Life-altering technology or the latest digital fad? The definition of the metaverse is evolving as fast as the systems that underpin it are being developed. Will the metaverse become a new, fully immersive way of life, or will it simply be just another word for online interaction? Scheller Explores the Metaverse is a new series in which Georgia Tech Scheller College of Business faculty, students, and alumni share their perspectives on the metaverse and everything it entails.
In today’s feature, Eric Overby, Catherine & Edwin Wahlen Professor of Information Technology Management, discusses Meta’s potential motivations and goals as they put their stake in metaverse ground.
In early February, Facebook’s parent company Meta experienced the largest one-day drop in value in stock market history. Part of the reason was Meta’s announcement that it expects to lose $10 billion in advertising revenue over the next year due to Apple’s “App Tracking Transparency” system, which requires users to provide consent before apps like Facebook can track their online activities. This highlights the importance of control over the computing environment. Because Apple controls the iPhone, they have power over other companies – like Facebook/Meta – whose applications run on the iPhone. Microsoft was in a similar position of power in the 1990’s, as was IBM in the 1970’s.
This takes us to the metaverse. Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg is betting that the metaverse will become the next major computing environment and that it will supersede smartphones the way smartphones superseded PCs. He wants to build the metaverse ecosystem, rather than continue being a player in someone else’s ecosystem. This has been his goal for a while. Facebook acquired Oculus in 2014 to get an early lead in virtual reality technology that will enable the metaverse. Notably, the acquisition of Oculus followed the quick demise of the “Facebook Phone” in 2013, which was a failed attempt to gain some control over the smartphone ecosystem.
It's difficult to say how the metaverse will evolve, and whether Meta can attain the kind of dominant position that Apple currently holds. But the metaverse will clearly be important. People currently spend significant time and money in virtual environments, and AR/VR technology continues to improve. These trends indicate that people will increasingly interact with others in immersive digital environments, i.e., the metaverse. The companies that provide the key supporting infrastructure, which is Meta’s goal, will profit.