Is the metaverse takeover inevitable?
Bill Gates came out with a bold prediction in December. By at least 2025, he says, white-collar staffers will be meeting together in the metaverse.
“Within the next two or three years, I predict most virtual meetings will move from 2D camera image grids—which I call the Hollywood Squares model, although I know that probably dates me—to the metaverse, a 3D space with digital avatars. Both Facebook and Microsoft recently unveiled their visions for this, which gave most people their first view of what it will look like,” writes Gates. “The idea is that you will eventually use your avatar to meet with people in a virtual space that replicates the feeling of being in an actual room with them.”
Over the past three months—really ever since Facebook changed its name to Meta—media coverage of the metaverse has absolutely exploded (including at Fortune). But are folks, including workers, ready for a metaverse takeover? And will they embrace the Big Tech companies who are eager to dominate the space? To find out, Fortune teamed up with Momentive to poll over 10,000 U.S. adults.*
Here’s what we found.
The numbers to know
- … of U.S. adults say they are online at least once every hour while they’re awake.
- … of 18- to 24-year-olds say they are online at least once every hour while they’re awake.
- … of U.S. adults say they trust Facebook (now named Meta) when it comes to keeping their online personal information safe.
- … of U.S. adults say they trust Apple when it comes to keeping their online personal information safe.
- … of U.S. adults say the threat to personal privacy online is a crisis, and we need to force change in the way companies operate.
- Fortune Analytics is bullish on the metaverse. The reason isn’t necessarily the technology, but instead simply the staggering amount of time Americans are already spending online. Among U.S. adults, 31% say they’re almost constantly online. We’re already living through a digital takeover, and the metaverse (or some type of augmented reality) is intuitively the next step.
A few deeper takeaways
1. We’re already living digital lives.
The average American spends seven hours and 50 minutes per day consuming digital media—including three hours on their smartphone device. In all, 52% of U.S. adults told Fortune-Momentive that they are online at least every hour.
In just a generation’s time, we’ve allowed the digital world to completely reshape how humans live their lives. Indeed, the typical person now spends more time online each day than they do sleeping (the average American sleeps under seven hours per night). A 3D virtual world focused on connecting people digitally does seem like the next logical step. At least that’s the thinking among video-game makers and Big Tech companies who are spending billions to make sure they are ready for the metaverse.
2. Winning the metaverse isn’t a sure thing for Facebook.
Back in October, social media titan Facebook changed its corporate name to Meta. The move comes as the company throws big-time money at its effort to become a leader in the metaverse. A few months prior to the announcement, the company had unveiled a product team focused on building metaverse hardware (a.k.a. AR and VR technologies).
“I think we will effectively transition from people seeing us as primarily being a social media company to being a metaverse company,” said Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Meta, last year.
The issue for Zuckerberg? The virtual world is going to gobble up immense amounts of personal data—something most folks no longer trust Facebook with. Among U.S. adults, only 22% trust Facebook with their personal data. While another 67% say they don’t trust Facebook with their data. That lack of trust, coupled with the fact that Facebook isn’t known for launching new verticals (after all, Facebook purchased Instagram), is reason for some Meta skepticism.
For anyone looking to better understand the virtual world, I leave you with these four metaverse explainers that Fortune recently published. Enjoy.
- A 22-year-old breaks down how to join the metaverse
- The metaverse, explained: Everything you need to know about the (rapidly expanding) new world
- Here’s how to buy digital real estate in the metaverse
- What is the metaverse? Tech entrepreneur’s 3 part theory suggests we’re at a pivotal point in civilization
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*Methodology: The Fortune-Momentive poll was conducted among a national sample of 10,579 adults in the U.S. between Oct. 14 and 20, 2021. The findings have been weighted for age, race, sex, education, and geography. The modeled error estimate for this survey is plus or minus 1.5 percentage points.
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Fortune’s upcoming Brainstorm Design conference is going to dive into how businesses are building experiences in the metaverse. Apply to attend the event on May 23-24 in New York.