Why Facebook “Meta-morphed” & Why Square Became Block
It seems like every web2 company is transforming themselves into a web3 company these days. First Facebook rebranded itself as "Meta" and now Square is "Block.”
In this post, I examine why this is such an important change and what it means for the future of personal computing.
The Great Leap
We first had big clunky desktop computers, which had limited and serious business, or scientific use cases. Eventually this paved the way for laptops followed by ultra powerful pocket computers which helped pave the Web 2.0 revolution where the average internet user could not only consume, but also help create the internet. These creations were/are owned by centralized companies though.
Each step of the way, we have seen an exponential increase in computing power and graphical rendering. This is all thanks to Moore's Law which states that "the number of transistors on a chip will double every 18 months."
We are now entering an era where mobile chips can handle the same advanced graphical computations as powerful desktop chips have been doing for quite some time.
All with the same or lower power usage than desktop chips thanks to System on Chip (SoC) architectural advancements (aka simpler instruction sets). And with machine learning, augmented and virtual reality becoming more widespread by the day, it is easy to imagine a future without phones! That's right. No phones; just virtual reality glasses!
The Ownership Layer
The popularity of blockchains in the last few years have introduced the concept of an ownership layer with the internet where users not only consume and create the internet, but now own their piece(s) through cryptography. This ownership layer is where all the action will happen in the future.
Every time in history that computing power has increased, two things have happened: (i) professionals who use it become better at what they do, creating a new wave of experiences and companies; and (ii) widespread access to everyone through portable technology like smartphones, and tablets. The average person can use them to do things they never could before!
For instance, I’m typing this blog post on my iPad mini using an AI assisted text editor called Jarvis, which wouldn’t be possible a decade or so ago. At least not with the same level of ease.
The ownership layer is where we can track the ownership of digital assets in a secure and transparent manner on distributed ledgers know as blockchains.
This is a big deal because it solves the trust problem that has been inherent in online centralized systems. For example, when you buy something from Amazon, you are trusting them to not only keep your credit card information safe but also to not lose or sell your item after you have paid for it.
With blockchains and the ownership layer, that trust is solved through consensus mechanisms guaranteeing the safety and validity of your digital assets. With this layer in place, it becomes much easier for companies to create new types of digital experiences that go beyond what is possible with current Web 2.0 technologies. Facebook's rebrand to Meta and Square's rebrand to Block are both attempts by these companies to stake their claim in this new ownership layer.
Socializing inside a virtual or augmented reality world is a natural transition from the current Web 2.0 implementations of social media apps like Twitter, Facebook, TikTok, WhatsApp, LinkedIn and Instagram.
By rebranding themselves as "Meta" and "Block", they are signalling that they are ready to provide the foundational infrastructure for the next wave of internet innovation.
In the not so distant future, we can expect to primarily be interfacing with sleek head mounted displays, such as the Rayban glasses Facebook released recently or future versions of Oculus. Or the non clunky future Google Glass esque products, such as Apple’s glasses will be the primary driver of this wave of adoption (just as the iPhone changed the game for smartphones).
Instead of using a phone to navigate your way through the Metaverse, you will use glasses with built in screens. These devices require powerful chipsets to process all the data coming from sensors which are tracking biofeedback about ourselves and others around us (e.g., retinal movements, depth perception, LIDAR, object recognition etc.).
Facebook’s Reality Labs (FRL) has been working on this kind of tech for quite some time now and the Covid-19 pandemic has fueled the need for immersive online experiences.
With slick, always-on computing devices on our noses, like a pair of Smart VR glasses, we’ll be embarking on the next generation of “living with the internet” except we’ll be living inside the internet.
The Metaverse is Virtually Real
In this world, Facebook will be the backbone provider of social experiences and interactions just as Google is for search today. This vision is what has driven Facebook to rebrand itself as “Meta". And Square aka "Block"-chain companies will provide the financial infeastructure.
Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) are two key technologies that will make all this possible.
The smartphone will soon become an antiquated device, with its limited rectangular real estate. With VR/AR, the whole world becomes your digital real estate.
This has the possibility of turning every neighbourhood into Times Square. But just for those wearing the AR/VR glasses.
I'm excited for what the future holds and I hope you are too!