Sunday, October 09, 2022

What If You Held a Metaverse Party and Nobody Came?

The metaverse just might be the next big thing, but according to two reports this week, that time is not yet. 

The first story is from CoinDesk, which reports that the two leading decentralized metaverse platforms--Decentraland and The Sandbox average below 1,000 daily users. Yet each is a unicorn, with over $1 billion in valuation. 

What’s going on in the metaverse these days, you might ask. Looking at two of the biggest companies with over $1 billion valuations, the answer is surprising: Not much, or at least not enough to bring users back every day. According to data from DappRadar, the Ethereum-based virtual world Decentraland had 38 active users in the past 24 hours, while competitor The Sandbox boasted 522 active users in that same time.

An active user, according to DappRadar, is defined as a unique wallet address' interaction with the platform’s smart contract.

This matches my own observation a few weeks ago when I created an account on Decentraland. Apart from the clunky graphics, the thing that struck me was, there's no one here! Until I read the CoinDesk report, I thought maybe I was doing it wrong. But apparently not.  

So, maybe the centralized metaverse platforms, such as the Meta (formerly Facebook) Horizon Worlds platform, is where the action is.  Apparently not. According to this report on The Verge, the user experience on Horizon Worlds is so bad that management under Mark Zuckerberg has to encourage, cajole, and beg even its metaverse developers to use it.   

In a follow-up memo dated September 30th, Shah said that employees still weren’t using Horizon enough, writing that a plan was being made to “hold managers accountable” for having their teams use Horizon at least once a week. “Everyone in this organization should make it their mission to fall in love with Horizon Worlds. You can’t do that without using it. Get in there. Organize times to do it with your colleagues or friends, in both internal builds but also the public build so you can interact with our community.”

On the other hand, we are already seeing real value in some early metaverse business applications. Two weeks ago, I co-moderated a metaverse panel discussion at Innovate@UCLA. One of the panelists, Chris Mattmann, Chief Technology and Innovation Officer at Jet Propulsion Laboratory described how JPL is already using metaverse-like digital worlds to great success for employee onboarding, virtual tours, and virtual meetings.  

Early adopters, like JPL, give an indication of where the value may lie. But for now, as far as public metaverse platforms go, it appears we are close to or at the peak of the hype cycle. 

On the third hand, I’ve been wrong before. As I wrote earlier this year: Predictions are hard, especially about the future.

Image Credit: Decentraland, via CoinDesk.