Internet users are not interested in the metaverse, and very few of them really understand what this technology is, according to a new study


Law firm Gowling WLG recently published the results of a study that, despite the hype, is not interested in the metaverse. However, the survey revealed that very few internet users actually know what this technology consists of. These findings stand in stark contrast to claims by metaverse advocates that this immersive digital environment is the future of technology and human connection. These points in the report support the position of critics who believe that metaverse is not a revolution but just a word used to “appeal” to people.

Law firm Gowling WLG commissioned a survey of over 6,000 people in the UK, US, France, Canada, the United Arab Emirates and China. The survey revealed wide differences in consumer attitudes toward the metaverse, which some say represents the future of human interaction on the Internet. Globally, many influential commentators expect the technology to transcend social media platforms and virtual games. However, for the general public, the level of understanding of the metaverse and its possibilities differs from region to region.

The report reveals that the vast majority of Britons are not interested in the metaverse. Only 37% of respondents in this country say they are ready to participate in this virtual ecosystem. According to the authors of the report, UK businesses may thus be missing out on the “metaverse revolution”. The survey revealed that UK consumers have a limited understanding of the metaverse, which translates into less enthusiasm for this technology. Globally, the report shows that around three-quarters (76%) of respondents believe they have a vague understanding of the metaverse.

But in the UK, just 2% say they have a complete understanding and two-fifths (41%) admit they have “no understanding”. The report says only 2% of UK respondents had a “complete understanding” and 40% had no understanding at all. Furthermore, more than a fifth of UK consumers (21%) do not expect the metaverse to become mainstream. In China, four out of five consumers (83%) said they would consider participating in metaverse experiences, more than twice as many (37%) as in the UK.

When Facebook changed its corporate name to Meta, it thrust the metaverse into the spotlight. But while information about this virtual world is becoming more accessible, enthusiasm for its potential remains muted. Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Meta, bet on the metaverse. Some countries, including China and the United Arab Emirates, have already made big moves into virtual worlds. However, the experiments conducted so far by Meta and other metaverse followers have not attracted many people. Internal Meta documents revealed in October that the company’s metaverse platform is “dismal.”

Meta originally planned to reach 500,000 monthly active users in Horizon Worlds by the end of the year, but the current number is less than 200,000. In addition, documents have shown that most users have not returned to Horizon Worlds, Meta’s meta platform, after the first month, and the number of users has been steadily decreasing since the spring. Only 9% of the virtual worlds available in Horizon Worlds are said to be visited by at least 50 people, and most are never visited at all. These statistics are far from living up to all the media hype surrounding the technology.

Despite headwinds and skepticism about the technology, Zuckerberg told the DealBook Summit conference last week that he remains optimistic about the metaverse over a longer horizon of 10 to 15 years. Skepticism doesn’t bother me that much. We had skeptics all along, he said. He addressed the participants of the event by video conference. He thus reiterates his company’s commitment to a future dominated by virtual and augmented reality. The company has been criticized for incurring billions of dollars in losses while building its version of the metaverse.

Entitled “The Intangible World”, the report compares the attitudes of consumers living in major markets. People in Eastern countries are more open to the idea of ​​escaping the real world than Westerners: four out of five Chinese consumers are open to a metaverse experience, compared to just 37% in the UK. Consumers in the UAE were also excited about the metaverse, with 43% excited about spending their days away from the real world, compared to 8% in the UK. Eastern countries seem more enthusiastic than Western countries.

According to the report, China’s enthusiasm may be due to their earlier adoption of mobile phone technology. China is known as the country that “jumped over the computer”. This has resulted in faster development of “super apps” and greater accessibility to personal technologies, meaning Chinese consumers have had more time to get used to the idea of ​​something like the metaverse. The report notes that Eastern organizations have the potential to lead the way in the metaverse, and the West needs to keep a close eye on developments.

However, within Meta, which is arguably the company that invests the most in metaverse, employees believe that metaverse will be the death of the company. The Metaverse will mark the beginning of our slow death. “Mark Zuckerberg is going to single-handedly kill a company with the metaverse,” said a blind user posing as a senior software developer at Meta. In addition, security and privacy experts believe that the metaverse puts users’ privacy at risk. Much more than mobile applications, helmets and smart glasses will be able to collect a huge amount of data.

Zuckerberg said earlier this year that Meta’s metaverse project would bleed large sums of money for up to five years. Meta stock has lost more than half its value since the start of the year as Facebook’s user numbers dwindle and doubts mount over its expensive metaverse project. Recently, shareholder Altimeter Capital Management openly criticized the company’s new direction and suggested Meta’s restructuring plans. Altimeter has asked Meta to reduce its investment in Metaverse.

Altimeter owns 0.1% of Meta. In late October, the hedge fund sent an open letter critical of Zuckerberg, decrying the company’s “horrific” experience with the metaverse. The letter calls for Meta to streamline its operations by cutting 20% ​​of its workforce and cutting $5 billion in annual investments in the metaverse. He suggested Meta devote its efforts to AI research and development rather than the metaverse. Altimeter said that by doing so, annual free cash flow could double to $40 billion.

Over the past 18 months, Meta stock has lost 55%. Your price/earnings ratio [price-to-earnings ratio] decreased from 23x to 12x and now trades at less than half the average share of your peers. This drop in the share price reflects the loss of confidence in the company, not just the bad sentiment in the market, Gerstner wrote in the letter. Altimeter criticizes Zuckerberg for increasing the size of the company too much. Like many companies in a zero-rate world – Meta has drifted into the land of redundancy – too many people, too many ideas, too few emergencies, he said.

Reality Labs reportedly lost $5.8 billion in the first six months of the year. Altimeter noted: An estimated investment of over $100 billion in an unknown future is gigantic and terrifying, even by Silicon Valley standards. Altimeter urged Meta to adopt “lower key goals and success metrics” for the metaverse, which it said would go a long way to satisfying investors. Meta does not comment on Altimeter’s letter. It is thus unclear whether Altimeter’s proposal will be implemented.

Meta also joined the long list of big tech companies that have announced big layoffs recently, when it laid off 11,000 people, or 13% of its workforce, in early November. The reason: the company is adapting to investments during the coronavirus pandemic. Zuckerberg had made the decision to increase them significantly considering the growth in Meta revenue due to the boom in online commerce. The founder of Facebook admitted to being wrong in his forecast, which should see the trend continue after the pandemic.

Source: Study report

And you?

What is your opinion on the subject?
In your opinion, why do Western consumers seem very uninterested in the metaverse?
In your opinion, aside from video games, what use could the metaverse have in the coming years?
What do you think about people spending millions to buy “private spaces” (lands) in the metaverse?
Do you think these “digital spaces” are different from non-fungible tokens (NFTs)? Are their values ​​in danger of collapsing like NFTs?

Also see

Mark Zuckerberg’s metaverse is sad and empty, according to internal documents. Most Horizon World visitors usually do not return after the first month

Metaverse puts users’ privacy at risk. Much more than mobile applications, helmets and smart glasses will be able to collect a huge amount of data

Mark Zuckerberg remains ‘optimistic about the long-term prospects’ of the metaverse and says skepticism doesn’t bother him too much, but shareholders criticize his spending in the metaverse

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