto technologies, Israeli serial entrepreneur Ariel Shapira covers emerging technologies within the crypto space, decentralized finance (DeFi) and blockchain, as well as their roles in shaping the 21st century economy.

Sometimes the name of a project tells you all you need to know about it, regardless of its niche. Take Kryptomon, for example, the NFT game which recently closed a 24-hour-in-a-second sale. You understand from the name that some sort of cutesy evolving and fighting monstrosities have to be involved, and you know that has to be blockchain based. Clear, concise and precise.

Facebook’s new name, Meta, isn’t exactly stand on the same shelf. Certainly, it is clear that the company is heading for the metaverse, but this destination is still unclear. As many reviewers have pointed out, at this point the metaverse is as vague as it is appealing or dystopian, depending on who you ask. The allusion to a heavy component of virtual reality (VR) / augmented reality (AR) coming from gadgets like haptic gloves is still only recount we don’t have much of what the future holds.

The only thing that’s clear about Meta’s naming game is that it represents a statement of ambition. The company has already tried this trick with Libra, his future stablecoin backed by other tech giants when it found itself under some of the same controls Meta has now. Renaming the room to Diem was intended to underline his ambition for independence, and it didn’t fly since the project was eventually scrapped. Much like with Google and Alphabet or Snapchat and Snap Inc, Facebook’s rebranding proclaims its intention to go beyond – meta in Greek, by the way – the initial platform.

Related: One currency to rule them all: Facebook’s Diem has global ambitions

But, there is something else at play here: an echo of a larger trend in the tech world that could have serious implications for the internet itself, as well as for us, its users.

Rules for me and for you

Earlier this year, we saw Epic Games, one of the biggest games companies in the world, brandishing its own metaverse ambitions, attack Apple by accusing it of monopolistic practices on its App Store rules. Although the monopoly charge was not upheld, the court approved Epic’s offer to direction users to its own in-app payment methods. Epic Games too clashed with Google in a case that also revolved around the latter’s application market. Facebook itself has had more than a few angry words with Apple regarding its own feud with the tech giant that concentrated on updating the privacy rules of the platform of the latter.

You’ve probably picked up the central theme here. Being locked into a specific ecosystem of products and services has its limits – just think of Apple dropping the standard 3.5mm audio jack in 2016. Of course, that maybe helped protect against the. water, but it was just as much about promoting its own connector. increase their income. Incidentally, this rule also applies to small developers who publish their products on other platforms, as well as giants like Epic and Facebook. You get the convenient distro, but it comes with more than a few channels. It would be unwise, to say the least, to assume that the terms and conditions remain the same in the long run.

Few people these days would realistically expect Big Tech to champion a freer and more open digital ecosystem where interoperability is the law and users are free to select the best gadgets and services without any blockages. supplier. They prefer to ensure that users are locked into their respective platforms while they themselves have the maximum versatility that comes with managing your own ecosystem and setting all the rules. It makes sense from a business perspective, but hardly conducive to a cooperation that requires trust, and one of the main reasons for starting your own platform is that you don’t trust anyone.

This is also exactly what I see in the renaming of Facebook to Meta as an aspiration to create its own complete ecosystem which would most likely be. to integrate a plethora of components, from all VR / AR gadgets to its own operating system. I wonder, however, if other giants who bid for the Metaverse will follow suit by creating entire tech stacks, perhaps for the Internet itself, because if they do, things could turn out badly.

Related: The Metaverse: Mark Zuckerberg’s Brave New World

Caught in the net

The concern is that this “platform game”, if released on the web, could promote its stratification and segregation.

When you visit a website, your device downloads its building blocks from a remote server, ideally with a set of instructions tailoring its design and functionality to different types of devices like a desktop or mobile. Adding metaverse functionality doesn’t seem like too much of a stretch. You’ll just need to upload more data to let your haptic shoes, scent generator, and other stuff know what sensory experiences you’re preparing for. But, the devil lives in the details.

In keeping with the good old product support cycle, we may find ourselves in situations where some services end up dropping support for their non-metaverse versions. This is especially true for projects run by conglomerates that offer metaverse material. Why wouldn’t they want to get more consumers and businesses to buy their products? By the same account, we could get a website stratified into metaverse and non-metaverse portals, and if search engine algorithms started to favor these, it would increase costs for developers and consumers again.

If the push for its own platforms goes far enough with different sections of the metaverse fed by different, non-interoperable protocols (good ol ‘vendor lockdown, remember?) It could lead to web segregation. We don’t know how far things could go on this front. For one thing, a separate metaverse would be downright doomed as a concept. On the other hand, at least some friction between protocols and rival networks is not unheard of. Yes you might want to get into an Ariana Grande concert on Epic’s Fortnite with your 3D avatar from the to Facebook, but for that it must be fully compatible with the game in the first place. In order for this to happen, Meta and Epic must first achieve product compatibility, and for that, they must have a more or less confident relationship.

Trusted, but blockchain-ify

In the future, one of the ways that might be conducive to building bridges and not walls in the tech world is to do business on blockchain. Yes, the idea that you can fix something broken by putting it on the blockchain is a bit of a stretch, but the argument stands in this case.

The reality is that blockchain-based smart contracts are very effective at fostering trust. The reason is that instead of having to trust the other party whose internal processes may be a mystery to you, you need to trust the contract, fully verifiable software that will automate your business interactions. It runs on its own under the right conditions, ensuring that your interests remain intact regardless of your partner’s actions.

It is unlikely that all business activity will be moved to blockchain anytime soon, but Big Tech, with its endless supply of know-how and experience, is uniquely positioned to be the leader in this area. By investing in the field, tech giants could set the new business paradigm for all other industries to follow, removing trust from the equation and laying the groundwork for future cooperation. This is all the more important at a pivotal time like the emergence of what could be the new iteration of the internet, a technology that has transformed our daily and professional ways in too many ways to even be counted.

Of course, things are not necessarily so dramatic. Maybe the Metaverse will come down to a bunch of VR / AR solutions doomed to remain a niche market for the well-endowed crowd. But, judging by the number of multiverse projects, something bigger than that is on the way, and blockchain technology could ensure that in the long run, our adventure in the metaverse will be a little more equal than it ever was. seems. .

This article does not contain any investment advice or recommendations. Every investment and trading move comes with risk, and readers should do their own research before making a decision.

The views, thoughts and opinions expressed here are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect or represent the views and opinions of Cointelegraph.

Ariel shapira is a father, entrepreneur, speaker, cyclist, and is the Founder and CEO of Social-Wisdom, a consulting agency working with Israeli startups and helping them make connections to international markets.