29 July 2021

The Verge: “Mark Zuckerberg is betting Facebook’s future on the metaverse”

And I guess one broader point that I’d make here is, one lesson that I’ve taken from running Facebook over the last five years is that I used to think about our job as building products that people love to use. But you know, now I think we just need to have a more holistic view of this. It’s not enough to just build something that people like to use. It has to create opportunity and broadly be a positive thing for society in terms of economic opportunity, in terms of being something that, socially, everyone can participate in, that it can be inclusive. So we’re really designing the work that we’re doing in the space with those principles from the ground up. This isn’t just a product that we’re building. It needs to be an ecosystem. So the creators who we work with, the developers, they all need to be able to not only sustain themselves, but hire a lot of folks.

And this is something that I hope eventually millions of people will be working in and creating content for — whether it’s experiences, or spaces, or virtual goods, or virtual clothing, or doing work helping to curate and introduce people to spaces and keep it safe. I just think this is going to be a huge economy and frankly, I think that that needs to exist. This needs to be a rising tide that lifts a lot of boats. We can’t just think about this as a product that we’re building.

One of the big issues that I think people need to think through is right now there’s a pretty meaningful gender skew, at least in virtual reality, where there’s a lot more men than women. And in some cases that leads to harassment. And I think one of the things that we’ve been able to do better in some of our experiences than some of the other games and things out there is give people easier tools to block people, just be able to have a sense of when there might be harassment going on, to keep it a safe space that can be inclusive for everyone, that everyone wants to be a part of.

Casey Newton

A safe and inclusive space for everyone, but with tools to easily block people – what’s wrong with this picture? If some participants feel the need to block others, then the space is inherently unsafe – and by making blocking effortless you destroy this idealistic ‘for everyone’ premise.

Casey Newton talks with Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg about his vision for an embodied internet (or “the metaverse”), the challenges of governing it, and gender imbalance in virtual reality today

I thought Matthew Ball’s essays, by the way, were great, and anyone who’s trying to learn about this, I think he wrote a nine-part piece on a bunch of the different aspects of what the metaverse could be, and I highly recommend all of them. But I’d say that, I think sometimes people may be a little idealistic about assuming that this will develop in a certain way. I think the vision that Matthew lays out, for example, of being extremely interoperable, is the vision that I hope comes about. But I think we’ve seen from modern computing that there are different companies that push in different directions. So I think from my perspective, without a doubt, you’re going to have some companies that are trying to build incredibly siloed things, and then some that are trying to build more open and interoperable ones.

Remind me again, which of these is Facebook’s preferred way of doing business? Because I’m pretty sure it’s not the ‘more open and interoperable’ kind.

It is frankly remarkable how Mark Zuckerberg can so casually repeat the same ideas in a new context, given the damage his first project to connect the world has done. The key phrase in this interview is obviously ‘huge economy’: as with Facebook, what Mark Zuckerberg cares above all is the revenue he could extract from this metaverse, however safe or toxic, by capturing an increasing portion of our daily activities and boosting engagement.

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