As Meta continues to spruik its metaverse shift, VR is clearly a key focus element, and with sales of Meta’s VR headsets on the rise, it could well become the next big platform for digital connection.
And that future could be closer than you might think, with The Verge reporting that users of Horizon Worlds, Meta’s evolving social VR platform, are rising fast. According to reports, both Horizon Worlds and Horizon Venues, Meta’s VR events space, are now being used by a combined 300,000 people each month, a 10x increase since the launch of Horizon Worlds in December.
Which is probably not a huge surprise, given the jump in sales of Meta’s Quest 2 VR headsets over the holiday season.
Indeed, income from Meta’s Reality Labs division increased by $319 million in Q4 (quarter-over-quarter), and with the Quest 2 selling for $299 USD, that’s a lot of units potentially making their way into homes around the world.
The next question then is how much time are these people spending engaged within the VR space.
While the Quest 2 is impressive, and the development of Meta’s VR environments is evolving quickly, there’s still a way to go in making this a truly engaging interactive experience.
Meta hasn’t provided expanded usage data as yet, though it did recently report that over 10,000 environments have been created in its Horizon Worlds VR development space.
You’d have to assume that those take some time to build, and assuming also that these weren’t all created by Meta’s own development team, that does suggest that some people are spending a lot of time in VR, as it gradually evolves into a more critical engagement space.
It’s not the full metaverse vision yet, the ‘Ready Player One’ style transformative alternate reality, where people can spend entire days drifting from one experience to another. But it is beginning to take shape, and as more options are added in, and more developers warm to the VR space, it does look set to become an important connective tool for the future, if not the key platform that will supersede the current social media experience.
Which is definitely where Meta sees things headed. Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg recently outlined the importance of the Horizon platform in Meta’s Q4 earnings call:
“Horizon is core to our metaverse vision. This is our social VR world-building experience that we recently opened to people in the US and Canadam and we’ve seen a number of talented creators build worlds like a recording studio where producers collaborate or a relaxing space to meditate. And this year, we plan to launch a version of Horizon on mobile too, that will bring early metaverse experiences to more surfaces beyond VR. So while the deepest and most immersive experiences are going to be in virtual reality, you’re also going to be able to access the worlds from your Facebook or Instagram apps as well, and probably more over time.”
It’ll be interesting to see how those integrations take shape, and how Meta is able to build, essentially, windows into the Horizon environment via its current apps and platforms.
Maybe, it will be similar to gaming worlds, where you’ll be able to use your Meta avatar to explore the 3D space, like Fortnite or Roblox, but aligned specifically to Horizon Worlds. That would then enable people to interact via alternating types of inputs, and that type of interoperability will be critical to the future Metaverse shift.
Such developments could generate a lot more exposure for VR creation, and get more people buying their own Quest headsets for the full experience. And if you’re on the go, you’ll still be able to stay in touch with the latest happenings in the space via your phone, with the combined connective options helping to build the broader Metaverse social and collaborative experience.
It’s not there yet, we’re still in the early stages of this development, and Meta itself has repeatedly noted that it will take years, potentially more than a decade, to see this medium take full form. But you can see the outlines now, the elements that will combine to create this new experience.
And if it plays its cards right, Meta will be both the architect and the host of the next shift.
Meta has also repeatedly noted that no one company will own the Metaverse, that it will be built by a combination of developers and partners, all collaborating and working together on the next stage. But really, in this vision, it’s Meta that’s building the foundations, which partners will then need to iterate on.
Again, it’s still too early to say how it will all come together, but as it becomes clearer, it seems fairly obvious that Meta has a strong lead in the space, and the capacity to become the facilitator of the next shift.
It’ll be interesting to see how Meta looks to build in these next elements, and how each further contributes to engagement in the VR space.
Elon Musk Outlines New, Alternate Color Checkmarks to Clarify Verification
Elon Musk has revealed more details of the coming revamp of Twitter’s $8 verification program, which was initially launched three weeks back, but then pulled from live production due to a raft of impersonations which caused significant confusion in the app.
Those impersonations also led to stock price dips, corporate apologies, misreporting – the $8 verification plan, while only available to some users, for a short amount of time, immediately caused significant issues for Twitter and it’s as partners.
So Elon and Co. took it back, in order to revise and re-shape the program in a more brand-safe, user-friendly way.
And now, Musk has revealed more details as to exactly how the updated $8 verification plan will work.
First, to limit the potential of misrepresentation of corporate and government accounts, Musk says that those profiles will now get a different colored checkmark, which will ensure that people can’t just buy a blue tick and then pretend to be Coca-Cola for example.
As per Musk:
“Gold check for companies, gray check for government, blue for individuals (celebrity or not)”
It’s a sensible move, which will avoid similar incidents like this tweet from an $8 verified account, which tanked Eli Lilly’s stock price.
The updated gold checkmark will ideally limit the potential for future users to do the same, because they won’t be able to buy the official gold tick – though there will be a period of adjustment and education on such for users.
The alternate checkmarks will also likely kill off Twitter’s new gray ‘Official’ tick, which looks pretty ridiculous.
Of course, the new variations of checkmarks do also add the potential problem of another elusive marker that people will be trying to get. But we’ll cross that extra complication when we come to it.
Another concern with this approach is that it’ll require manual checking, as Twitter can’t know for sure that it’s a brand or government account without some kind of confirmation.
Initially, Twitter has thus far opted to avoid any kind of manual confirmation in this new process, due to the additional labor requirement, but now, Musk says that this will be integrated into the updated process:
“All verified accounts will be manually authenticated before check activates. Painful, but necessary.”
How Musk and Co. do that with any level of efficiency, with 65% less staff, I don’t know, but it seems like they’re going to at least try to find a way to check each $8 subscriber before approving their blue tick.
Musk also noted last week that any change in user name will result in a blue tick being deactivated till Twitter approves the new name.
So, like, a lot of manual monitoring, with a lot less staff.
Also, for the traditional blue checkmarks, there’ll be no differentiation between those who’ve been given the marker, and those who’ve paid for it:
“All verified individual humans will have same blue check, as boundary of what constitutes ‘notable’ is otherwise too subjective.”
Which is true – there are a lot of blue checkmarks on random accounts, and it has been a confused system. But at the same time, there are also a lot of high-profile individuals who could be at risk of impersonation under this system – which, incidentally, is why the blue ticks were introduced in the first place (in 2009, an MLB star sued Twitter for allowing a scammer to use his likeness to dupe people in the app).
There’s also this:
“Individuals can have secondary tiny logo showing they belong to an org if verified as such by that org.”
So an additional qualifier for spokespeople, CEOs and journalists, as another measure to avoid impersonation.
The updated elements will certainly lessen the scope for scam activity, but still, they do also introduce a level of risk, and at the same time, the scheme itself is unlikely to work out as Musk hopes.
The revamp of Twitter’s verification program is Elon’s first grand plan to save the app (aside from cutting costs), by giving users access to one of the most in-demand in-app features – the elusive blue checkmark.
Charging for verification could theoretically kill two birds with one stone, in verifying real humans (while making it cost-prohibitive to crate bot accounts) while also providing a direct revenue stream, thereby reducing the company’s reliance in ads. People want the blue tick, now they can get it, while Musk has also sought to amplify the cultural divide element, by presenting this as a way to even the field, and enable all users to get what only celebrities have thus far been able to access.
Initially, Musk was set to charge $20 per month for this service, but after an argument with the author of ‘Misery’, he reduced this to $8 per month.
In Musk’s view, this is a good deal, because who doesn’t have an extra $8 to spend?
He’s since sought to establish this as the norm, repeatedly telling his critics to ‘now pay $8’, as if it’s a forgone conclusion that people will indeed pay.
But they won’t, and history shows that there’s almost no chance that Musk’s paid verification scheme will actually work as intended.
Take, for example, Twitter Blue, which provides Twitter users with a raft of additional features, which was initially available for $3 per month.
Twitter Blue never saw much take-up, peaking at 100k subscribers, with even the addition of tweet editing, the most requested feature in social media history, failing to shift the needle in any significant way.
Given this, it’s difficult to see Musk’s new, $8 verification getting the number of sign ups he’d need to achieve his aims for the option.
- If Elon wants to get subscriptions to contribute 50% of Twitter’s revenue, as he’s previously stated, he’ll need 24.6 million users to sign on to pay $8 per month for a blue tick
- If he wants to use this as a means to verify all the humans, so that only bot accounts are the ones that don’t have a blue tick, you’d think he’d be looking at upwards of 75% of Twitter’s user base, or around 178 million users paying each month
- Twitter’s likely to actually lose around $6 per US user, per month, for each person that signs up to the new $8 Twitter Blue scheme, due to Musk’s plan to show Blue subscribers ‘half the ads’. Factoring in App Store fees from the monthly $8 payment, it could actually be a difficult balance from a revenue standpoint, with Twitter potentially even losing money on the deal, if it does end up cutting ad exposure
- The majority of Twitter users are outside the US, where $8 per month could be a lot more cost-prohibitive. This is especially true in India, where most of Twitter’s growth has come from over the past three years. India now has 18.8m users making it Twitter’s third biggest audience market, and while Musk has also flagged variable pricing by region, even $1 per month could be too high for developing markets
Essentially, there’s no precedent to suggest that enough users will sign up to Elon’s $8 per month checkmark plan to make it worthwhile for the company to run, as either a revenue or verification pathway. Just 0.41% of Snapchat users pay for Snapchat+, a fraction of LinkedIn users pony up for Premium, while Meta concluded long ago that charging users was no where near as lucrative as serving a bigger audience more ads.
These new measures do counter some of the issues that the initial version of Musk’s $8 verification program introduced, but then again, they could also avoid them entirely by revising the current blue check system, as opposed to simply letting people pay for the marker.
But regardless, Musk is determined to push ahead, and find out for himself either way
Musk says the updated $8 verification plan will launch on Friday next week (12/2).