Welcome to this week's news roundup. Sometimes you move with the times, and sometimes you don't. This week is a mixed bag of a bit of everything that might tickle your fancy: featuring drag queen levels of pure shade, all the way through to saying NFT in a way that doesn’t sound scammy.
Perhaps you're from Jurassic?
Let's start with some dinosaurial editorial from Web Summit this week, which I had hoped to attend, but I'm somehow glad I missed. Once upon a time, there was a man who created an open internet called the World Wide Web, and in it, he created a place to share, discuss and debate the future of technology called the information superhighway. When the young people came and saw what he had created, they were so amazed to find something that they could forge, create and develop for their futures, they called it web3. From a mountain somewhere in our minds (or from a stage in Lisbon), this wise sage said, “NAY! Thou shalt not take the world wide web and bastardise it into a chain of blocks! You will not use it for profit! Instead, you will listen to me!”
This man is the great Tim Berners-Lee, who, you know, we all admire - however, I’m concerned by the overzealousness of his words. With most of the Metaverse powered by blockchain, using the power and frameworks of the web to be able to distribute their applications directly to users has nothing to do with it. Web3 is happening, but Berners Lee doesn't think so, and he's quite pissed off about it. But wait… What is this smoking gun I smell from yonder backstage area? A start-up. Not any ordinary start-up either, oh no, this is a decentralised startup that has already raised $30m for a business model focused on: 1) a global single sign-on feature that lets anyone log in from anywhere. 2) Login IDs that allow users to share their data with others, and 3) a common universal API or application programming interface. Take a look at my most recent article where I explore some good use cases for single sign-ons, KYC, CIAM etc. He's not the only person thinking about this. This has been thought about by pretty much everybody. So sadly for the mackdaddy of web1, 2 and 3, this is not going to be a revolution, it’s going to be a bun fight.
I won't do what you tell me
This week, a guy I've never heard of, sat down with Yahoo Finance to talk about tech trends. When the fun Bobby of technology (sans booze) popped into the conversation, Michael J Wolf, late of the MTV parish, was fairly clear that the term ‘The Metaverse’ is cringeworthy. Here’s something cringeworthy: a middle-aged guy in a suit talking to the future of technology as a word that he finds cringeworthy. We all need hobbies. Get back to work everyone, this town hall is over.
The shade of it all
I love you, Phil Spencer. Fresh from his phishing campaign (LOL), Phil is eager for us to now immerse ourselves in a digital world. Microsoft's gaming CEO has thrown shade on Facebook, I mean Meta, by describing it as a “poorly built video game”. A master’s degree in fierce. He's not enthusiastic about it, because for him building a Metaverse that looks like a meeting room is not a place where he wants to spend his time. That's cool. His company owns Minecraft. Should we be building a meeting room that looks like a bunch of blocky things? Yeah? Interesting, and I mean in the British sense. My take is this: When Phil Spencer says that video game creators have an amazing ability to build compelling worlds, I really do believe that: a million percent. Do you want someone to build a good Metaverse for you, Mark? Hire a game studio, you know enough of them, and game studios know about two amazing things: good design and great community building. Mind you, Microsoft also owns Bethesda now. Surely that means our Teams meeting rooms should look like Skyrim, right? So why do they still look like hell?
In the world of games, Square Enix seems to be the go-to web3 or blockchain name du jour because people simply cannot stop associating themselves in some way with them. The next time you are at NFT.[insert your city here], shout Square Enix in the centre of the auditorium and watch the VCs travel, in formation, to where you are.
Cross The Ages (abbreviated for punnery to CTA) is no different. The trading card game is in place, half a million cards have been minted, and 600,000 community members are signed up from the concept art alone. Okay, stop, stop, stop. Wait. I am really bored. I love everything about web3 games, blockchain games and NFT games; but even I know that this is ambitious. As a games person of some experience, and yes, this crops up every single week, I want the names of everyone interested in this because I've seen some web3 games, blockchain games and NFT games over the course of the last six months at least: and they are terrible. The really terrible ones are aimed at the most niche audience ever, yes, those guys who wear leather forearm bracers at the weekend. The best ones are seemingly getting a good exposure by folks like Oasys: I love a wide-ranging choice machine like an arcade or an old-school console. If you like it too - Oasys is for you.
Be honest with yourselves, you've created this game experience because you want to develop a deep IP. In order to do so, you need to forge deeper links with companies and VCs who can proliferate your brand across web3. I get it. It's great that you're creating an IP, but that IP has really got to sustain itself big time, and you can always lean on the 170 million units that my beloved Final Fantasy series has sold worldwide if it doesn’t. The reason why we love FF is because it’s diverse, open, aspirational, cosplayable, and a lasting IP. But then I saw the team and realised that they really need to make this work. It’s like Ben Hur in there.
Does my block look big in this?
Digital fashion has the potential to fix that landfill problem that still no one is talking about seriously. Refreshing though it sounds, The House of Blueberry and Natori have teamed up to make yet another digital fashion collection for Roblox. It promises to be direct to avatar, I just can’t fathom D2A in something as weird as Roblox. What are we actually going to do with it? Can we wear it? Is it interoperable or what? What is the point of everything that it is we're trying to create in digital fashion? Is it a massive flex? I just want to know how people think that Roblox is somehow sustainable as a fashion practice. Because Roblox fashion is ugly. Do you really want to look like this series of blocks with a ponytail that looks like… well, just look for yourself. If you are looking for a metaverse that appeals to your age and doesn’t make you feel like an old creep, Roblox is not the place for your or your digital fashion unless you are Vans and you literally want that Gen Z audience that has no disposable income for couture.
Roblox should be for playing with and creating in, that’s all.
I know Kung Fu
I’m a mega fan of 3 things: education, the metaverse (that includes web3) and Jungkook from BTS. And almost a year on from my endeavours of building a metaverse for children, I am so excited to see that people are coming around to the theory of the metaverse being a big driver in this space. Yes, yes, of course, it all tends to start with Mark Zuckerberg’s avatar cosplaying as Emperor Augustus in the Circus Maximus or somewhere near, telling us all how you could go back to a time to learn about the Roman Empire in Trajan’s Market. I mean, we can learn about the Roman Empire just by reading Meta news in Forbes. But let’s be serious, during the pandemic, education was at its lowest ever in terms of reach and retention. We have got to start focusing on children and looking at the world through their eyes. We have got to stop talking and chalking. The amount of devices and technologies that are at our fingertips is exactly why Tim Berners-Lee has put so much stock into his beloved World Wide Web; because it is both an encyclopaedia and a library, it is an adventure and a playground. So surely, with those keywords at the beating heart of what the metaverse could potentially be, we should start focusing on how education is going to be for Gen Z and Alpha, not for us.
If you've seen any of my talks, you know that I sort of started doing this with my students back in 2009. When I was teaching inside a metaverse called SmallWorlds, yes, the metaverse isn’t new. I even did registration, pastoral care, etc, using something called Ustream if you can even remember what that is.
This evolution of the student learning with AR and VR inside the classroom along with the metaverse is really making the metaverse an exciting place to be able to learn and teach. The global digital education market size is valued at USD $77.23bn by 2028, in a combined space worth $29tr.
The golden rule of this vertical is simple: if we're going to learn, we've got to do it inclusively. It's got to be accessible and discoverable, and it's got to be for all of us.
Dude, where's my NFT?
I went on a huge night out in Cambridge with my game dev team a few years ago and one of my colleagues, whose house I crashed at that night, woke up the next day to realise that he had bought a $4000 Alienware gaming laptop.
Beeple, who holds the record for the most amount of money paid for an NFT artwork. Recently has decided to break out into the world of sensible people by creating something that, hold your pearls, actually has a modicum of utility. The Render Network has just raised $30 million in a funding round (a familiar figure this week) to develop, with Beeple’s, their/his very own Immersive 3D NFTs. Participants, including the Solana Foundation and Alameda Research want to develop their decentralised peer-to-peer network that allows users to tap into remote rendering power from anywhere for anything web3. Anytime, anyplace, anywhere. To me, that seems a little bit like hype. Can we afford Beeple? Because I know that my colleague could not afford that Alienware laptop and defaulted on his rent for two months straight. The Golden Hind pub quiz was never the same again after that night.
Art should be for everybody. That’s the point I’m making, and if it's only for rich people, I’m not interested. An NFT pastiche worth millions can only afford to sit on the wall of the rich folks, or dare I say it gathering dust in a museum paid for by the taxpayer (that’s us). Shouldn't we be helping young people to be educated in the ways of art, accessing and developing their minds towards the beauty of a discipline that few of us are able to touch. We should be helping the future, not forcing the future to conform to our ideals.
That’s enough Metaverse for this week.