When Alexander the Great stood on the shores of the Bosphorus, he famously “wept salt tears because there were no more worlds to conquer.” Mark Zuckerberg is not, I suspect, so easily put off – why run out of worlds to conquer when you can simply create your own?
As the Meta CEO said recently, after Facebook’s change of name, “Over time, I hope that we are seen as a Metaverse company.”
Besides putting Alexander to shame, one of the principal reasons for that is likely to be financial.
According to Forbes, the Metaverse is a “convergence of our physical and digital lives that is being brought on by advancements in internet connectivity, AR/VR, and blockchain. It’s just the culmination of all our science fiction fantasies – what ‘Tron’ and ‘Ready Player One’ imagined.”
If you want to own something exclusively in the Metaverse you buy its NFT (Non-fungible token). Bloomberg say $41 billion worth of cryptocurrency related to NFTs changed hands in 2021. And, as Forbes points out, “that is a lot of capital in a market that probably 99 percent of people on earth don’t even know exists.”
What Zuckerberg is betting his company’s future on then is this simple question – what happens when they do?
And he's not the only one.
Forbes again, Nike “initiated Metaverse thinking into its retail operations with the purchase of RTFKT, a virtual sneaker company that focuses on fashion. This will enable Nike to produce samples without the expense of manufacturing physical samples of the sneaker.”
What that means in practice is that Nike, if it wishes, will use the Metaverse to launch new looks and product and then only invest in the real-world production of the trainers, shirts, or jackets that its Metaverse customer-base adopts most widely. Whilst, at the same time, charging a spectacularly premium price for the NFT of whatever becomes the next Air Jordans.
Zuckerberg’s investors were sceptical when he announced the new Facebook strategy. Shares in the Menlo Park behemoth tumbled by $230bn.
But, unlike Alexander before him, he remains undaunted.
“This fully realized vision is still ways off,” Zuckerberg told The Guardian about his plans. “But I’m pleased with the momentum and the progress that we’ve made so far and I’m confident these are the right investments for us to focus on going forward.”
Mark the Great doesn’t really sound that appealing. Especially, to a man as ambitious as Zuckerberg who is more likely planning on being the greatest.