Become best friends with the metaverse

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The company formerly known as Facebook yesterday rebranded its employees as “metamates,” as in shipmates who sail the good ship of social media into the metaverse.

“Now is the right time to update our values ​​and cultural operating system. . . as we begin to work on this next chapter for our company,” said Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg.

Others are heading for the metaverse in different ways with wet sails. On Tuesday, JPMorgan said it was the first lender in the metaverse when it opened its Onyx Lounge in Decentraland’s virtual world. It has also released a whitepaper on how companies should approach the new medium, with the market opportunity to bring the metaverse to life likely worth more than $1 trillion in annual revenue.

Advertising group Havas announced today that it now owns a piece of land in the virtual world of The Sandbox on which it plans to open its first virtual village. “With rich programming, exclusive content, connected animation and gamification, the group will host conferences, events, concerts, product launches and more,” she said, as part of her efforts to win business with brands developing their communication strategies for the Metaverse.

Elsewhere, Walt Disney has appointed an executive to guide his journey into the Metaverse. Mike White becomes senior vice president responsible for next-generation storytelling.

In China the approach is different again – they form a committee. Eleanor Olcott reports that local governments and state-backed companies are pumping money in, with the new Metaverse Industry Committee announcing Wednesday that 17 companies have been brought into the organization to “promote the healthy, orderly and sustainable development of the Metaverse.”

That might surprise some observers, given the concept’s association with the gaming and cryptocurrency industries – both of which Beijing has either restricted or banned to curb gambling addiction and capital flight.

But China seems to have realized that the metaverse will be much larger than these sectors. It is not Second Life, rather the virtual country ahoy! a third form of the web, and all set course for this new world.

The Internet of (Five) Things

1. Google to limit user tracking
Google has announced new measures that will limit tracking through its Android operating system, after Apple took a similar step to impose restrictions on how the online advertising industry can target users. The company said it plans to eventually phase out advertising IDs, a code that allows marketers to track the behavior of individual users.

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2. California and UK increase social media pressure
California lawmakers plan to introduce a new law to protect children’s online privacy this Thursday, mirroring the UK’s recently introduced Children’s Code. In the UK, the Home Office is pushing for sweeping new powers that would oblige internet companies to monitor for “legal but harmful” user content. Meanwhile, Chinese online video-streaming service Bilibili plans to hire 1,000 content censors after the recent death of a 25-year-old employee sparked a heated overhaul debate in the industry.

3. Airbnb expects to attract more hosts
With listings barely growing, Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky believes rising inflation could encourage more families to host. Lex says Airbnb is posting quarterly profits — albeit small ones, like about $55 million in the fourth quarter — after losing money in 2020.

Bar chart of revenue per quarter showing Airbnb's recovery from the pandemic

4. Schmidt establishes philanthropic AI fund
Former Google CEO Eric Schmidt is launching a $125 million project to fund artificial intelligence research that will solve “severe problems” in the field, including issues of bias, harm and abuse, geopolitical conflict and scientific frontiers of technology. The fund, known as AI2050, will be paid out to individual scientists over five years.

5. Ericsson may have paid Isis
Ericsson’s shares fell sharply after Borje Ekholm, CEO of the Swedish telecom equipment maker, admitted it may have made payments to the Isis terrorist organization in Iraq. An internal investigation revealed serious violations of compliance rules in Iraq, including payments for transportation to avoid local customs. According to Lex, investors see a potentially massive moral lapse that could result in hefty fines or settlements.

Tech Tools – Google’s smarter canvas

Screenshot of Google's updated smart canvas collaboration tools

Google just updated its smart canvas collaboration tools in its Workspace productivity suite. New features include auto-generated summaries in Docs, which provide a concise overview of key points in a document, a pageless format that allows you to remove the borders of a page to fit your text on whatever device or screen you’re using and a “Maps Smart Chip” that allows you to preview a Google Maps link directly in Docs. All of this will be introduced this week.

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