Augmented capitalism. Facebook throws us into the Matrix

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 Augmented capitalism.  Facebook throws us into the Matrix

M like Meta. Or like Mark – we thought you had to be President of the French Republic to dare to name your company or your party with his initials –, as metastases or even as a megalomaniac. Facebook’s change in name and logo (a blue M drawing on both the glasses and the infinity sign) may make you smile. But if we are to believe Mark Zuckerberg, the group no longer wants to be reduced to the social network that saw it born. “Right now, our brand is so tied to a single product that it’s impossible for it to represent everything we do today, let alone what we do in the future,” the CEO explained. .

Meta wants to define the next evolution of the Internet. Ambition is intended to be at least as important as the irruption of the smartphone in our daily lives. “This is what will happen after the Internet: instead of looking at a screen, you will be immersed in the experience itself”, defines Andrew Bosworth, head of Facebook Reality Labs. “The next platform and medium will be even more immersive: a personification of the Internet where you don’t just watch the experience, but become part of it. This is what we call the metaverse. And you will be able to do almost anything you imagine: spending time with friends and family, working, learning, playing, shopping, creating, and many other new categories of activities that differ from the way we design computers or smartphones these days,” Zuckerberg continues.

Teleported from one application to another

As you can imagine, a simple computer screen will not be enough to offer the level of immersion promised by Facebook. You will have to put on a virtual reality helmet (350 euros minimum) and that’s good, Oculus, owned by Facebook, is the world leader ahead of Sony in equipment of this kind. These are fairly heavy devices, each eye is addressed with a screen, the sound is integrated. What to be completely cut off from its neighbors. To complete the immersion, virtual reality requires more sensors and cameras, to finely reproduce the movements of the hands and arms, such as the movements of the body in space, but also microphones to both retransmit the voice, but also allow voice commands.

Thus the 3D avatar of the user, which will replace the Facebook profile photos, according to Zuckerberg, will be a digital double of the user, and will react like him in the metaverse. Rather than clicking on a link, the user will “teleport” from one application to another. A gym, a store of such a brand, a video game universe… Or a meeting room where you can find the avatars of your colleagues working from home, one of the few applications already available. But the firm has created a fund of 150 million dollars to encourage developers to create content on its platform, and multiplied partnerships. The first announcements aim to enrich its virtual meeting rooms, in which applications such as WhatsApp, Zoom, Slack or Dropbox will soon be accessible.

Above all, the group wants to lock its users into a closed ecosystem, a bit like Apple. If the business model of the Apple brand remains to sell products with 250% margins to the richest 20% of the population, Meta rather aims to reach every individual on the planet. Because, its billions, Facebook earns them thanks to the data. That’s why it also invests in network infrastructure: you have to be able to connect everyone.

The whole world to connect

Moreover, in 35 emerging countries, the social network has launched “Free Basics”, which offers a free connection to a very limited Internet – Facebook and Wikipedia in essence –, targeting more than a billion people. India banned the offer this year, saying it was discriminatory. With 2Africa, he also pulls a huge submarine cable around the African continent to connect 23 countries.

For this company, which makes billions by capturing as much personal data as possible from its users and by selling targeted advertising, the metaverse holds new possibilities, with the only limit being the users’ tolerance for intrusion. An actor’s avatar can interrupt the user to praise the merits of his latest film; a clothing brand will make him meet models dressed in his creations; such a builder will be able to pay to replace the decor of company meeting rooms… In the metaverse imagined by Facebook, everything can be for sale.

Mark Zuckerberg, 5and world fortune, the dream of every capitalist is created: a space without State or regulation.

As it is a persistent digital space, one can also imagine a form of real estate speculation to obtain the best locations. Selling branded clothing for avatars, digital artwork, virtual events… Each time, Facebook could take its commission. Especially since the group makes available the diem, its own cryptocurrency, indexed to traditional fiduciary currencies. Nothing then prevents him from thinking up real monetary policies by flooding his metavers with money to make trade more fluid or, conversely, to organize inflation. And thanks to the blockchain, the group will be able to keep the traceability of all exchanges.

Cryptocurrencies and Blockchain

Zuckerberg will indeed be the president of this virtual private state. The rules will be its own, in the same way that Facebook’s very vague and lax internal rules determine what can or cannot be said there. The dream of every capitalist is created: a space without a state or regulation. Facebook has time before someone comes to see if there is labor law in their metaverse.

By renaming itself Meta, the group clearly wants to get its hands on what it believes to be the next big evolution of the Internet, virtual reality… But the other Gafam will not sit idly by, and several ecosystems should confront each other. Apple is banking on augmented reality. Rather than immersing the user in a metaverse, the creator of the iPhone aims to “increase reality”. This choice aims to ensure that the Internet increasingly bursts into everyday life. This still requires connected glasses – we remember the failure of Google Glass –, some are even refining lenses, but the Apple brand has filed a new technological patent which aims to project images directly onto the retina, rather than imposing a screen.

The proposed examples of augmented reality for the general public are often just as commercial as the Facebook project. Do you meet someone in the street wearing a sweater you like? You can order the same in a snap, almost literally. One of the first successes of augmented reality is the game “Pokémon Go”. Microsoft, for its part, is betting on both counts, with its HoloLens mixed reality headset.

Whatever the technology that is needed, we are tending towards a serious balkanization of the Internet of tomorrow. A bit like what happened with the mobile Internet, where Apple and Google shared the market. Facebook is in a good position to get its hands on this new stage, which is likely to be worse, given the intrusive potential of these technologies.

In numbers

1.6 billion. This is, in euros, the amount generated in 2020 by Amazon Web Services in France. The number of French companies using the cloud has more than doubled over the past six years, according to Eurostat. On the $21 billion of profits recorded by Amazon in 2020, 13 came from its Cloud division, or 61%.

97.9%. The share of Facebook’s revenue that comes from the sale of targeted advertising, for a revenue in 2020 of $86 billion.

74%. It is the percentage of Internet users either 2.910 billion of humans in the Facebook galaxy. WhatsApp and Messenger, properties of Facebook, are the two most used messengers in the world with respectively 2 and 1.3 billion of users.

46.4 million. The number of French users each month on Facebook.

50% of French VSEs-SMEs have a Facebook page.

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