A tech company founder has trashed the Facebook concept of the metaverse and said it represents the same type of thinking he heard as a child in the former Soviet Union.
“’Metaverse’ is a squishscammy word. If you include things like video games and, um, the Internet, it’s already a big success. AR has future potential. But I’m calling b——t on a persistent, decentralized, skeuomorphic, interconnected 3D world, experienced primarily through VR,” Phil Libin, founder of the app Evernote and the CEO of the video-conferencing company Mmhmm, wrote on Twitter on Tuesday.
Libin said the same type of a sales pitch expressed by tech companies about the metaverse was a standard part of the pro-communism speeches he heard as a child in Soviet Leningrad, which has since reverted to its former name of St. Petersburg.
“I went to first grade in the Soviet Union,” Libin said. “I was subjected to a lot of Soviet propaganda, and I was told as a little kid repeatedly: ‘Communism doesn’t exist yet. We haven’t built communism yet. We’re building towards communism. But it’s not communism yet. What you see around you, this horrible, horrible place, isn’t communism. We’re building towards it. It’s going to be great when it gets here.’”
Libin said tech leaders talking about the metaverse strike the same chord with him.
“You know, you can smell a bad idea before it’s fully built. So I don’t want to hear, ‘Oh yeah, the metaverse doesn’t exist yet. No, no, no, all this stuff, all this stupid, useless, crappy stuff that exists right now, that’s not the metaverse. The metaverse is coming — it’s coming.’”
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has been known to wax eloquent on the glories of the metaverse, and he rebranded the Facebook corporate entity as Meta last October.
“Our overarching goal across all of these initiatives is to help bring the metaverse to life,” Zuckerberg told Facebook employees in July, according to The Verge.
“The metaverse is a vision that spans many companies — the whole industry. You can think about it as the successor to the mobile internet. And it’s certainly not something that any one company is going to build, but I think a big part of our next chapter is going to hopefully be contributing to building that, in partnership with a lot of other companies and creators and developers,” Zuckerberg said then.
“But you can think about the metaverse as an embodied internet, where instead of just viewing content — you are in it. And you feel present with other people as if you were in other places, having different experiences that you couldn’t necessarily do on a 2D app or webpage, like dancing, for example, or different types of fitness.”
“I think a lot of people, when they think about the metaverse, they think about just virtual reality — which I think is going to be an important part of that. And that’s clearly a part that we’re very invested in, because it’s the technology that delivers the clearest form of presence. But the metaverse isn’t just virtual reality. It’s going to be accessible across all of our different computing platforms; VR and AR, but also PC, and also mobile devices and game consoles,” Zuckerberg said, according to The Verge.
Libin called the term “a gloss that uncreative people and companies put over fundamentally a lack of good ideas.”
“There’s a part of me that hates it and a part of me that fears it, but since I think it’s so spectacularly stupid, there’s actually not that much to fear,” Libin said, per Business Insider.
Despite the capability of technology to do much that fans of the metaverse say will be possible, Libin said he expects a fundamental disconnect between human nature and virtual reality headsets.
Though I’m pretty unimpressed with Metaverse / VR, I’m actually a big believer in the potential of AR. The difference is between escaping our shared reality vs. improving it. As soon as AR headsets are good enough, we’ll be building for them!
— Phil Libin (@plibin) January 11, 2022
“VR is the thing that guarantees none of this will ever take off, because no one wants to spend any amount of time with a plastic thing strapped to their face,” he said.