Can you send a fax in the metaverse?
4 min read

Can you send a fax in the metaverse?

Can you send a fax in the metaverse?

I once asked a former boss how work was handled before email. I'm a millennial, you see, meaning while I remember the analogue world, I was brought up with computers in my life. Swiping wasn't a thing though...

I find it next to impossible to imagine a lot of jobs being done without email. But for my old boss, there was a world before email.

He told me that in his office they'd start the week with a heap of faxes, and they'd simply pile them up and work through them one by one. Sending faxes back, making phone calls, throwing others into the trash.

In one sense, the coming of email seemed like a switch was flicked and the world changed: one day fax, next day emails. But that switch wasn't an overnight thing.

Email was in the making for 20+ years. The first email was sent in 1971. And anyway, is a bag of faxes much different to an inbox of emails?

The internet today is basically built on code written in the 70s. That code is a reflection of the thinking of that time, the world in which we lived. That code sets the rules.

Letters turning into faxes turning into emails isn't really that different. By the same token, local shops becoming Macy's becoming Amazon is not the revolutionary change many of us are left to believe. They are still shops at the end of the day.

The trend has been a centralised system of communication and commerce, something that made sense back in the 70s for the most part. Computers were the size of homes and you couldn't have a USB stick from Hong Kong delivered to you within 3 days back then.  

But today things are different, and there's a wave of geeks trying to change the rules.

Web 3 point oh

E-sports fans discussing the latest results.

The Web 3.0/blockchain/crypto yadda-yadda going on around us could be the moment we begin to pull ourselves out of the old way of the world, away from centralisation, away from the need for a middleman to handle our communications, our purchases, our art. And that has huge implications on the way we will work together.

Here's a basic example I stole from shouty man Gary Vee:

Imagine you're a musician. In the past, you had to go to a record label, get a deal, and they'd take 20-50% of your earnings.

Today, you could instead sell your work as an NFT, take 80% of future profits yourself and give the remaining 20% to fans. The artist has a direct link to their fans without the need for a middleman.  

Now scale that up to the operating systems we use, the products we create, sell, and buy, the way we consume music and movies, the way games are created, the way young people talk to each other online...

It is significant and the biggest company in the world sees what's coming, and wants to have control of the narrative.

Rewiring the foundations

Odd.

Social media has been the pull of communications and commerce for 20 years. People were excited to connect at scale and online shopping is fast and cheap.

It felt like a paradigm shift, but in the end social spaces became new places to feel lonely in and online shopping made us feel like the commodities, owned by a few very rich and creepy men.

Companies were building online cities for commerce, not for culture, and it was only a matter of time before people get tired of giant digital malls and commercial spaces and start searching for something of more substance.

Mark Zuckerberg's rebrand of Facebook to Meta is a response to the world asking for something different. His response is "yeah ok I'm listening but I'm still gonna control it, ok?". His vision maintains the centralisation - Facebook remains the middleman.

Whether or not we say that's ok remains to be seen, because the geeks are working on ways to create decentralised spaces (Urbit is one such example), spaces that facilitate the different, unique communities that exist, in a manageable, more natural way.

And this makes sense on a basic human level.

Do you have 500+ Facebook friends? It's possible. It's also pointless. Dunbar's number says that we each cannot have more than 150 trusted relationships. So then what do all these numbers actually mean?

When we stop caring about the numbers, the likes of Facebook get nervous, because that's their currency. If they can at least control where this happens, they'll retain their strength. That's why Zuck is going all out on Meta.

But the geeks are working hard to lay the foundations of digital cities which are owned by everyone and no one. If they win, the likes of Facebook and the pears will be in trouble.

This is exciting to watch, but also daunting for communicators and marketers alike - it'll demand an entire new skillset. I'm glad I'm currently in this strange NFT rabbit hole, but I've no idea where it's going to take me, and us for that matter...

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