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Are You Missing Out on the Metaverse? – The New York Times

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For Context
Pitches for the future of the internet are banking on an old trick: FOMO.
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If you have an internet connection, you’re probably familiar with the feeling. Something new starts happening online. People seem really excited about it. Suddenly you’re curious. (Sure, I’ll join TikTok.) Or maybe you feel dread. (Am I too late to buy crypto?) Everyone at some point fears missing out on something.
Speaking of which, have you heard about the metaverse? Even if you didn’t tune into Mark Zuckerberg’s 81-minute video disquisition last week on the future of human interaction, which culminated with the rebranding of Facebook as Meta, the term has been bubbling up this year. Leaders in technology, entertainment and fashion have rushed to stake their claim in it, though few seem to agree about what exactly it is. The important thing is that it’s coming.
Conversations about the metaverse reduce the feeling of FOMO to its barest, most generalized form. “Metaverse” — the term — was coined by Neal Stephenson in his 1992 novel, “Snow Crash,” and has recently been hurled into such wide and varied use that it has come to mean something no more specific than the future. Who wants to miss out on that?
Well, to be fair, lots of people. And they have their reasons. For now, talk of the metaverse is mainly a branding exercise: an attempt to unify, under one conceptual banner, a bunch of things that are already taking shape online.
Matthew Ball, a venture capitalist who writes about the metaverse, has described it as “a sort of successor state to the mobile internet,” which is helpfully demystifying: The metaverse describes the way in which several emerging technologies — cryptocurrencies, NFTs, online game platforms like Roblox, and mixed and virtual reality hardware, including Facebook’s Oculus, for example — may grow and overlap. In Mr. Zuckerberg’s words: “I believe the metaverse is the next chapter for the internet, and it’s the next chapter for our company too.”
As a point of comparison, Mr. Ball often looks to the smartphone era, which changed our relationship with technology in ways that were as profound and shocking as they now seem banal.
Think back 10 years to when smartphones and apps were new, and social media was on the rise. Lots of people believed that the supercomputer-in-your-pocket era would change, well, a lot of things, even if they didn’t quite know how. Metaverse boosters, who can seem eager to just jettison the last era’s baggage, believe we’re on the cusp of even bigger changes.
If this sounds more linear than visionary, despite the sci-fi branding and “decades from now” talk, that’s because it is. Fortnite has more than 300 million players around the world, many of whom see it as a way to hang out with friends and engage with the broader culture. Cryptocurrencies and NFTs are only speculative in the financial sense — they exist, and you probably know someone who owns some. There are tens of millions of virtual reality headsets in circulation now, mostly for gaming. Give one a shot. They’re interesting!
You can even just consider the utterly obvious ways that the internet has become more present in your life, gesturing in the general metaversal direction. The way you’ve cultivated online personas in different contexts, on Instagram or LinkedIn or Slack. The way you play Scrabble on your phone all day, wherever you are. The dreary virtual office of the Covid Zoom grind. The group chat!
Using a label like “the metaverse” has the strange effect of making things that are already happening sound far-off and impossible. People really are spending enormous amounts of time and money in rich, gamelike interactive spaces with cultures and economies of their own. Entrepreneurs really are building an alternative financial system using blockchain technology, buying and selling virtual real estate, and trying to figure out how a placeless, stateless system might govern itself.
As several tech writers have noted, Mr. Zuckerberg’s pitch is not particularly novel. (Any Roblox fan in your life could have told you that.) The label also provides a slippery subject for criticism. If anything about these trends is concerning to you, don’t worry! It’ll all be better when we’re really in the metaverse.
For all its gestures at a vague future yet to be built, Mr. Zuckerberg’s attempt to explain and stake a claim over the metaverse made one thing clear: The strongest FOMO might be his. To someone whose company can be genuinely said to have changed the course of history, becoming central in the lives of billions of people, the prospect of yet another new internet era could be downright terrifying.
It’s not lost on the early winners of the social media era that a lot of what people are getting excited about online right now — pretty much anything that promises a “decentralized” experience — is, by definition, positioned against big firms like Facebook. (This would also explain why Mr. Zuckerberg spent so much time talking about virtual reality, where Facebook has a real foothold.)
Not missing out on the last next big thing is what made tech leaders, and their companies, what they are. Missing out on the next big thing, whatever it is, is not an option. Giving various promising and threatening trends a unifying name is more comforting, from this view, than contemplating the chaos of dozens of competing technologies being adopted by billions of people careening off in directions that even the most prescient visionaries will get only a little bit right.
As Benedict Evans, another venture capitalist, wrote in October, the current metaverse discourse is “rather like standing in front of a whiteboard in the early 1990s and writing words like interactive TV, hypertext, broadband, AOL, multimedia, and maybe video and games, and then drawing a box around them all and labeling the box ‘information superhighway.’” (His former employer, the crypto-forward firm Andreessen Horowitz — where a named partner is on Facebook’s board — has leaned harder on the term “Web3.”)
The current tech giants have resources, talent and industrial-grade FOMO on their side, so it would be a mistake to underestimate their influence on this so-called successor state of the internet.
There are two predictions I feel comfortable making about the metaverse, however.
One: It will not be known, by the people who inhabit its sprawling, distinct, yet-to-be determined environments, as “the metaverse.” If we’re really doing our jobs in virtual offices, we’ll just call it work.
Two: For most of us, missing out on a more thoroughly connected lifestyle, in which identities and work and sociality are further blended across physical and virtual spaces, many designed with profit in mind, won’t be the problem. It’ll be figuring out whether we can leave.
For Context is a column that explores the edges of digital culture.
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Metaverse Crypto Index Fund Launched by Matthew Ball, Multicoin, and Bitwise – Decrypt

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There's a wide array of crypto builders working to bring the metaverse to life, whether it's via platforms, tools, assets, or infrastructure. Now one of the leading voices around the metaverse has launched an index fund focused on crypto assets tied to the next-generation internet.
Today, writer and venture capitalist Matthew Ball announced a partnership with Multicoin Capital and Bitwise Asset Management to launch the Ball Multicoin Bitwise Metaverse Index. Bitwise has also made an associated fund available to qualified purchasers.
"We developed the Ball Multicoin Bitwise Metaverse Index Fund because, prior to today, there was no easy, expert, and methodologically diversified way for investors to have broad-based exposure to bona fide metaverse-focused crypto assets," Ball told Decrypt.
"To this end, the Index doesn't exist to time Event A or Market Conditions B. It exists so that investors can participate in what we believe is a multi-trillion dollar transformation, which will unfold over the coming decade," he continued. "If blockchain is relevant to the future of the metaverse, and our approach is sound, we believe the opportunity is significant—today, tomorrow, next month, and so forth."
The index will feature up to 40 crypto assets chosen by the partners, but a list of included assets was not provided to Decrypt by the time of publication. Bitwise's associated fund is available to qualified purchasers with a $100,000 minimum investment.
Ball described the Ball Multicoin Bitwise Metaverse Index as a "rules-driven index that combines the best of institutional indexing approaches with special adaptations to the crypto and metaverse spaces. That includes various risk screens, such as analyzing liquidity, developer activity, tech and regulatory risk, and "relevancy to the metaverse," said Ball.
"The ultimate goal is to curate the crypto assets that will be outsized contributors to the creation and success of an open metaverse," he added.
The metaverse refers to a future version of the internet that many believe will be built on blockchain technology. It's expected to be a more immersive and interactive experience that people navigate via 3D avatars and use for work, play, shopping, and socializing. It may also use NFT assets for user-owned items like avatars, apparel, and virtual land.
Ethereum-based games like Decentraland and The Sandbox are seen as early examples of the metaverse.
Facebook also showcased its own vision for the space and even rebranded its parent company to Meta last fall. However, it's not entirely clear whether Facebook's plan is for an open platform that is interoperable with others.
Ball is a leading writer on the metaverse whose work has been published in The New York Times, The Economist, and Bloomberg. His book, "The Metaverse: And How It Will Revolutionize Everything," is due out from W.W. Norton in July.
He's also a managing partner at EpyllionCo, which has invested in crypto startups such as Dapper Labs and Mirror, as well as a venture partner at Makers Fund. Ball is also behind the Roundhill Ball Metaverse ETF, which focuses on metaverse-centric stocks and trades on the New York Stock Exchange.
"Our objective was the creation of a diversified, balanced, and expertly-designed crypto Metaverse Index," explained Multicoin Capital co-founder and managing partner, Kyle Samani.
"This required a similarly capable team," he continued. "Matthew Ball is the definitive thought-leader in metaverse strategy and investing. We specialize in crypto assets and are one of the preeminent crypto investment firms. And Bitwise Asset Management is the proven leader in crypto indexes and index funds."

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Meta's losses show the metaverse's costly risk – Insider Intelligence

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Facebook parent Meta launches startup accelerator with India’s IT ministry in metaverse push – TechCrunch

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Meta Platforms is looking at India’s burgeoning startup ecosystem as it bolsters its bet on the metaverse. The social juggernaut has partnered with the Indian IT Ministry’s startup hub to launch an accelerator in the country to broaden innovation in emerging technologies, including augmented reality and virtual reality, officials said Tuesday.
MeitY Startup Hub and Meta’s effort, called XR Startup Program, will work with 40 early-stage startups and help them in research and development and developing workable products and services. Each startup will also receive a grant of over $25,000, the American giant said.
The program, supported by Meta’s $50 million XR Programs and Research Fund, will initially hand pick 80 startups to attend a bootcamp. It will also help startups with finding customers, inking relationships and raising funds, Meta said.
Rajeev Chandrasekhar, Minister of State for Electronics & Information Technology and Skill Development and Entrepreneurship, said the program is especially aimed at helping encourage technology innovation in smaller cities and towns.
The XR Startup Program is the latest of Meta’s growing participation in the South Asian market’s upskilling efforts. The firm, whose Facebook and WhatsApp services identify India as their largest market by users, partnered with Central Board of Secondary Education, a government body that oversees education in private and public schools in the country, to launch a certified curriculum on digital safety and online well-being, and augmented reality for students and educators in the country.
The program — to be implemented by four Indian institutions, including IIT Delhi — will also host a “grand challenge” for innovation in categories including education, healthcare, entertainment, agritech, climate action, sustainability and tourism, the American giant said.
“India will play a pivotal role in defining future technologies. Decisions and investments made here in India now shape global discussions on how technology can deliver more economic opportunity and better outcomes for people. It is critical that we help to create an ecosystem that will enable India’s tech startups and innovators to build the foundations of the metaverse,” said Joel Kaplan, VP of Global Policy at Meta, in a statement.
Meta’s interest with working with startups in India is also not newly found. The company has backed three startups in the country, including social commerce platform Meesho and online education group Unacademy.
3 views: Is the metaverse for work or play?

“India’s rapid tech adoption combined with a vast pool of tech talent puts the country in a vantage position for shaping the future of the internet,” said Ajit Mohan, VP and MD of Facebook India, in a statement.
“For this future to be equitable, it will require active participation from all stakeholders, including developers, businesses, creators, policymakers, and entrepreneurs. We are excited to collaborate with MeitY Startup Hub and hope that the XR Startup Program will act as a catalyst to unlock the use of immersive technology across sectors like education, healthcare, agritech and tourism, not only in India but across the globe.”

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