The metaverse will bring the next iteration of the internet and unlock new opportunities for the creator economy, Facebook co-founder and Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg said during a session at South by Southwest.
Zuckerberg wasn’t in Austin in person, instead virtually joining in on the Tuesday event titled “Into the Metaverse: Creators, Commerce and Connection.” Zuckerberg was joined in the session by Daymond John, star of “Shark Tank” and CEO of Fubu.
“Metaverse isn’t a thing a company builds. It’s the next chapter of the internet overall, ” Zuckerberg said. “Our goal is to help build the fundamental tech to bring the metaverse to life.”
There’s no universally accepted definition of the metaverse, which has increasingly made headlines in recent months in large part due to Facebook’s rebranding itself as Meta Platforms. The metaverse can be anything from video games with virtual worlds to virtual reality- and augmented reality-fueled worlds. Many tech experts predict it will eventually be a virtual world with avatars of real people interacting in real time, and will be a big part of the future of the internet.
Zuckerberg said he doesn’t view current games like Roblox as a true metaverse, but he did credit them as building blocks.
The metaverse’s defining characteristic include feeling like you’re present with other people or in another place, Zuckerberg said.
“It’s really this kind of very magical sensation, and it’s extremely human and in a lot of ways it’s like the Holy Grail of the types of social experiences that a lot of people at Meta have wanted to build for a long time. And now the technologies are at a starting point where it’s possible,” Zuckerberg said.
He acknowledged a lot of the technology is still being developed. Zuckerberg said the pieces will come online in different ways and on different timelines.
He also doubled down on his company’s shifting focus away from its social media products to the metaverse, saying he believes the future of the metaverse will belong to the companies that care the most.
“I think we care more about the way people connect (than other companies)… if we succeed in this it will be because we care more about that problem, and build even more deeply than all the other folks,” Zuckerberg said.
Zuckerberg said he expects people will use the metaverse in a lot of different ways, from social gatherings to work to e-commerce. While avatars aren’t yet at the same photorealistic level as a Zoom video, the metaverse brings more interactivity, he said.
“That feeling of presence is quite magical, even for where it is now,” Zuckerberg said.
‘Bigger in the metaverse’
Zuckerberg predicted the ability for people to express themselves in different ways is going to be an economic driver in the metaverse, including items such as customized clothing for avatars. Zuckerberg said his hope is the metaverse will support millions of jobs and people doing all sorts of creative work.
“A lot of these behaviors, I think, are going to be even bigger in the metaverse than in these platforms that already have hundreds of millions of people or billions of people using it. That’s going to be pretty powerful,” Zuckerberg said.
Being able to transfer items people purchase in the metaverse between games and worlds will be key — which is where Web3 and decentralization come in, he said.
Zuckerberg said NFTs (non-fungible tokens) could be a way for companies to do this, where the clothing an avatar is wearing could be minted as an NFT, for example. In the near term, he said, Meta is interested in bringing NFTs to its existing products.
“We’re working on bringing NFTs to Instagram,” Zuckerberg said, adding more details would come in the next few months on that.
Zuckerberg said it’s important that people can see themselves in the metaverse, and that diversity and wide representation need to be built in from the start.
“People are thinking about creating and having all these experiences in the metaverse. It starts off when you get in there and the question is ‘do I see myself in this and is this a place where I want to invest my time?’ So I think getting that right from the beginning is important,” Zuckerberg said.
Future of work
Zuckerberg said the metaverse will play a key role in the future of work.
“I want people to be working in video conferences when they’re remote, but also getting around a table in virtual reality and augmented reality when we have that in the future,” Zuckerberg said.
Prior to beginning the conversation on the metaverse, Zuckerberg also acknowledged the crisis in Ukraine.
“It’s just a massively destabilizing, horrible event,” he said. “We have teams working across the company that are working on trying to make sure that our services are available and that people can stay connected during this time. We’re going to keep on working on that.”