In the last few days, Facebook has announced that it is changing its name – and its focus – to reflect the fact its primary objective is now to develop what’s known as the metaverse.
First of all, don’t panic - the world’s most-used social media site will still be known as Facebook and it will still be the go-to place to see what your friends ate for dinner and to ask if someone can recommend a good local plumber.
The same is also true for WhatsApp and Instagram, the other two global platforms owned by Facebook owns.
But, in a move that couldn’t be more meta if it tried, the holding company will now be known as Meta, with founder Mark Zuckerberg confirming that his company is prepared to lose an eye-watering amount of money to make the metaverse a reality and own that market.
So, what is the metaverse, and why might Zuckerberg’s obsession with it be important to you?
First off, the metaverse. This is the part of the internet that is home to virtual reality worlds, as opposed to the part that allows us to find information, buy online and communicate, among many other things.
Generally, if you’re an average online user, you probably won’t have experienced or been exposed to the limited metaverse that currently exists. In theory, it’s an immersive world in which you – in the form of an avatar – can enjoy virtual reality experiences in gaming, retail, leisure and more.
If you have a child or a younger relative who plays Fortnite or, going back a few years, Roblox, then this is a very basic (and, in terms of the commercial potential Facebook has identified, microscopic) example of the metaverse.
Facebook, or Meta, as we will call it from now on in this article, is very vague on the detail of the opportunity it believes the metaverse will offer.
That may be in part because it now has to spend the next five to 10 years working out exactly what that opportunity looks like.
But it’s fair to assume that Zuckerberg and his board would only be happy to ‘lose’ vast sums of money if they were confident about making it back, and then some.
The other problem that Meta will face lies in convincing people like you and me that they want to be part of this brave new world the company is going to chart for us.
Not only are the Meta boffins the best part of a decade of defining how it will work as an everyday platform, they’re at least another five away from tipping the scales of technology adoption in their favour.
But the work that’s going on now is important to you now because it’s yet another example of how tech innovators are working to unveil the next big digital advance at the expense of what’s happening in the here and now.
Whilst the Facebook of old always worked to iterate its products to be ultra-useful to its consumers (and therefore ultra-profitable for itself) in the present, last week’s announcement, and especially the change of name, indicates that focus has shifted significantly.
Progress is inevitable. Sometimes it’s necessary. Mostly it’s welcomed. There are few of us now who can remember or imagine what life might be like without the internet.
In the week when COP26 is happening, progress offers us the best chance of undoing some of the harm we have done to the planet.
At a basic level, 32K computers which seemed to run, very slowly, on steam power and could hold a fraction of the data we can now store on a mobile phone or in the cloud, are a thing of the past.
Your mobile phone now has more computing power than the NASA computer systems that put man on the moon in 1969.
All of these things were once a twinkle in someone’s eye. A big idea that some clever so and so made happen.
But in going all in on building the future, as Facebook is doing, there’s a danger we forget that we need to live and work in the here and now with the things we’ve already go at our disposal.
If they are to grow and thrive, every business has to have one eye on what the world looks like one, three or five years from now.
But if, by focusing on a future service or product your existing customers might not even want, you compromise those customers’ ability to operate effectively in the here and now you may end up not having a future to plan for.
At YCG, we are a mobile technology company. Part of what makes us so successful is ensuring we have the knowledge, experience and expertise to be able to meet changing needs in an uncertain future.
That means we always strive to implement state-of-the-art solutions that are reliable and effective, drive efficiency for our customers, and keep them in control of the technology they use to provide their goods and services.
But while we work hard to make sure our customers can benefit from future advances in cloud and physical products and services, we also devote a lot of our time to making sure those same customers get the maximum benefit possible from the technology they’re using today.
That means exceptional customer service, account managers who know our customers’ needs and businesses inside out and a passion for delivering friendly expert service that’s always on and always relevant.