My latest 3QD piece is now up:
The piece is organized around some things I did on the web back in 2006 and 2007 and some other things I did back in the mid-1990s, soon after the web was born. All those things were fun. Mark Zuckerberg has changed the name of his company, to Meta, and has made the Metaverse the company goal. I’m skeptical that any Metaverse that comes out of that company will be half as fun as the events I report in this post.
Back in 2007 I made a bunch of posts to Mostly Harmless, all directed at two young Japanese-American girls. The last of them is a tale of adventure and mystery entitled, appropriately enough, Sparkychan & Gojochan Adventure Time Mystery Theatre. That was a lot of fun. That’s the Metaverse part of the post. My contention is that nothing out of FAANG (Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Netflix, Google) in the future is going to be as much fun as that.
Those particular events were preceded by some events and Michael Bérubé’s blog, American Air Space. It’s defunct, but you can find swathes of it on the Wayback Machine. In particular, you can find the Great Show Trial of 2006. That too was a lot of fun.
Neither the Show Trial nor the Sparkychan & Gojochan stories required the kind of elaborate, and now doubt expensive (and profitable) equipment that’s being dreamed up for the Metaverse. And yet somehow we managed to get along with one another – thank you very much – and have, you guessed it, fun.
Things were even more primitive back in 1995 when Bill Berry created Meanderings and then Gravity. Bill had to buy a server and code up the back end himself; he coded a discussion section as well. Everything was hand-coded in HTML. Talk about primitive! And yet we had fun and created a community. I’m still in touch with Bill and other folks I meet at Meanderings, and with folks I met and American Air Space and Mostly Harmless.
Those places worked because we wanted them to work. We had things we wanted to do. The web offered various tools. And so we figured out how to use those tools to do what we wanted to do.
Back in the mid-1990s things were wide-open and free. They were still that way in 2006-2007, though by then we did have advertising on the web. Big companies were trying to monetize the web. No problem.
But it’s not like it is now. Something happened between then and now. That something may have been good for business, but it’s not been so good for civility and civic culture. I have little reason to believe that, in their pursuit of the Metaverse and AGI (artificial general intelligence), FAANG will be much concerned about civic culture, unless regulators force them to act concerned. Why should they? They’re in it for the money.
Truth be told, I’m not quite that cynical. FAANG does consist of 100s of 1000s of human beings and they have their human concerns. But those concerns are being swamped by business concerns.
And so forth.